Public officers who break the law should not be afforded immunity-AG

Georgetown, GINA, August 16, 2016

Public officials who are provided immunity under the Constitution will not be protected from the State Assets Recovery Bill once it has been found that state property was unlawfully acquired.

Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams, during a press briefing yesterday at his Chambers, Carmichael Street, told the media that public officials who pillage state assets should be persecuted despite immunity.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

Guyana’s Constitution provides immunity against civil or criminal proceedings, in particular for the president, “during his term of office or thereafter” (Article 1821). However, the Attorney General pointed out that constitutional provision is a “question for debate.”

“In terms of pillaging the assets of this country, equally we will argue that the immunity that purports to in here, in the constitution, doesn’t afford him (or her) any defence,” the Attorney General said.

The Minister added that acts of crime such as corruption should not afford public officials immunity from the law.

The draft State Assets Recovery Bill empowers the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) to recover state assets unlawfully acquired by public officials or other persons through civil proceedings.

The issue of immunity was first brought up during national consultations of the draft Bill which was held last week at the Pegasus hotel. Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Cecil Dhurjon said that the Bill does not make provisions to address the issue of immunity. However, anyone who commits a crime is subject to persecution according to the laws, Dhurjon pointed out.

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