Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has described the move by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali Hack, to discontinue private criminal charges against five sitting Government Ministers as a travesty.
Making comparisons with the charges of racial incitement he faced in 2015, Jagdeo noted that back then, there was no police investigation in his matter yet the DPP did not intervene.
“She was written to and the lawyers pointed out the flaws in the charge. She never responded, never nullified them, and never argued they should have gone to the police before. And so we had to go through the court system and finally I was vindicated. If you look at the charge itself, how flawed it was, that was a prime case for nullification.”
“These charges that are being instituted against several Ministers are serious charges. They deal with large sums of money being squandered or corruptly being given with the direct knowledge and involvement of Ministers.”
Jagdeo questioned the squashing of the charges against the Ministers on the grounds of good governance. According to the former President, good governance would actually equate to rooting out corruption and either proving or disproving such claims.
“I would have thought everyone in Guyana, including the DPP, in the cause of good governance would have wanted the people who were so charged to do to court and see if the courts would vindicate or convict them. She argued that the charges didn’t go to the police and in the cause of good governance she is withdrawing these charges. What good governance?”
The DPP’s office dismissed ‘misconduct’ charges filed last week against Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, and Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall as the Attorney, and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill as an applicant.
The charges against the ministers alleged a breach of the Procurement Act in relation to the expenditure of $906 million in public funds to a private company, Homestretch Development Inc, for construction of the controversial D’Urban Park Project.
Jordan and Patterson were jointly charged with misconduct and abuse of public trust for having allegedly authorised the payment, while Dr Roopnaraine, who was a director of the company, was charged with alleged misconduct and the abuse of public trust for having received, in his capacity as director, the $906 million in public funds while serving as minister.
However, the DPP’s Chambers said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon that the private criminal charges against Ministers Jordon, Patterson and Roopnaraine, for misconduct in public office, contrary to the Common Law, were discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions under Article 187 (1) ( c) of the Constitution.
This was the second set of charges filed by the Opposition that the DPP has thrown out, citing the same reasons. Last week, she also discontinued charges against Government Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton that were filed respectively over the sole-sourcing of more than $600 million in drugs and other pharmaceuticals for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, and the rental of a house in Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown to be utilized as a drug bond at a cost of $12 million monthly.
In both cases the DPP posited, among other things, that “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.”