In light of the latest arrest and interrogation of a former Finance Minister under the People’s Progressive Party Administration, Sasenarine Kowlessar, the Opposition is convinced more than ever that Government’s aim is to target former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.
While being a former President, Jagdeo- from 1999 to 2006- has immunity from being prosecuted, as a former Finance Minister, he does not.
This was confirmed by former Attorney General (AG), Anil Nandlall, who in a post on social media expressed his belief that Government is using the criminal legal process to persecute political opponents.
Kowlessar served as Minister of Finance from 1999 – 2006. Some of the transactions about which he was questioned took place over 20 years ago, said Nandlall.
“It is clear beyond any doubt that these investigations are driven by a political and vindictive motive. Ultimately, they are designed to get to the period when Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, was the Minister of Finance. Constitutional immunities prevent them from charging him for acts done while he was President. Recognising this, they intend to go back to two decades to persecute him for transactions done while he was Minister of Finance,” he explained.
According to Nandlall, Jagdeo served as a Minister under the tenures where Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan were Presidents.
The former AG further questioned whether the coalition Government will stop at Jagdeo’s tenure as Minister of Finance or if they intend go all the way back to the first Finance Minister in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Asgar Ally.
However, he expressed certainty that the APNU-AFC Administration will stop at October 5, 1992- People’s National Congress/Reform’s tenure.
“What I do know is that they will stop at October 5, 1992. So they will not investigate the sale of Guyana Telecommunications Corporation to ATN; they will not investigate the sale of Demerara Timbers Limited, or the sale of over 7 state-owned rice mills, or the sale of the National Paint Company or the sale to Carl Greenidge, while he was Minister of Finance, of a property at Bel-Air Gardens by NICIL – none of which was the subject of any form of tender and none of which were sold pursuant to any valuation certificates, or even at market value,” he posited.
Yesterday, former Minister of Finance of the PPP Sasenarine Kowlessar, was arrested by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and interrogated.
He was subsequently released on bail and requested to return next Monday.
Attorney by profession, Nandlall explained that there is a principle of law which prevents investigations of certain transactions that took place several years ago, on the grounds that it is unfair and against public policy to do so because of the lapse of time.
“The rationale is that if persons were to be charged as a result of those investigations, it would amount to an abuse of process to subject those persons to a trial because of the lapse of memory, absence of evidence and absence of witnesses, etc. – all of which will militate against an accused person having a fair trial which is guaranteed as a constitutional right because the law recognises that such a person may be unable to adequately defend himself in the circumstances. Our justice system protects against such eventuality in preservation of the doctrine of presumption of innocence,” he said.
Moreover, the former AG noted that it is unfortunate that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) “does not see it as part of its constitutional mandate to protect the citizenry from these types of investigations, which are widely regarded as abusive and oppressive, but rather is part of the design that is promoting it.”
Prior to this incident, Kowlessar’s successor as Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL were both arrested and dragged before the courts on a charge of “misconduct in public office; contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of state lands.
On Monday a High Court Judge ordered that a stay be placed on the proceedings at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, following the ruling by the Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire on the validity of the charges.
The hearing for this challenge is expected to commence on May 25. (Ramona Luthi)