Last Updated on Friday, 22 July 2016, 9:30 by Denis Chabrol
The decision by government to explore the possibility of hiring a team of special prosecutors to help secure convictions of suspected state asset thieves has been roundly condemned by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as a calculated “witch-hunt.”
“The rationale for such a radical departure from the existing constitutional and legal provisions can only by interpreted as one designed to target and witch hunt the parliamentary opposition and political opponents,” Opposition parliamentary Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira said in a statement.
Her reaction came hours after Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman announced that Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and Attorney General, Basil Williams have been tasked with establishing a special prosecution team.
In a stinging reaction, Teixeira referred to a “Special Prosecutions Unit” and suggested that government was about to violate Guyana’s constitution as part of a grand scheme to target political opponents.
“The Constitution by Article 187 confers the powers of prosecution in criminal proceedings on the constitutional Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. This new action is a departure from the existing functional and professional system of prosecutions. The proposal to create a Special Prosecutions Unit cannot be seen as anything else but further institutionalization of another attempt to witch-hunt political opponents,” she said.
She noted that the government goes through the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Guyana Police Force, both professional bodies, governed by the Constitution and statute, “they would be expected to abide by a level of professionalism and follow specific guidelines and act based on evidence.”
Teixeira charged that the APNU+AFC Coalition clearly appears to have no faith in the DPP Chambers and the Guyana Police Force. “This new Special Prosecutions Unit is intended to bypass these bodies and create a separate and parallel prosecutions arm supported by the SARU (State Asset Recovery Unit) and SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit) under the total control of the political elite in the Ministry of the Presidency.
She observed that the floating of the idea of a special team of prosecutors came on the heels of an admission by none other than President David Granger that the audits themselves did not turn up “sufficient evidence” to bring criminal charges against former government officials. Yet according to Minister Trotman this is exactly what this proposed Special Prosecutions Unit will be investigating and leading prosecutions on these forensic audits.
Texiera added that the announcement follows ominously on the statement by Minister Jaipaul Sharma that Cabinet will be deciding on who will be charged with criminal offences based on these forensic audits. The same audits which were carried out by select political supporters of the APNU AFC government.
“As stated in other warnings by the parliamentary opposition, this government has put Guyana on a slippery and dangerous slop undermining the rule of law and the eroding the separation of the powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Despite the campaign trail promises, the government is hell bent on “Jacobin type justice” of the French revolution regardless of human rights and rule of law,” she said.