Charges against Lawrence, Norton discontinued by the DPP

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The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack on Monday discontinued the case filed by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Members of Parliament, Vickram Bharrat and Bishop Juan Edghill on April 19, 2018 against Government Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton.

“The private criminal charges for the offence of Misconduct in Public Office, contrary to the Common Law instituted against Ministers Volda Lawrence and George Norton were discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions under Article 187 (1) ( c) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” a press statement released by the office of the DPP said.

Moreover, it was explained that “these charges concern a grave issue under the criminal law in relation to two serving Ministers. In the interest of good governance in the State of Guyana such allegations ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought.”

Former Minister of Health, Dr George Norton and current Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence

The charges were brought against former Minister of Health, Dr George Norton and current Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence with regards to the sole sourcing of drugs and other pharmaceuticals for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation from privately owned, Ansa McAll Trading Limited and the rental of a house in Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown to be utilized as a drug bond at a cost of $12M monthly, respectively.

The two Ministers were expected in Court on April 24, 2018 on the same matter.

Over the weekend, the Attorney General, Basil Williams in a statement calling for the DPP to intervene in the charges laid said that  “there is no comparison between the cases where the D.P.P. charged former Minister Ashni Singh and Brassington, herself after due deliberation, and the private excursion by Edghill and Bharrat uninformed by such examination.”

As such, he called for Hack to re-consider the charges against the two Ministers which “she did not institute.”

“The D.P.P. has been asked by the PPPC M.P. Nandlall to re-consider her charges against Singh and Brassington and 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” Williams said.

In response, the PPP, in their own statement said that they are aware of the request made by Williams while recalling that “the DPP did not intervene when frivolous private criminal charges were filed against former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, two years ago, by Christopher Ram.”

As such, they asserted their belief that “whatever actions the DPP takes, the PPP expects it to be fair, even-handed and non-discriminatory.”

It now remains unclear, whether the most recent private charges brought by the PPP against Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, Finance Minister Winston Jordan and former Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine with regards to the Durban Park project will meet the same fate.

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