Last Updated on Monday, 23 April 2018, 15:59 by Denis Chabrol
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall on Monday slammed a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Hack to discontinue private criminal charges of misconduct in public office against Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence and former Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton because no complaint was made to the police.
“There is absolutely no known legal requirement that the allegation must first be reported to the Police and the advice of the DPP sought,” he said. Earlier Monday, Hack issued a statement saying that the allegations were so serious that complaints should have been made to the police. ” “These charges concern a grave issue under the criminal law in relation to two serving Ministers. In the interest of good governance in the State of Guyana such allegations ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought,” the DPP’s Chambers said.
Nandlall told Demerara Waves Online News that he was not ruling out filing complaints against Norton and Lawrence for alleged misconduct in public office by bypassing the public procurement system for goods and services. He said he first has to speak with the complainants before making his next move.
Meanwhile, Nandlall said his request of the DPP to review and eventually discontinue criminal charges of misconduct in public office brought by the Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit against former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has been merely acknowledged. He received that acknowledgement Monday afternoon. In that regard, Nandlall said that amounted to discrimination. “I feel the DPP’s discontinuance of the charges against the two Ministers but apparent refusal to do likewise in relation to Singh and Brassington’s charges smacks of discrimination and inequality before the law,” he said.
Nandlall signaled that he would challenge the charges against Singh and Brassington in the High Court. “Article 149 of the Constitution guarantees to the citizenry protection from discrimination and equality before the law as
fundamental rights and freedoms. The DPP’s latest action has certainly strengthened Singh and Brassington’s intended challenge of their charges in the High Court. Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington are absolutely justified in concluding that they have been discriminated against by the DPP,” the lawyer said.
Saying that in many instances, it is the failure of the Guyana Police Force to act or to act professionally that has led to the evolution and practice of private criminal charges, he said the Constitution does not allow the DPP to use good governance as a yard-stick to determine whether or not charges should be discontinued.
“I must point out that it must be very fresh and new jurisprudence which confers a power on the DPP to be responsible for “good governance in the State of Guyana”,” he said.
Suggesting that the DPP has been influenced by Attorney General, Basil Williams comment at the weekend that “government expects” her ti review the private criminal charges against Lawrence and Norton, Nandlall said Hack’s position would restrict the ordinary person’s right to file a criminal charge. “The position adopted by the DPP on this occasion will retard the advancement of our criminal jurisprudence and stultify the right and freedom of the citizen to institute and prosecute a private criminal charge without the involvement of the State,” he said.
Nandlall reminded that when Chistopher Ram instituted private criminal charges against Former President Bharat Jagdeo, the matter was neither reported nor investigated by the Police. Yet the DPP did not consider it a part of ‘good governance’ to discontinue those charges.
Lawrence had been cited for instructing the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation to purchase more than GY$600 million in drugs from Ansa McAl without following the procurement process, and Norton had been accused of presiding over the rental of a building at Sussex Street, Albouystown for GY$14 million per month to store drugs and other medical supplies.
In the SOCU charges, the former Finance Minister and former Head of NICIL have been accused selling three large tracts of land for just over GY$900 million without careful regard to the valuation process.
More private criminal charges were Monday filed against serving government ministers; this time against Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and Minister of Public Service, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine in connection with the allocation and spending of GY$906 million being public funds to Homestretch Development Incorporated and contractors engaged by Homstretch Development Incorporated for an on behalf of the Guyana government for works purportedly done to and at a D’urban Park “without any form of procurement process as prescribed by law.