Govt ready to defend Ministers

first_imgPrivate criminal charges…as AG cites possibility of DPP trash chargesWhile it is hoping to avoid the court steps altogether, the Government stands ready to defend two sitting Government Ministers, who had private criminal charges filed against them just days ago. This was the position taken by Attorney General Basil Williams during a Saturday morning press conference. While he expressed confidence in the innocence of the two Ministers, Williams was nevertheless hopeful that the charges die a legal death at the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).Public Health Ministers Volda Lawrence“Fortunately, our Constitution established the independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, imbuing her with total power over all prosecutions whether undertaken by her or by some other authority,” Williams said.“If charges are initiated by others, the DPP can discontinue them or take them over to continue them. In other words, of the office of the DPP has a proactive duty to patrol the corridors of justice.”According to Williams, current and former Public Health Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton were not accused by any agency of a criminal offence. As such, he expressed confidence in their survival. “I have confidence in my Ministers. No established investigatory or prosecutorial agency said anything about them. The former Minister was charged after extensive investigation and advice from the Police legal advisor, Justice Claudette Singh. That was after much deliberation.”But Williams also threatened that Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo can also face private criminal charges. This is even though Jagdeo, a former President, is covered by immunity from prosecution.Article 182 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states: “Subject to the provisions of Article 180, the holder of the Office of President shall not be personally answerable to any court for the performance of the functions of his office or for any act done in the performance of those functions and no proceedings, whether criminal or civil, shall be instituted against him in his personal capacity in respect thereof either during his term of office or thereafter.” However, Williams on Saturday said the DPP has been asked by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) member of Parliament Anil Nandlall to reconsider her charges against former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former head of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington. In this light, he said the Government would expect no lesser treatment for the “charges she did not institute lest the floodgates open to create a festival of private criminal charges even against the Leader of the Opposition.”The Special Organised Crime Unit had recently instituted charges against former Finance Minister, Dr Singh for misconduct in public office. In addition, former CEO of NICIL, Winston Brassington was also charged.The PPP had followed suit with charges against Norton and Lawrence. The court heard that Minister Volda Lawrence, while being and performing the duties of Public Health Minister of the Government of Guyana, between January 16, 2017, and February 16, 2017, wilfully misconducted herself in a way which amounted to an abuse of public trust without reasonable excuse or justification.Moreover, Minister Lawrence was accused of authorising the unapproved single sourcing and purchase of drugs and medical supplies for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation from ANSA McAL Trading Limited, for the excessive sum of $605,962,200.Norton, on the other hand, was also accused of wilfully misconducting himself in a way which amounted to an abuse of public trust without reasonable excuse or justification, when he authorised or caused the rental, of the property known as and situated at 29 Sussex Street Albouystown, in the city of Georgetown from Linden Holdings Incorporated, a Limited Liability Company, for the sum of $12,500,000, exclusive of Value Added Tax, per month, by way of a written Agreement of Tenancy at an excessive rate of rental.Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan had granted two summonses for the respective Ministers, ordering them to appear before the court on April 24.last_img read more