Jan 03, 2016 News
Recent comments by Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, to the effect that justice will be served when it comes to the illegal spending of $4.5B from the Consolidated Fund by the former Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, are not sitting well with former President Donald Ramotar.
In fact, Ramotar is of the firm impression that Ramjattan is basically harassing Dr. Singh.
Ramotar said, “Singh did nothing wrong and acted legally. The spending of the monies was based on a written decision by the former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang.”
The former President continued, “It was also done on a written legal opinion by the then Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, and by decisions of the Cabinet. Moreover, I wish to point out that the monies were used to promote the economic development of Guyana and to enhance the welfare of our people.”
Ramotar said that the behaviour of the regime is a clear demonstration of its intentions to witch-hunt individuals of the former PPP/Civic Administration.
He said, “It should be noted that when Mr. Ramjattan was part of the then opposition he reported this matter to the police; it was investigated and sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for advice. The DPP found that no laws were violated. Now in government, he is using his position to pursue ends that were already dealt with and found to be without merit.”
“It is pure harassment of Dr. Ashni Singh and his family. It is a crude tactic to try to embarrass a gentleman who made an outstanding contribution to our country’s development.”
The former President said that the Granger administration is misusing the State apparatus to serve its narrow political ends, to harass political opponents, in this case, Dr. Ashni Singh.
He said, “This is a dangerous path that the regime has taken. This is only the beginning. Eventually every public servant and every citizen will be subjected to the same harassment and victimization.”
Ramotar then called on the democratic and peace loving forces to make their voices heard and to stop this abuse of our institutions for narrow political objective.
“We have seen where such policies took us under the Burnham/Hoyte PNC Regime.”
The Public Security Minister had filed a complaint with the Guyana Police Force against Dr. Singh, over the unlawful spending of the $4.5B from the nation’s coffers. But the matter was one which was plagued by delays on the part of the Police Force – some two months after, nothing on the case was done.
Ramjattan was later asked to prepare an extensive report showing how the Finance Minister could be charged. From the standpoint of criminal proceedings, the matter died a natural death.
It was then taken up by the former Opposition Leader, David Granger. He was represented in the High Court by Basil Williams who now serves as Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General.
The former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ruled that the $4.5B spending by Dr. Singh was unconstitutional.
Chang had told Kaieteur News that while he was criticized for not declaring sanctions, it should be noted that it is not his business to deliver disciplinary measures against the defaulters. He said that is the responsibility of the National Assembly.
He had said, too, that the only option would be for the APNU+AFC to take the case up in a criminal proceeding.
Ramjattan said, recently, that he intends to go that route.
“Nothing came out of the case when I first carried it, but I have all intentions to check on the status of it and have it reopened and followed up on. The $4.5B spending remains, in my view, a case of illegal spending, and that is my legal opinion. The financial laws of this land were not meant to be broken.”
“I promise you, this will not become some other cold case. If the powers that be give good reason why he should not be charged, well then that is another case, but in my opinion he should be charged. Listen, if we don’t set an example, then this nonsense will continue. This financial lawlessness has to change. We saw under the PPP, the lawless spending of taxpayers’ monies in defiance of the laws. It just cannot go down as though it is okay or else we would be saying too that this is the norm, and our own will think they can do the same and everything will be as cool as cucumbers.”
The Public Security Minister had said that the Coalition government intends to set standards so that others can know how necessary it is to abide by the laws.
He continued, “Ashni Singh had no right to do it, and no minster has the right to do so. I have also spoken with the police, including the Commissioner, and I told them that any APNU or AFC official found in any skullduggery then they should carry out their duties without fear or favour.
“The reason for this being done is because I was told that the PPP had a heavy influence in the police system, especially when it came to charging ministers. But that will not happen under my watch.”
Ramjattan said that he will not sit back and “allow these PPP culprits to get away”. In the same breath, he stressed that the citizenry should understand that such cases take time to build.
He vowed once again that while he pleads for the nation’s patience, “not a single matter of financial corruption will become a cold case”.
The Public Security Minister had also expressed confidence in the competence of his officers in investigating the financial cases. He said that even if assistance is needed, he is more than willing to seek various forms of help through Guyana’s CARICOM partners.
As for the abuse of the Contingencies Fund, this is another matter which has been highlighted every year in the reports of the nation’s Auditor General, Deodat Sharma. In his 2010 report, Sharma had pointed to the abuse of amounts totaling over $550M drawn from the Contingencies Fund and utilized to meet expenditures that did not meet the eligibility criteria as defined in the laws.
In his 2012 report, Sharma said that $95.661M in advances was illegally drawn from the Fund.
For 2013, he reported that $510M was withdrawn from the Contingencies Fund which did not meet the specified criteria. The 2014 report once again flagged the inappropriate use of the Fund under the previous administration, as $962M was withdrawn without meeting the specified criteria.
Minister Ramjattan promised that this is another matter that will be investigated. He stated emphatically, “Ashni Singh will face the music for illegal spending. For those who benefited and think they will get away, listen to me carefully when I say that the long arm of the law will catch you!”
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