Special Prosecutions Unit
… wants initiative challenged in courts
Government’s imminent involvement in prosecutions has escalated to dangerous heights, not only on the basis of its blatant violation of the Constitution of Guyana but also by the deafening silence from key stakeholders who are expected to speak against any attempt to undermine the rule of law.
Prominent political commentator Ramon Gaskin asks if the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and the Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporation (TIGI) are all muted as Government proceeds to embark on a worrying initiative, then it will inevitably feel fearless with the only disapproval being the voice of the Opposition Members of Parliament (MP).
During an interview on Wednesday, Gaskin made it pellucid that the Constitution stipulates that the Executive is barred from getting involved in prosecutions and emphasised the need for Governemnt’s decision to be challenged in the courts.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon had announced that Cabinet had considered and approved the proposal to assemble a special prosecution team to take legal action against those culpable of wrongdoings in the Pradoville 2 scandal.
The Pradoville 2 matter encompasses the acquisition of house lots by former Government officials in the Sparendaam Housing Scheme – more popularly known as Pradoville 2 – on the East Coast of Demerara, at costs believed to be below market value.
Commenting on these developments, Gaskin highlighted that the Constitution of Guyana provides only for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to deal with matters involving prosecutions.
“I was quite surprised and alarmed when I read the article because in this country, prosecutions have nothing to do with the Attorney General [AG]. The AG is not involved in prosecutions in this country. The DPP together with the GPF is responsible for prosecutions. The political Ministers have nothing to do with prosecutions,” he remarked.
Article 122 says “there shall be an Attorney General of Guyana who shall be the principal legal adviser to the Government of Guyana and who shall be appointed by the President.”
Article 116 says “there shall be a Director of Public Prosecutions whose office shall be a public office.”
Article 187 outlines the DPP’s functions which includes to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court and noted that the powers conferred upon the Director shall be vested in him to the exclusion of any other person or authority and that Director shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
Article 187 also notes that the powers of the Director may be exercised through other persons acting under, and in accordance with, the Director’s general or special instructions.
In these circumstances, there has been no indication whether the DPP granted permission for the Government to establish its own prosecutions unit. Gaskin suspects Government has confused Guyana’s Constitution with that of the United States of America (USA).
“What I think is happening here is that they are getting a little confused with what’s happening in the United States where the AG is involved in prosecutions in the district attorney offices and all of that, we don’t have that system here [in Guyana],” he presumed.
Gaskin maintained that regardless of the extent of Government’s involvement in the prosecution of persons on the Pradoville matter, the Executive should not, under any circumstances, deal with the prosecution of persons.
“They have no business assembling nothing, they have no business even dealing with it. Prosecutions are the business of the DPP and the GPF. Govt is not supposed to get involved in prosecutions in this country. If such a thing were to go ahead, it would mean Government is acting unconstitutionally. Of course if it were to proceed, it would be dangerous. Any violation of the Constitution is a serious matter,” he asserted, urging stakeholders to take a stand against this flagrant violation.
“The Bar Association made up of trained lawyers, they don’t have a word to say, they should speak out about it, I don’t know why they are so silent… Somebody should go to court and challenge it. It ought to be challenged. You cannot let politicians get involved in prosecutions,” Gaskin stated. The commentator opined that nothing is wrong with hiring private prosecutors but this must be undertaken by the DPP and the prosecutors must be working under the instructions of the DPP. (Reprinted: Guyana Times)