OP-ED: Creeping dictatorship is not a hyperbole, it is very real

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...APNU/AFC sidestepping DPP is a clear example 

(The following is an opinion piece penned by veteran politician and former PPP Government Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy)

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

Another day, another scandal has been revealed. The appointments of Special Prosecutors to go after PPP leaders can be viewed from different perspectives. Whichever perspective one chooses, the inescapable conclusion is that APNU+AFC has no interest in justice. They are on a witch hunting rampage. As if that is not scandalous enough, the $100M price tag and the procedure utilized to contract the special prosecutors are also adding to the heap of corrupt deals.

APNU+AFC has appointed family and friends as special prosecutors with a budget of $100M, outside of the DPP’s office, while significantly reducing the 2017 budget of the DPP’s office. The special prosecutors emanate directly out of the private offices of Basil Williams and Joe Harmon, one is a brother of a sitting Minister and another a candidate on the APNU+AFC list of candidates for the 2015 elections. There was no advertisement or tender for special prosecutors, breaching the procurement laws and underlining another corrupt deal. The evident nepotism adds to the stench emanating from this scandal.

Guyana has a Westminster-style governance model underpinned by the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive, parliament and the judiciary. The DPP, part of the judiciary, is independent and acts without fear or favor. It is not beholden to the Presidency or the Parliament. It acts base on evidence provided by the police and other investigative agencies. Special Prosecutors can be a useful instrument available to the DPP, not a convenient weapon for a Cabinet to bypass the DPP. The DPP office is the independent constitutional body responsible for prosecuting alleged offenders. Cabinet’s appointments of special prosecutors breach constitutional requirements.

Decisions to prosecute, or not, need to be made free of any suspicion that they may be politically motivated. Since APNU+AFC appears not to be able to compromise the present DPP, they have two choices – first fire the DPP and or force her to resign, or second bypass the DPP. They clearly have chosen to bypass her and carry out their lawless behavior through direct charges by the police or through the use of a Special Prosecutors Unit in the Ministry of Public Security. Clearly, APNU+AFC is engaged in a brazen hijacking of the DPP’s office and is recklessly railroading justice. Through this mechanism, they will now embark on a political witch hunt which we, unfortunately, are no strangers to, given our experience under the People’s National Congress.

The overtly lurid efforts to circumvent the DPP raises suspicions and questions about the government’s motives. Clearly, the way APNU+AFC is acting raises suspicion that they are motivated by a desire to shackle any individual or organization that is willing and able to challenge them by exercising a degree of independent power.

When a government starts messing with the independence of the DPP, the unmistaken signs of a police state become far too real. Given the constant condemnation of judicial decisions when it is not in their favor, as witnessed with the disgusting “cussing” out of Carl Singh for disallowing an appeal in a case unfairly and illegally harassing Bharat Jagdeo, we are witnessing an overt effort to take control of the judiciary. Taken with the other evidence to silence the auditor general and statutory commissions, the signs are ominous.

In less than two years, APNU+AFC has taken too many steps down a path of dictatorship. But then again APNU+AFC is deeply rooted in the DNA of authoritarianism.

The President served as an important player in the PNC dictatorship. The Attorney General is a disciple of Burnham, the PNC dictator. The Minister of Public Security is a poodle of the President, too comfortable with the trappings of unbridled power.

APNU+AFC is not timid in displaying those genes of dictatorship. The latest move to silence the DPP and their desperate efforts to lock up their political opponents are nothing but a dog whistle that a new era of unbridled power, dictatorship and brutal intimidation of political opponents has arrived. Creeping dictatorship is not a hyperbole. It is very real.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy

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