The Opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) has called out the Government for what it deems as double standards surrounding its allocations of monies as it relates to prosecutions.
The party in a press statement highlighted, among others things, that “a hundred million dollars have been budgeted for the hiring of Special Prosecutors to prosecute PPP leaders and former Ministers of the PPP Government. At the same time, we also note that the Minister of Finance cut the[Director of Public Prosecutions] DPP’s budget for the year 2017 by several million dollars.
“So this Government is refusing to give funding to the DPP Office, the Office that has the functional mandate to prosecute all the serious offences committed against our citizens, including, murder, rape, robbery, drug-trafficking etc. but is prepared to spend 100 million dollars to witch-hunt and persecute political opponents” the Opposition said in their statement.
Moreover, the PPP says that the lawyers who were hired as Special Prosecutors for the Government are not impartial persons but rather party affiliates.
According to the PPP “of the lawyers who will be or have been hired as Special Prosecutors, one operates out of Minister Joseph Harmon’s former law Office, two are operating out of Minister Basil Williams’ former law Office, another was a candidate on the APNU/AFC 2015 General Elections’ List of Candidates and was the returning officer at Congress Place for PNC’s Internal Elections at their Congress last August. This is yet another political witch-hunt that is contaminated with cronyism, nepotism and ‘money for the boys.'”
Cabinet had appointed six attorneys; Michael Somersall, Hewely Griffith, Lawrence Harris, Patrice Henry, Compton Richardson, and Trenton Lake as Special Prosecutors in the event that legal action might ensue from audit reports into the Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme and the 2007 World Cup cricket, among others.
Incumbent Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC, has long since contended that nothing is wrong with Government’s move to hire Special Prosecutors to go after ‘state assets’ as similar situations existed in Guyana before.
He had also highlighted that Government’s impetus for hiring Special Prosecutors was because the state prosecutors under the DPP were uncomfortable with handling such cases.
“They have suggested that they are political cases and some indicated they might have known the minister, but largely because it is a political nature,” were the reasons given by DPP staff, AG Williams had explained.
However, DDP Shalimar Ali-Hack, has since denied and refuted the AG’s statements calling them erroneous, while nothing that the state prosecutors were in no way uncomfortable with the duties assigned to them.
The DPP in a release had said that “Mrs Ali-Hack or any other lawyer in these Chambers have never indicated that they are uncomfortable in prosecuting any criminal matters, whether political or otherwise.”
Commenting on these developments, political commentator Ramon Gaskin had 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.
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/her 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 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.