…says SOCU should have made other arrangements to question him
Days after former President and current Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had been arrested and detained at the Headquarters of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) – a department of the Guyana Police Force – Head of State, President David Granger, declared that the former Guyanese Leader should not have been treated the way he was.
President Granger’s sentiments were first expressed on Wednesday, when he meet with the Opposition Leader for their second round of consultations on the appointment of a Chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
According to Opposition Member of Parliament and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who had accompanied Jagdeo to the meeting, the President was apologetic, claiming that he was unaware of the incidents, and that it was Minister of State Joseph Harmon who had drawn it to his attention.
Nandlall noted that the Head of State had added: “Former Presidents should be treated with dignity”, and had declared his recognition that governments change.
Speaking on the weekly televised programme The Public Interest, which was aired on Friday evening, the Head of State further pointed out that while he would not interfere with the work of the Guyana Police Force, he believes that Jagdeo’s “personal arrest” was unjustified.
“We are speaking about an ex-President. We’re speaking about somebody who (had) enjoyed the confidence of the (Guyanese) people for 12 years, and I believe that his involvement in the matter under investigation did not warrant his going to the office. A decision could have been taken at the level of the Guyana Police Force…So, in my view, some other way could have been used to determine whether his presence at the headquarters was necessary,” Granger stated.
Jagdeo and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, were arrested on Tuesday last, while several other former Government Ministers under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration were detained by SOCU officials who are probing misappropriation of State assets. The arrest and detention was in connection with an ongoing probe into the acquisition of lands at Pradoville 2, among other things.
Expressing the view that certain Government ministers may be directing the activities of SOCU officers, the Leader of the Opposition revealed that the President had promised to “personally inquire into the incident.”
However, asked about this development during his televised programme, the Guyanese Leader explained that while he regrets the way the former President had been treated, he would not be interfering with the work of SOCU.
Moreover, Granger pointed out that the Guyana Police Force has the right to invite people of any rank to go to SOCU headquarters during an investigation, and he added that it is not possible for SOCU to visit every single former Minister; but he maintained that an exception could have been made in the case of Jagdeo.
“I think they acted properly, generally speaking, with regards to the other ministers; but I do feel that at the level of (the former) Head of State, the matter could have been handled differently…The Police must be allowed to do their job, and if their duties require them to invite persons who are accused of certain offences or who have information to provide, I think they should be allowed to do that without interference.
“I did not interfere, and I will not interfere with the investigations; but it’s impossible for SOCU to go around the country trying to have private interviews because of the perceived rank of the persons,” President Granger asserted.
SOCU has, over the last few days, detained several former prominent Government officials, including former Prime Minister and President, Samuel Hinds.
Former Ministers Priya Manickchand, Irfaan Ali, Clement Rohee, Robert Persaud and Dr Jennifer Westford are also among others who have been detained in connection with their role in the Pradoville 2 scheme. The reason these persons are being questioned is because they purchased property at the Sparendaam seawall area (ECD) that is commonly known as “Pradoville 2”.
The current Administration contends that the transaction is a criminal act because of the belief that the land was sold below market value. However, the PPP had argued that subsidised housing has always been a part of the legacy of the People’s Progressive Party, and that countless Guyanese have benefited from lands sold below market value.
In fact, Nandlall has been recently quoted as saying: “Every single house lot in this country was distributed way below the market price: $50,000 for a land in Mon Repos, $200,000 in Eccles… Is that the value of the house lot? So let us not get carried away and become victims of the propaganda.”
The President’s apologetic sentiments come on the heels of a question posed by Acting Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine in regard to whether the former Government ministers and former President Bharrat Jagdeo are about the law.
He is quoted in sections of the media as saying, “Are they above the law? Why can’t they be questioned if SOCU is carrying out an investigation?” Ramnarine had thereafter excused himself to attend a meeting. (Guyana Times)