AG slams opposition for bringing ‘malicious charges’ against Ministers Lawrence, Norton

DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, April 21, 2018

The private charges brought against the current and former Ministers of Public Health are based on “malice, whim and caprice,” the Attorney General (AG) contends.

AG and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams S.C., in a press conference today slammed the Opposition for their move to the Court to have private criminal charges brought against Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr. George Norton.

“It is an aberration to the Rule of Law, an insult to good governance and an abuse of the process of the Court to allow such unsubstantiated recourse,” AG Williams read from a prepared statement.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams S.C

On Thursday, April 19 the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) filed private criminal charges of misconduct in public office against the Ministers before the Chief Magistrate. The charges are in relation to the rental of a pharmaceutical bond and the procurement of drugs for the Georgetown Public Hospital.

The move by the Opposition comes about one week after the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) charged former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL)/ Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington, for illegally selling three plots of land for over GY$900M.

The Attorney General said “there is no comparison between the cases. “No established investigatory agency or prosecutorial agency said anything about them [Ministers Lawrence and Dr Norton]. The former Minister was charged after extensive investigation, advised by the police legal advisor the esteemed Justice Claudette Singh S.C and the DPP and her chambers,” AG Williams explained.

AG Williams pointed out that it is the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that will determine the fate of the case against Ministers Lawrence and Dr Norton. The DPP can discontinue the case against the Ministers.

“In other words, the Office of the DPP 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 interloper,” AG Williams explained.

Guyana’s constitution makes provision for private charges, however, AG Williams pointed out that it is not prevalent. He also cautioned that the use of private charges by political parties “is a recipe for returning Guyana to the status of a failed narco-state as it was under Presidents Jagdeo and Ramotar.”

“The important thing about it though is when the DPP charges that is after a process when a political party comes out and sets themselves out as judge and jury, it’s a very unsafe thing because obviously, it’s a type of capricious retaliation,” AG Williams opined.

The Attorney General further expressed his confidence that Ministers Lawrence and Dr. Norton will be cleared of the charges.

By: Tiffy Rhodius

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