12 Jan

Former PPP/C Ministers questioned again by SOCU

first_img…dubbed as “constant harassment”Former members of Cabinet under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) were called in for renewed questioning by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) regarding the sale and transfer of lands located in Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, popularly known as “Pradoville 2” under the former Administration’s tenure.The former PPP Government Ministers making their way into SOCU Headquarters and being led by their Attorney Anil NandlallOn Wednesday morning, former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn and former Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir found themselves the latest to be questioned at SOCU’s headquarters.The duo was represented by former Education Minister Priya Manickchand, who disclosed that she too was called in for questioning regarding the matter on Tuesday.Speaking to media operatives after being questioned, Benn revealed that he explained to the SOCU investigators that the period surrounding the sale of the lands, a Minister had been murdered and so Government did what “needed to be done” at the time.He was referring to the assassination of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeo Sawh, his family and security personnel. Sawh and two of his siblings were gunned down in April 2006 shortly after they had returned to the Minister’s La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara home.Benn, who does not own property at the Sparendaam location, told media reporters that the overriding issue had to do with the stability of the country to make sure that the President (Bharrat Jagdeo) and other members of the Cabinet get a home in a secure and safe environment away from criminal activities.Meanwhile, Manickchand deems the prolonged investigation as a “distraction” expressing her belief that it is being politically directed. She contended that “Pradoville 2” was being targeted because the Opposition Leader lives there. The former Minister said too that the move comes days after meetings were held in Berbice.“This has only to do with an attempt to decapitate the PPP and pull down its leaders and interfere with its ability to lead and that’s all it is, it’s a political persecution,” she said.The PPP has started its campaign for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) that is set for November 11.Manickchand dubbed SOCU’s action as a “constant harassment” of former Government officials aimed at diverting the public’s attention away from serious issues facing the country which the Government has failed to address.A few hours later, former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds; former Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali; former Health Minister, Dr Bheri Ramsaran; former Amerindian Affairs Minister; Pauline Sukhai and former Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Kelawan Lall were also called in for questioning. They were represented by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.Nandlall, who spoke with the media after hours long interviews said the former Ministers were interviewed about a particular Cabinet meeting and were asked a number of questions in relation to “Pradoville 2”, which was subject of the Cabinet meeting.“Nobody could remember. The Cabinet meeting took place 10 years ago or thereabout and therefore hardly can anyone remember what transpired at that meeting,” he said.But Nandlall contended that what is discussed at Cabinet is confidential and members of Cabinet cannot disclose confidential information to anymore. He said he finds it shocking that the current Government is now removing the confidentiality principle that governs all Cabinet decisions.He said, “They seem to forget that someday they will be out of Government and someday they may be interrogated about things they did at Cabinet. But I think it is principle that matters; [what is] discussed at Cabinet is absolutely a confidential matter. I don’t know how Police now can question that.”Nandlall said very specific questions were asked. He said his clients were shown what purports to be a document that has a Cabinet format. But the document seems to be appeared unsigned.“I believe all of this is designed to culminate in some set of charges which we are being told likely to come. So I suppose they are building a case and accumulating what they consider to be relevant evidence towards the establishment of a case,” he explained.Further to that, the attorney said his clients have refused to sign the documents that contain answers to questions to ask, because they were refused a copy of the document. He said, “If at a subsequent stage, their signature is required, well I suppose SOCU will make contact and they’ll be handed those documents.”Last year March, former President Bharrat Jagdeo and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, were arrested while several other former Government Ministers under the PPP Administration were detained by SOCU officials who were probing misappropriation of State assets.The arrest and detention was in connection with an ongoing probe into the acquisition of lands at “Pradoville 2”, among other things. Days after that, the President David Granger declared that the former Guyanese Leader should not have been treated the way he was.In the past, SOCU has detained several former prominent Government officials, regarding their connection with the Pradoville 2 scheme. The reason these persons are being questioned is because they purchased property at the Sparendaam seawall area.The current Administration contends that the transaction is a criminal act because of the belief that the land was sold below market value. However, the PPP had argued that subsidised housing has always been a part of the legacy of the PPP and that countless Guyanese have benefited from lands sold below market value.last_img read more