Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday brushed aside the renewed investigations by the Special Organized Crime Unit’s (SOCU) into the sale of lands at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara (known as Pradoville 2) to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) officials during their tenure in office, as “another political gimmick.”
During his weekly presser, Jagdeo disclosed that his party members and former Ministers who were so far interrogated by SOCU were essentially asked about “…some $13M contract and about the vesting order. Whether the Cabinet and individual members had knowledge of the law governing vesting of properties.“
According to the PPP General Secretary, there is no doubt in his mind that the investigation is not only politically instigated but that it is Government’s intention to damage reputations leading up Local Government Elections.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo, during the press briefing, asserted that his party members will cooperate with SOCU, regardless, so as to set a precedent for when the investigations are launched by the very entity into the many cases of corruption by sitting Ministers.
“They don’t see the big picture…They’re digging a deep hole for themselves…If I’m called in, I will go because we will set a precedent for when they [SOCU] pursue the other investigations. Trust me, they [Government] don’t know what they have just done,” he said, while noting that everything regarding Pradoville 2 lands were done in accordance to the laws of Guyana.
In relation to the Government corruption, the Opposition Leader drew reference to the recent report to SOCU made by the PPP based on the findings of the Public Procurement Commission that the Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, acted illegally when he contracted Dutch company LievenseCSO to conduct the feasibility study on the new Demerara Harbour Bridge in the sum of approximately $150M.
In this case, he was sure to mention that in addition to Patterson, all the Ministers of the Cabinet who approved the unsolicited bid are culpable of acting illegally by bypassing the tender process.
According to Jagdeo, the other Cabinet ministers also acted illegally by approving Patterson’s unsolicited bid, since with the passing of the procurement laws, the powers of Cabinet to approve contracts were replaced with just the available oversight of no objection.
Moreover, he asserted that the rental of the Sussex Street, Georgetown bond is another act of corruption on the list, among others.
On Wednesday morning, former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn and former Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir found themselves the latest to be questioned at SOCU’s headquarters.
The duo was represented by former Education Minister Priya Manickchand, who disclosed that she too was called in for questioning regarding the matter on Tuesday.
Speaking to media operatives after being questioned, Benn revealed that he explained to the SOCU investigators that the period surrounding the sale of the lands, a Minister had been murdered and so Government did what “needed to be done” at the time.
He was referring to the assassination of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeo Sawh, his family and security personnel. Sawh and two of his siblings were gunned down in April 2006 shortly after they had returned to the Minister’s La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara home.
Benn, who does not own property at the Sparendaam location, told media reporters that the overriding issue had to do with the stability of the country to make sure that the President and other members of the Cabinet get a home in a secure and safe environment away from criminal activities.
Meanwhile, Manickchand deemed the prolonged investigation as a “distraction” expressing her belief that it is being politically directed. She contended that “Pradoville 2” was being targeted because the Opposition Leader lives there.
The former Minister said too that the move comes days after meetings were held in Berbice.
“This has only to do with an attempt to decapitate the PPP and pull down its leaders and interfere with its ability to lead and that’s all it is, it’s a political persecution,” she said. (Ramona Luthi)