Tit for tat

Tit for tat politics have arrived with a vengeance. The APNU+AFC police has charged PPP supporters and the PPP has struck back by charging APNU supporters. The charges against former members of the past PPP/C administration will be seen as a political vendetta and will kill any possibility of movement towards a political solution.

Reports broke on April 12 that former Minister of Finance and Chairman of NICIL, Ashni Singh, and former NICIL Head, Winston Brassington, were jointly charged in absentia by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) with three counts of misconduct in public office between December 2008 and May 2011 contrary to the common law. They were charged for: firstly, having sold 4.7000 acres of government owned land at Liliendaal to Scady Business Corporation for $150M when they knew that it was valued at $340M by Rodrigues Architects; secondly, having acted recklessly in selling to National Hardware Guyana Limited in December 2008 government owned land at Turkeyen for $598,659,398M without procuring a valuation; and, thirdly,  having sold 10.002 acres of land at Turkeyen to Multicinemas Guyana in May, 2011, for $185M without procuring a valuation. 

The announcement that the charges had been read by the Magistrate caught many by surprise. Because of the lapse of time, the charges were no longer expected. The public had grown suspicious that the allegations of corruption against the past PPP/C Government appear to be unfounded. The commissions of inquiry had produced little and investigations dragged on. The government surprised the public by finally making good its threats by charging two of the most prominent officials of the last government. It promised that there is more to come. The tone of the opposition changed from gleefully claiming that the talk about corruption was mere propaganda to sharp criticisms of persecution.

Mr Anil Nandlall, former PPP/C Attorney General, requested the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw the charges against Singh and Brassington, failing which he would file legal proceedings. The DPP, having failed to do so, charges against Mrs Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton of misconduct in public office, were sworn to by Juan Edghill and Vicram Bharrat, both prominent officials of the opposition and filed in the Magistrates’ Court. The two defendants are required to appear in court on April 24. At the time of writing the defendants have not been served with the charges because they were alleged to be not available. They would only be required to appear in court if they are served.

The allegations against Minister Lawrence are that she instructed the administrator of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation to sole-source drugs and pharmaceuticals to the value of $605M from Ansa McAl that were alleged to be more than 100 per cent above the market value; and against Dr Norton of renting a house in Sussex Street for $14M a month to be used as a pharmaceutical bond which was unsuitable for the purpose and way above the market value.

The reaction of the government was typically hostile. Minister of State Joe Harmon described the charges as of “nuisance value” and as a “cowardly attempt [by the PPP] to draw public attention away from its own sordid record of corruption while in office.” Minister Harmon indicated that there are more charges to come.

It is hardly likely that the charges against the Ministers of Government will be allowed by the Director of Public Prosecutions to stand. No doubt the Director will enter a nolle prosequi, which in effect would mean the withdrawal of the charges. This is likely to occur before April 24 so as to ensure that the Ministers do not have to suffer the potential indignity of having to appear in court and sit in the dock while the charges are read to them.

After this is done the Director will then have to answer the claims that are likely to be made on behalf of Dr Singh and Mr Brassington in legal proceedings to be filed as to why the charges against them should proceed while the charges against the Ministers were not allowed to proceed. A whole host of difficult legal questions will emerge which the Director will be forced to answer and it is possible that the answers might not be legally sustainable.

The conflict between the two major political parties has now entered into a new, more intense and more bitter phase. It has moved from the exchange of hostile words, to the possibility of imprisonment of persons who were especially close to President Jagdeo. The last time this occurred was more than fifty years ago when the British imprisoned without trial many members of the PPP at Sibley Hall which continued under the PNC-UF government after it took office in 1964. When the PPP/C took office in 1992, after 28 years of PNC rule, it not only adopted a policy of ‘no recrimination’ but also abolished that part of the National Security Act that allowed detention without trial. It will no doubt be seen by the opposition and its supporters that the threat of imprisonment as a political weapon has returned.

The fight against corruption in relation to blatantly criminal acts must proceed. But where seen as politically tainted, the consequences would be dire.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×