Now that the State Assets Recovery Bill is about to be passed in the parliament there is a concerted effort by the opposition PPP, the Private Sector Commission and some individuals whose income and wealth are inextricably tied in one way or another, to activities associated with the previous regime. The PPP and the individuals and organizations concerned are hell bent on either delaying its passage in parliament, or attempting to apply enough pressure on the government to abandon the proposed bill.
Since what currently obtains is based on civil recovery and not criminal prosecution where the state has the burden to prove that the assets were acquired from criminal activities, the Bill shifts the burden on the defendant to show how the assets were acquired.
The SARA bill signals that no longer in Guyana will public officials and their cohorts be allowed to plunder the resources of the state as happened under the PPP/C regime. It is zero tolerance from hereon. It will also allow SARA to access information necessary to pursue its cases and to seek court orders to freeze assets in Guyana and overseas. The critics of the bill, in attempting to justify what they refer to as draconian measures, are raising red herrings.
They are arguing that the bill is unconstitutional, that it puts too much power in the hands of the person who will function as SARA’s director, that it is a violation of citizens’ rights and it is a political instrument to be used by the government against its opponents.
Contrary to the propaganda that SARA will function as both judge and jury, the truth is that SARA will have to prove its case in a court of law. Are they saying that the courts would not protect citizen’s rights? People are not fooled by their antics. The popular view is that government should have tabled and passed the bill in parliament shortly after it assumed office. If there is one thing that can be said against the coalition it is that it has taken too long to act in relation to placing the Bill in parliament.
When the government appeared to be dragging its feet on the Bill, the opposition became emboldened to the point that it mocked the regime by saying that it spent millions of taxpayers money on numerous audits and on SARU and there is nothing to show for it.
They implied that in spite of the claims the members of the coalition had made while it was in opposition now that they were in government they are embarrassed by the fact that the audits have proven that the allegations against the PPP were misplaced. But they know that SARA in pursuing recovery of assets will expose wrongdoers. This explains their hostility against SARA and the person who is very likely to be its first Director, Professor Clive Thomas.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo talks about his commitment to place ministers of the coalition government on trial for corruption.
In closing the Guyanese people deserve justice. This is long overdue. The nation wants its stolen assets back! Let the chips fall where they may.