Lawyer cites discrimination against Ashni Singh, Winston Brassington

first_img…as DPP discontinues criminal charges against Lawrence, Norton…DPP office compromised of independence, autonomy – PPPFollowing a decision by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack to drop private criminal charges filed against two Government ministers, former Attorney General Anil Nandall has said it points to discrimination against two former PPP Government functionaries who are facing similar charges.Hours after private criminal charges were filed against three more Government ministers on Monday by Nandlall, as the attorney representing Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill, the DPP announced discontinuance of the case filed on April 19, 2018 against Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton.The DPP said in a statement that these 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,” a statement from her office explained.But Nandlall has said that, as far as he is aware, no one wrote requesting a review of the charges against Ministers Lawrence and Norton. “I am aware that at a press conference held on Saturday, the 21st day of April, 2018, Attorney General Basil Williams stated that ‘the Government expects’ the DPP to review the private criminal charges filed against the ministers. It is now apparent that, even without a request, the Government’s expectations were met,” he observed.Nandall also recalled writing the DPP inviting a review of the charges filed against former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former head of the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, and to date he has not received any response.While the DPP has noted that the charges with reference to the former and current health ministers were discontinued in the interest of good governance, Nandlall, the attorney representing Dr Singh, said there is nothing that confers a power on the DPP to be responsible for “good governance in the State of Guyana, especially in Article 187 of the Constitution, which sets out the functions of the DPP.“You will note that the term ‘good governance’ appears nowhere in these functional responsibilities. This must be the first and only DPP office in the English-speaking Commonwealth that views itself as being responsible for ‘good governance’ within a State. In this regard, the DPP has clearly been influenced by extraneous and irrelevant considerations, (and) has acted ultra-vires and unconstitutionally by ascribing to her office functional responsibility with which it is not endowed,” he added.The former minister also pointed out that the institution of private criminal charges has been part of the local criminal jurisprudence for over a century. He reminded that it was always initiated by a private individual without the involvement of the Police and the DPP, and that 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, Nandlall argued that 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,” he opined.The Opposition MP also reminded that when Christopher Ram had 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.“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,” he stated.Nandall also feels the DPP’s latest action has strengthened Singh and Brassington’s intended challenge of their charges in the High Court; and he can only conclude that both Singh and Brassington have been discriminated against by the DPP.Independence, autonomyThe Opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) also added its take on the discontinuance by the DPP of the private criminal charges filed against ministers. The party also acknowledged the DPP’s reluctance to do likewise, in relations to similar charges instituted against Dr Singh and Brassington.The party believes this move “is a clear demonstration that the DPP has buckled under pressure exerted by a Government that has caused criminal investigations to commence against her in relation to a plot of land allocated to her under the People’s Progressive Party Civic Administration.”The PPP has described the DPP’s action as “comical”, given her explanation to drop the charges against the ministers on the basis of good governance. The party has said it questions whether the DPP is now saying that ordinary Guyanese cannot exercise their right to file private criminal charges against an official of the state.The party is also alleging that the DPP office has willingly compromised its independence and autonomy. “There is no doubt that we are rapidly descending into an authoritarian Police state, where independent constitutional bodies are being contaminated and pressured by this Government to relinquish their independence and constitutional responsibilities,” the party said.last_img read more