BY DEVINA SAMAROO
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo says the forthcoming legislation to institutionalise the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) can be regarded as nothing more than laws for witchhunting, a contraption which can backfire on the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition.
SARU was established with the purpose of hunting for State assets which initially belonged to the Government, but later ended up in the hands of private individuals.
It has since been conducting investigations and making recommendations to the Guyana Police Force for charges to be laid against allegedly culpable persons, without any legal framework in place governing its operations.
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams had announced recently that the draft legislation is currently being reviewed by his Chambers.
But Jagdeo contended that there really is no need for legislation to be put in place to govern a body that has no need to be in existence.
“Corruption cases can be dealt with routinely by the Police. The current legislation can deal with any act of corruption. We have enough laws to deal with corruption by anyone,” he stated.
Moreover, the former President wondered whether SARU will also investigate corruption allegations against sitting Government officials or if it will just target instances under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
“Take for example, the 16 computers for Leader of Opposition’s Office… These were in the Parliament’s register given to the APNU when they were in Opposition… When they went into Government, they had to hand back those assets, but they were never returned. Where are those assets? Should SARU recover those too?” Jagdeo rationalised.
He also opined that should an allegation of corruption be levied against Government Ministers or even President David Granger, would SARU be mandated to investigate those claims.
In this regard, Jagdeo contended that from all indications, SARU is being established as a ‘witchhunting’ body under the pretext of a transparency mechanism to satisfy the demands of the international community.
“It is being used as a propaganda arm to destroy reputations,” he decried.
When prompted, Jagdeo conceded that when the PPP/C returns to Government, they will too go after stolen assets but in a more effective and efficient way.
“If there are assets that are stolen, we will go after assets differently and efficiently. Not like how it is being done now,” he stated.
In fact, he explained that if the Government puts legislation in place to facilitate witchhunting, then it will remain in the books even when the PPP/C returns and can be used against them.
“I hope they know what they’re doing,” Jagdeo expressed.
Moreover, he lamented too that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) under the Guyana Police Force appears to also be politically controlled.
Jagdeo pointed out that to this day, Government is yet to make public the protocols governing the conduct of SOCU.
SOCU has been involved in a number of controversial operations, including the high-profile car chase which resulted in the death of Guyana Defence Force Sergeant Robert Pyles and his wife Stacy along with another civilian in a horrific smash-up on Carifesta Avenue in December 2015.