The People Progressive Party (PPP) says that the assertions by members of the incumbent Administration that the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) would be staffed by professionals and not political personalities was untruthful.
The Opposition’s contentions lie in the recent pronouncement by SARU’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Aubrey Heath-Retemeyer, who said that a transition period of 6-12 months would be required, after the President assents to the SARA Bill, during which critical decisions would be made regarding the structure and operations of the entity.
He explained further that “during that transition period, the present personnel in the unit will remain. There will be an attempt to ensure recruitment is done, so that other elements of the unit will be put in place, so we can get on with what is required of us.”
It would mean that the Director of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU), Professor Clive Thomas will remain at the helm of that entity even though he has been openly critical towards the PPP and politically aligned to the APNU/AFC government.
One of the major concerns of stakeholders was that of SARA’s Head being bestowed with a seemingly unlimited amount of power.
See the Party’s full statement below:
It is now obvious that members of the Government who spoke on the SARA Bill in the National Assembly, blatantly lied to the nation, when they all assured in their speeches that politicians would not staff this agency; that professional investigators will and that appointments will only be made via the parliamentary process outlined in the Bill.
It is now public knowledge that the Government will not appoint a Director and Deputy Director of State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) pursuant to the provisions of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill when it is assented to, that is, by complying with parliamentary process outlined in the said Bill.
Instead, the Government intends to use the current members of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) to act in the place of the Director and Deputy Director and other officers of SARA for a transitionary period that will last as long as 12 months.
This position of the Government has confirmed what we said from the inception that SARA will be an agency staffed by politicians and imbued with a political mandate to witch-hunt, persecute, harass and intimidate identified segments of our population; that SARA has very little to do with justice but is driven by an agenda overwhelmed with political vengeance and discrimination.
Is it well-known that these personnel are not only leading politicians within the coalition Government, but most of them have repeatedly made public statements conclusive of the guilt of dozens of Guyanese without any investigation, what so ever, being commenced. In fact, Clive Thomas, who is identified to act as the Director has already indicated that he has list of private properties in respect of which he will seek court orders. It begs the questions: How was this list compiled? On what basis were these properties identified? Since SARU has and never had no investigative powers, who did investigations which led to the conclusion that these properties are stolen state assets?
Our opposition to SARA is now intensified. Not only are we opposed to the Bill itself, which as we have said, is unconstitutional and exposes private property to arbitrary interference and confiscation but we now express our vehement opposition to the persons who will now staff the agency. We say that they are political hacks devoid of any law enforcement and investigative training and qualifications required for the task; they certainly do not qualify as “fit and proper” persons as prescribed by both the SARA Bill and the President’s public pronouncement on the characteristics of a “fit and proper” person.
We reiterate our support for any initiative, which genuinely is intended to recover stolen state assets and investigate corruption in public office. However, we maintain resolutely that SARA has nothing to do with either of those objectives. We hope by the Bill itself, the lies peddled in the National Assembly, the shutting down of the debates on the Bill in the National Assembly and now the indication that politicians who have clearly demonstrated vindictive proclivities will staff the agency, some Guyanese and some in the international community would have realized that they have been terribly misled on this matter.