Democracy under threat – former President

first_imgSOCU charges…says Govt out to get JagdeoAhead of Guyana celebrating 52 years as an independent nation, former Head of State Donald Ramotar has noted with great concern that “the very heart” of the Guyanese democracy may be under threat following the recent arrests of several officials under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government. He shared these sentiments in an interview with Guyana Times on Wednesday where he concurred with former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, that the charges pursed by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is aimed to prosecute his predecessor, Bharrat Jagdeo who served as Finance Minister before his presidential reign.“It is very clear that the real target is Jagdeo and that the regime is out to try to find some way to get him and that is why they’re breaking all laws and precedents going back all of these years to try to see if they find any nonsense of what they may describe as misconduct in office. I think the Guyanese people are on to this military-type Government,” Ramotar expressed.Commenting on the dangers such actions could place of the democratic process, he indicated that the country’s economy and independence of various constitutional bodies and agencies could be infringed.“It goes to the heart of our democracy and I think it will have some very serious consequences on our country as a whole because many banks and business people will be afraid to do business with the Government because they are going all these years to charge people. They are vicious and vindictive in their actions [which are] very discouraging to business people who would like to do business with the Government,” he added, references the concern operatives within the Private Sector have raised.Following the high-profile arrests and $6 million bail each granted to former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Head Winston Brassington, former Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar was recently arrested and questioned by SOCU. He served as Jagdeo’s Finance Minister from 1999 to 2006. In Ramotar’s view, the coalition Government is using Executive powers to “pressure” its opponents.“[The Government] is undermining our democracy – the very fact that you are charging officials of the former Government. It’s very clear that the APNU/AFC regime is undermining all our institutions and the Judiciary is not totally excluded from some the pressures that the Executive is putting in trying to undermine the constitutional bodies in our society including the Parliament and the Police. When one looks at some the decisions in the Judiciary, one wonders if some members are bowing and breaking to pressure to the Executive,” he claimed.It was earlier this week that Nandlall expressed that the arrest of Kowlessar came as no surprise to members of the Opposition as they have always felt that the motive has been clear from day one. “It is clear beyond any doubt that these investigations are driven by a political and vindictive motive.”Nandlall had said, ultimately, this strategy is designed to get to the period when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo was the Finance Minister. Jagdeo served as senior Finance Minister in May 1995 under Dr Cheddi Jagan. In December 1997, he was appointed as second Vice President.While noting that constitutional immunities prevent them from charging Jagdeo while he was President, Nandlall is of the opinion that the coalition Government will go as far as it take even if it meant returning to two decades ago to persecute him for transactions done while he was Finance Minister. Nandlall concluded that it is unfortunate that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) does not see it as part of its constitutional mandate to protect the citizenry from these types of investigations, which are widely regarded as abusive and oppressive, but rather is part of the design that is promoting it. “If this is not the use of the criminal legal process to persecute political opponents, then I do not know what it is,” he told this newspaper.last_img

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