Govt’s proposed ‘Special Prosecutions Unit’The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has condemned the proposed move by Government, through its spokesperson, Raphael Trotman, to establish a “Special Prosecutions Unit” with particular emphasis on forensic audits. Trotman, who is also Minister of Natural Resources, had outlined that Government was considering setting up this body separately from the already established Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), all of which are vested with the powers to prosecute.According to Trotman at a press briefing on Thursday: “Cabinet is overwhelmed at the scale of the (forensic audits) findings… this brings back the issue of special prosecutors because the Police Force, SOCU, and even the DPP Chambers are overwhelmed and lack certain capacities to address all of these.”In this regard, Trotman disclosed that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan was tasked with holding discussions with Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Basil Williams, on the feasibility of a Special Prosecutor’s Office since the service of more than one counsel may be required in some of the matters. He noted that Cabinet is expected to get a feedback from Ramjattan within the next fortnight.However according to Teixeira, this recent contention by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government, to set up a separate prosecuting unit for forensic audits, not only undermines the Rule of Law, but is also institutionalising the witch-hunt of political opponents.She outlined: “The Constitution by Article 187 confers the powers of prosecution in criminal proceedings on the constitutional Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. This new action is a departure from the existing functional and professional system of prosecutions. The proposal to create a Special Prosecutions Unit cannot be seen as anything else but further than the institutionalisation of another attempt to witch-hunt political opponents.”The Opposition Chief Whip noted in a released statement that the Coalition’s intention to undercut the already established prosecuting bodies (GPF & DPP) is because they have “no faith” in them. “Were the Government to go through the DPP and the Guyana Police Force, both professional bodies, governed by the Constitution and statute, they would be expected to abide by a level of professionalism and follow specific guidelines and acts based on evidence.”According to Teixeira: “This new Special Prosecutions Unit is intended to bypass these bodies and create a separate and parallel prosecutions arm, supported by the SARU [State Assets Recovery Unit] and SOCU under the total control of the political elite in the Ministry of the Presidency. The rationale for such a radical departure from the existing constitutional and legal provisions can only by interpreted as one designed to target and witch-hunt the parliamentary opposition and political opponents.”What is also significant Teixeira remarked, “is that this is coming on the heels of an admission by President David Granger that the audits themselves did not turn up “sufficient evidence” to bring criminal charges against former government officials. Yet, according to Minister Trotman, this is exactly what this proposed Special Prosecutions Unit will be investigating and leading prosecutions on these forensic audits.”“This announcement follows ominously on the statement by Minister Jaipaul Sharma that Cabinet will be deciding on who will be charged with criminal offences based on these forensic audits. The same audits which were carried out by select political supporters of the APNU/AFC government,” the Opposition MP declared.
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