Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, in justifying government’s move to assemble a special prosecution team to take legal action against those culpable of wrongdoings in the Pradoville 2 investigation, among others, said that the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) Office indicated they were uncomfortable with prosecuting these matters.
According to Williams there is nothing wrong with the use of special prosecutors in high profile cases. In an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA), today, Williams said, “This is something that is not unusual in Guyana, so I don’t know what the hue and cry is.”
However, the Attorney General (AG) told GINA that Cabinet examined the matter to ensure that, “we could identify people to prosecute these cases, people with competence” after staff from the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) Office indicated they were uncomfortable with prosecuting these matters.
“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 explained.
The Attorney General added that while it is the state prosecutor’s job to defend matters, the government has an interest in protecting state assets and ensuring that action is taken against those involved in corrupt practices. “If they are employed as state counsel, they have a duty to discharge their state responsibilities but…we don’t want people whose heart is not in it to mess up the prosecutions,” AG Williams said.
The AG told GINA he does not foresee the DPP having any problems issuing fiats, granting permission for the use of special prosecutors. A fiat is a short order or warrant of a judge or magistrate directing some act to be done; an authority issuing from some competent source for undertaking of some legal act.
Special prosecutors have already been tapped to deal with these cases, the minister stated. “We have identified people that are known, and if we have to bring in special prosecutors from abroad, we will do so,” the Attorney General said.
The government is being guided by the constitution, the Attorney General noted. The selection of the prosecutors is only one aspect of the matter, AG Williams pointed out. “The important thing is to have an impartial judge or magistrate in these cases and of course anyone charged has a right to have a defence counsel of their choice,” AG Williams added.
Just recently, political commentator Raymond Gaskin weighed in on government’s involvement in prosecutions, citing that it was unconstitutional, while calling on stakeholders to speak out on what he described as an attempt to undermine the Rule of Law.
Gaskin, arguing the separation of powers doctrine, 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.