LETTER: Rushed and poorly prepared cases by SOCU are being directed by a political agenda

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Dear Editor,

My attention was drawn to an article published in a section of the media on October 3, 2018, headlined “Too much time being wasted on prepping criminal case files- -SOCU adviser tells investigators, prosecutors.” This article followed an earlier article in another section of the media on August 15, 2018 entitled “UK getting “value for money” in SOCU’s operation – British envoy’.

The recent report stated that the “Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) adviser Dr. Sam Sittlington yesterday told investigators and prosecutors that too much time is being wasted on preparing criminal case files, which fail to hold up in court.”  Rather an odd statement to make, one would think. What was the gravamen here?

Dr. Sittlington expanded by saying that “…..we see a lot of cases getting to court and failing at court. We’ve seen failings when the file would go to the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions]. We don’t want files to come back to us with amendments and corrections. We want one file, one time, going to the DPP and that file being referred to charges. It’s a lot of time wasting and we don’t need that.” Was Dr. Sittlington saying that too much time was being wasted on preparing criminal cases or was it that time was being wasted when cases failed to hold up in court?

One would assume that thoroughly and well prepared cases backed with solid evidence, even if it took time to do so, was preferable instead of hastily putting politically directed charges against PPP/C leaders and former Cabinet members as those laid against former Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington, based on spurious information.

SOCU staff has been given “a basket full of holes to fetch water.” But Sittlington is ploughing on with an agenda only few seem to know while ensuring that his resume looks good. He certainly feels obliged to provide some rationale to explain his failure to bring 30 “good cases” against former Cabinet members that he publicly announced would be brought over a year ago.

One would have thought that Sittlington would have instead of playing the blame game, he would ensure that law enforcement agencies/officers were upholding the rule of law and do proper investigations based on evidence in order to make winnable cases. He no doubt is aware that the present rushed and poorly prepared cases are being directed by a political agenda, and in any democratic nation, this would be considered reckless and  a threat to human rights. Certainly the fall out would be to undermine public confidence in the Guyanese civilian law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, was Dr. Sittlington expressing some dissatisfaction with the Office of the DPP? Or worse yet was he sending a dog whistle  to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions , a constitutional body, that it should not make amendments and corrections once S.O.C.U or other law enforcement agencies brought their criminal cases to it? Even more disturbing was Dr. Sittlington also signaling to the judiciary, another constitutional body, some dissatisfaction with the number of cases which are failing in the courts?

Just as worrying is that these comments by the SOCU adviser, appear to be in direct contradiction with what the British High Commissioner, H.E. Quinn, is reported to have said in the August 15th Kaieteur News article. The High Commissioner is quoted as saying, “That sort of investigative side, I think is working well…but then the next step, which is not one that we [UK] are involved in. The next step is out of our control in many ways. All SOCU can do is put forward good cases that can be looked at and considered for prosecution,” he noted. The cases now being put forward by SOCU are “good”, “so SOCU is doing its job,” said the High Commissioner.”

So which one is it Dr. Sittlington – “good cases being put forward “or “too much time being wasted on prepping criminal cases which fail to hold up in the courts”?  You cannot have it both ways.

With regard to the earlier statement by the High Commissioner, one has to wonder. How would a foreign diplomat know whether the cases being put forward as he says are “good” or not? How is he classifying “good cases”?  Generally such a reference to a “good” case means that they are winnable in a court of law; how would the High Commissioner know that?

Is he privy to matters that are considered outside of the remit of a foreign diplomat in Guyana’s internal affairs? Worse yet what is the role of a foreign diplomat in SOCU, an investigative arm, which falls under the Guyana Police Force? I am doubtful if the previous Commissioner of Police or maybe even the new one is as informed as the High Commissioner on the number of “good” cases being brought. I wonder whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs is comfortable with these statements by a foreign diplomat on internal matters of the state.

Furthermore, having submitted all information, including the Public Procurement Commission report on its findings on the award of contract for the New Demerara Harbour Bridge as well as my official statement to the S.O.C.U., it would be interesting to know if this will be classified as a “good” case. l am patiently waiting to see what happens next.

At least one of the purposes of the High Commissioner’s August press conference was to blow the UK’s proverbial government’s trumpet of “getting value for money as it relates to the operation of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), under the guidance of Financial Investigations Advisor, Dr. Sam Sittlington.” One wonders, however, what were the criteria used to come up with that conclusion. Is there some target set for the number of cases to be brought as part of the conditions for the UK’s funding?

Neither the public nor the National Assembly know how much of the UK taxpayers money is being expended by either the UK government or the High Commission on the provision of Dr. Sittlington’s services to the S.O.C.U, nor do we know what are his terms of reference.  What l have heard is that he is being paid an exorbitant salary, no exaggeration.

Again the Guyanese people are none the wiser with regard to the fate of the Security Sector Reform report which was prepared by another British Adviser on Security, Russell Combe, and submitted to the government since May 2018. Yet the High Commissioner stated on October 2, 2018 that that course “is part of the latest round of training for Guyanese law enforcement, which is part of the broader support from the United Kingdom for the security sector reform”.

Isn’t it time that we learn from the Guyanese heads of law enforcement agencies as to what is taking place than these snippets from foreign advisers or diplomats?

Isn’t it more important for the Guyanese public to have some sense of confidence in the SOCU, an investigative body, and in fact, all civilian law enforcement agencies, as being professional and free from political interference, whether internal or external to our borders?

Regards,

Gail Teixeira, M.P.,

Parliamentary Opposition Chief Whip

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Relations

 

 

 

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