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“Innocent until proven guilty”, charged former ministers remain on PPP Parliamentary list

CHARGED: Former Ministers Drs Bheri Ramsaran and Jennifer Westford.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will not be making any rash decisions as it is left to evaluate the collateral damage it can suffer by taking two charged former ministers to National Assembly.

Former Public Service Minister Jennifer Westford and one of her staff were placed on a combined $2M bail yesterday on attempted larceny and forgery charges related to the acquisition of eight State-owned vehicles, while today, July 30, former Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran was place on self bail for using insulting language to a female social activist.

With the party still to occupy the opposition side of the house, it was questioned whether they will be taking the defendants, and what justification would be offered. At a PPP press conference Thursday July 30, former Cabinet secretary, Roger Luncheon said that there has been no talk yet on the matter.

With no hint that the party is actively reviewing the former ministers’ parliamentary participation, Luncheon noted that one should not judge until a verdict is given in these matters. He warned also that persons should not get caught up in perceptions.

“I presume that you, as I am, holding to the notion of innocence until proven guilty.” “Do not behave as though a decision has been made,” he stated.

The former Cabinet Secretary said that, while the party has not made a decision on its members, he accepts that perceptions would play a key role in how persons view their entry into Parliament, but he is more concerned on how it impacts the party’s decision on the way forward.

“What we are deciding is the extent of these perceptions… that I concede exist- will impact or influence the decision of the executive and leadership of the party.” “I will concede that perceptions are important… and I think you should wait. Speak not as though a decision has been made.”

The party’s General Secretary Clement Rohee told Demerara Waves on Wednesday that persons would have to wait and see if the charged ministers will be going to Parliament. Like Luncheon, he said the party has made no decision on the matter as yet. 

Outside of this, the PPP had condemned the case being brought against Westford citing pressure on the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to recommend charges. They continue to claim “witch-hunting” by the government who are getting rid of persons who they believe are political appointees, or were unprofessional with their jobs.

Today, Luncheon complained about “ethno -political discrimination” against Afro-Guyanese members of the party. Luncheon said, “Black members of the PPP are usually exposed to the rampant discrimination of the Granger led administration. These were drawn to the attention of the Administration and certain ministers but the silence is deafening.”

In the meantime, while the PPP’s Parliamentary entry date is still ‘state secret’, Luncheon did confirm that Gail Teixeira, former PPP-government Chief Whip will serve in the same capacity in opposition  Chief Whip, while former President Bharrat Jagdeo will be the Opposition Leader.

Jagdeo too has been placed before the courts. He was charged privately with inciting racial tensions during the election campaign, but he will still lead the opposition side of the House.