Harmon says Jagdeo’s immunity not unfettered … SOCU ranks to make determination at Police Station

Last Updated on Friday, 10 March 2017, 14:58 by Denis Chabrol

by Gary Eleazar

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo being escorted into SOCU’s headquarters building by the Head of that agency, Assistant Commissioner Sydney James to be questioned about the acquisition of land at Pradoville 2.

The administration on Friday sounded a warning for Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, over his resort to immunity from prosecution, for acts while in Office and points to the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, who is to be ousted from office by impeachment and faces possible criminal charges and jail term, for acts committed while in Office.

The intimation was made (March 10, 2017) today by Government’s principal spokesman, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

The retired Lieutenant Colonel was at the time speaking to reporters at the Ministry of the Presidency, during a post Cabinet Press Briefing and was giving government’s take on Presidential Immunity as provided for in the Constitution of Guyana.

According to Harmon, even though there is immunity, “there are exceptions” and suggested that a President cannot commit an egregious enough act,—which the International Court will deem as such and prosecute in the same way—and believe that nothing will happen.

Former President Jagdeo was this week arrested by ranks of the Guyana Police Force’s Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) for questioning in related to the luxurious seaside Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (ECD) residential community known as ‘Pradoville 11.’

Several ex-ministers and former top government officials are accused of paying below market value in a conspiracy to commit fraud. That project was spearheaded by the ousted Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, under the aegis of Jagdeo but when questioned by SOCU ranks, he resorted to the protection of Presidential Immunity and declined.

According to Harmon, the matter of presidential immunities and its applicability the matters involved “will be dealt with right at the police station”

The Minister of State said while the Constitution of Guyana affords Presidents Immunity, the framers of the Constitution did not envisage a political climate as is currently in place in Guyana.

According to Harmon, the framers of the Constitution would have expected a president to take up a ‘quiet and sedate lifestyle’ upon leaving office but this is not the case in Guyana.

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo was in December last elected the General Secretary/Leader of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and also serves as the leader of the Political Opposition in the National Assembly and Parliament.

Harmon, questioned Jagdeo’s resort to immunity while still also engaged in active politics. He also singled out Former President Donald Ramotar, for his sometimes weekly letters.

Weighing in on the recent SOCU arrests, Minister Harmon has maintained a hands-off approach on the part of Government saying, SOCU is an arm of the police force and that the matter is a police investigation.
“We will not interfere with the police investigation,” Harmon said.

The Minster used the opportunity to point to the increased training and capacity building in the Guyana Police Force among its ranks—something that has been on the front burner of the administration.

He told reporters of support provided by international partners through mutual assistance programs, all aimed at building the investigative and other capacities of the ranks of the Police Force.

The Minister of State is adamant the police are trained to prepare cases that would stand up in the court of law.
“A lot of work going into the training, so that when they bring cases before the court it will stick,” he said.

Responding to concerns over the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the ‘Pradoville 11’ investigation, the Minister of State would only express confidence in the SOCU ranks since the police engaged in the investigation are “sufficiently equipped.”

He shrugged off the recent public lamentations over the arrests by members of the political opposition, saying many persons have an in interest in the investigation, regardless of how actively or passively involved.