Threats on PPP officials’ lifeEven as criticisms continue to mount against State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) Executive Member Eric Phillips over threats made against former President Bharrat Jagdeo and other top People’s Progressive Party (PPP) officials and their families, the Opposition party has filed a Police complaint. The report was made via a letter submitted by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall on behalf of the aggrieved parties which include: Jagdeo, several members of his former Cabinets and their respective families, 35 members of the Central Committee of the PPP and their respective families and 32 Members of Parliament of the PPP and their respective families.The alleged threats referred to were made by Phillips in a March 10,, 2017 post on his Facebook page, in which he said: “…Jagdeo need to be careful because if anyone in my family or SOCU or SARA’s families are killed or attacked or placed at risk because of his purposeful racist…he needs to understand that he, his Cabinet and their families (bar none) will be at the same risk…the only difference is that the response will be significantly disproportionate and very cruel.”In the letter, which was seen by Guyana Times and dispatchedto the Commissioner of the Guyana Police Force, Nandlall enclosed a copy of the declaration made by Phillips, extracted from the social media site.“… Please consider this correspondence as a formal report for and on behalf of my clients who are requesting that you launch an immediate and thorough investigation into this publication and for criminal charges to be instituted as soon as possible, if necessary,” he outlined in the letter.According to the former Attorney General, SARU has no law enforcement powers but purports to act as a law enforcement agency, with many of its members being leading politicians in the coalition Government. He pointed out that there were weekly outpourings to the media about investigations and outlandish findings of guilt of Ministers and top public servants of the former Government without any due process whatsoever or a scintilla of evidence in support of these baseless and reckless conclusions.Nandlall further outlined in the correspondence to the Top Cop that SARU, which is funded by the Office of the President, do not take legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office, an independent, constitutional office, whose mandate is to advise the State on criminal matters and prosecute criminal charges on behalf of the State.The former Attorney General sought to highlight that recently officers of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) have been inviting businessmen into its office at the Office of the President, to interrogate them on tax evasion allegations— a matter on which they have no mandate whatsoever.In short, the entire operations of SARU are unlawful and illegal, Nandlall said, adding that even SOCU has long departed from its initial remit and is now being used by SARU and the political directorate to investigate concocted allegations of criminality allegedly committed by the former President and now Opposition Leader, his former Cabinet and the Opposition Members of Parliament.To this end, Nandlall noted that these two units have been the subject of constant criticisms by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Opposition as well as civil society. Moreover, he continued that it was against that backdrop that the Leader of the Opposition made critical remarks about these two units.In fact, while on a recent public outreach programme in Berbice, Jagdeo was responding especially to Phillips’ incredulous allegation that 15,000 ounces of gold were stolen from Guyana monthly, under the last Government.The former Attorney General posited that as a result of the declaration by Phillips, his clients and their respective families are now exposed to the risk of being killed or suffering grievous bodily harm.While recognising that Article 146 guarantees freedom of expression to every individual, Nandlall posited that the said Article is predicated upon the caveat: that is, Article 146 (3) “Freedom of expression in this article does not relate to hate speeches or other expressions in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons.”Phillips’ utterances come just days after former President Jagdeo and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, among other top PPP officials were arrested and taken to SOCU’s headquarters for questioning as part of an ongoing probe into the acquisition of lands at Pradoville 2, East Coast Demerara.Calling the move an attempt to instil fear in the Opposition, Jagdeo had vowed afterwards that the Party would not be intimidated into silence, in the face of poor governance.
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