Apr 24, 2018 News
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack has discontinued the charges against Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, and Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton.
Citing her authority under Article 187 (1) (c) of Guyana’s Constitution, the DPP noted that the charges concern a grave issue under the criminal law in relation to two serving Ministers.
“In the interest of good governance in the State of Guyana such allegations ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought.”
Last week, PPP Parliamentarians Juan Edghill and Vickram Bharrat, through former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, moved to file private criminal charges against the two ministers for “misconduct in public office contrary to the common law”.
According to court filings, Norton, in June 2016, while serving as Minister of Public Health, authorized the rental of a Sussex Street, Albouystown property for the purposes of a drug bond, from Linden Holdings Incorporated, for $12.5M per month.
Norton had come under immense public pressure. He was part of a Cabinet reshuffle that saw him being reassigned to the post of Minister of Social Cohesion. He subsequently received the additional appointment as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport.
Lawrence, who was appointed Public Health Minister, is accused of the unapproved single-sourcing of $605.9M in drugs and medical supplies from Ansa McAl Trading Ltd. for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) between January and February, 2017.
The charges against the two ministers came exactly one week after identical charges were filed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) against Dr. Ashni Singh, former Minister of Finance, and Mr. Winston Brassington, the former head of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Attorney General Basil Williams condemned the actions of the Opposition party.
“The Office of the D.P.P is invested with powers of quality control over all prosecutions in Guyana and has a proactive duty to patrol the corridors of justice to ensure her domain is not polluted by jaundiced interlopers.”
Under Section 187 of the constitution, the DPP shall have power in any case in which he considers it desirable so to do –– (a) to institute and undertake criminal proceedings
against any person before any court, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence against the law of Guyana; (b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other person or authority; and (c) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other person or authority.
However, PPP parliamentarian, Anil Nandlall appears to have taken a determined stance on the matter. Yesterday, He filed three additional private criminal charges against current Government officials for misconduct in public office.
This time private criminal charges were filed against Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson. The charges against the trio are in relation to the Durban Jubilee Park.
According to the court filings, the Ministers are facing allegations of abusing public trust without reasonable excuse or justification, over the spending of $900M, for the works purportedly done to and a facility styled Durban Jubilee Park.
That matter has been fixed for April 30 before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
Meanwhile in a statement, Nandlall criticized the actions of the DPP. He pointed out that the institution of private criminal charges has been part of Guyana’s criminal jurisprudence for over a century.
It was always initiated by a private individual without the involvement of the Police and the DPP, he argued.
“There is absolutely no known legal requirement that the allegation must first be reported to the Police and the advice of the DPP sought. In fact, in many instances, it is the failure of the Guyana Police Force to act or to act professionally that led to the evolution and practice of private criminal charges.”
“The position adopted by the DPP on this occasion will retard the advancement of our criminal jurisprudence and stultify the right and freedom of the citizen to institute and prosecute a private criminal charge without the involvement of the State.
“I feel the DPP’s discontinuance of the charges against the two Ministers but apparent refusal to do likewise in relation to Singh and Brassington’s charges smacks of discrimination and
inequality before the law.”
Nandlall said that Article 149 of the Constitution guarantees to the citizenry protection from discrimination and equality before the law as fundamental rights and freedoms.
“I must remind that when Christopher Ram instituted private criminal charges against Former President Bharat Jagdeo, the matter was neither reported nor investigated by the Police.
“Yet the DPP did not consider it a part of ‘good governance’ to discontinue those charges,” he said.
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