Nov 05, 2016 News
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, is claiming that Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams’s reasons for the government being “forced” to hire special prosecutors are completely false.
She said that her Office is professional and that no prosecutor has indicated any discomfort in doing their jobs as it relates to these “highly political” cases to which the AG referred.
Yesterday Williams was quoted in sections of the state media that the unwillingness of state prosecutors to appear in “highly political,” cases had left the government with no other choice but to seek out special attorneys to fight their cause in the ‘Pradoville 2 and the Guyana Cricket World Cup Inc. scams.
Williams reportedly told a journalist attached to the state media that the DPP had indicated that the members of her department had some discomfort in having to prosecute the case of a former minister (Jennifer Westford).
“If the state’s prosecution department is saying that they don’t wish to prosecute these types of matters that are political, what was the state supposed to do? Fiddle with its hands?” asked Williams.
Ali-Hack subsequently set out a statement saying that prosecutions will continue to be done fairly and impartially based solely on consideration of the evidence contained in the police file and the prevailing law.
Specifically, as it relates to the court matter involving former Minister Jennifer Westford, the DPP said that two lawyers from her Office, Senior State Counsel Teshana Lake and State Counsel Natasha Backer are prosecuting this matter.
Ali-Hack said that neither of those two state lawyers expressed any discomfort in the execution of their duties in the said matter.
The DPP stressed that not one lawyer attached to her Chambers has ever indicated that they are uncomfortable in prosecuting any criminal matters, “whether political or otherwise.” She said, “The staff at the DPP Chambers examine the evidence in police files in relation to the prevailing law and advise charges accordingly; prosecutions are based on the evidence in the file and the law. This is so regardless of whom the accused persons are and the positions they hold.”
Ali-Hack explained that the present system is that lawyers attached to her Office appear in the High Court and all the Appellate Courts. She said that there are not sufficient lawyers to appear in the Magistrates’ Courts; hence, four police prosecutors are assigned to these Chambers and appear in the more serious cases in the Magistrates’ Courts. “To say that State Prosecutors shun highly political cases is defamatory.”
In the article that Ali-Hack refuted, Williams was quoted saying that Guyana is a signatory to several international conventions against corruption and so it had no choice but to obtain special prosecutors.
He said that Ali-Hack is also a recipient of a house lot at Pradoville 2 and given that she is an interested party in the case, she will have to recuse herself as was done in the 2006 multi-million New Building Society (NBS) fraud investigation.
Williams noted that the DPP is not above the law and is required to uphold the rule of law.
Last week, Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary Joseph Harmon announced that Government has decided to seek special prosecutors following Cabinet’s examination of the forensic audits and noted indications of criminal culpability.
Harmon said the reports are to be handed over to the Guyana Police Force for its initiation of criminal investigations. “The Special Prosecuting team would not be limited to just local personnel, it (would) have a wider sweep; and we are looking to bring persons who are capable of handling these matters.”
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