The Parliamentary Opposition, yesterday (July11, 2018) attended and participated in the Anti-Corruption Seminar for Members of Parliament which was held in the Parliament Chambers. Dr. Sam Sittlington, an advisor to the Special Organised Crime Unit (S.O.C.U.), conducted the seminar. Minister Khemraj Ramjattan as the moderator of the seminar was effusive in his praise of Dr. Sittlington, stating that “Guyana was fortunate to have a man of such experience and standing”.
The Oppositon noted that the absence of the Head of S.O.C.U. or any other member of S.O.C.U., was worrying.
In the discussion, the Opposition Members of Parliament asked a number of questions, such as the number of money laundering cases that had been successfully prosecuted in recent times; the reasons why S.O.C.U has not acted and investigated the numerous cases of corruption, such as the Sussex Street Drug Bond scandal and the Jubilee Durban Park Development scandal; and issues relating to beneficial ownership and conflict of interest of public officials.
The Opposition Members wish to put on public record how disappointed we were with the lack of substance in Dr. Sittlington’s answers to the questions posed and issues raised. In fact, he stated that S.O.C.U. could only act if there was a complaint to the Commissioner of Police. However, if that were the case, how did S.O.C.U. on two occasions arrest PPP/C leaders, including the former President, Prime Minister and Ministers and the Commissioner of Police on both occasions, publicly stated he was unaware of these actions. Further, Dr. Sittlington stated he arrived on January 2016 and the 30 odd forensic audits had been completed. This in fact was not so and even Minister Jaipaul Sharma who was present looked confused as he was the one who admitted in the seminar that he had submitted the audits to S.O.C.U. and the Police. In response to the lack of prosecution of money laundering cases, the raison de’etre for S.O.C.U, Members were advised that only recently the six month period for hearing cases in court was lifted. Regrettably this is a total misunderstanding of the AMLCFT Amendment Act 2015 and consequential amendments, and maybe the adviser himself needs to be advised on the law and the judicial system.
During the rather “hot” session, the Prime Minister accused the Parliamentary Opposition of being a “lynch gang” at the seminar and called on Member Harry Gill to retract his statement that “maybe Dr. Sittlington should consider resigning.”
Notably, Minister Ramjattan abruptly ended the session with time to spare in the 3 hour allotted time, in order to protect Dr. Sittlington from incisive issues being raised by the Parliamentary Opposition.
It was anticipated that this activity would have been a forum for discussion and frank exchange of views, on how to address corruption. In our view, it was nothing but a mere charade and a fig leaf for the non-engagement of S.O.C.U. in dealing with publicly reported acts of corruption, conflict of interest, abuse of power, extortion, etc., by the APNU/AFC Administration.
Again, like in an earlier reported incident of socializing with the executive, here too, it was observed that the adviser, considered to be a professional, sat and had lunch with Minister Ramjattan in the MPs Lounge.
The PPP noted that it will remain committed to ensuring Guyana’s adherence to its constitution and laws, and, its international treaties and conventions such as the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention Against Corruption.