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…Opposition Leader says charge politically motivated
By Svetlana Marshall
With strong backing from executive members and supporters of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), Member of Parliament and former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, on Monday, appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court to respond to a fraud charge laid against him by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
Together with former General Manager of the Demerara Habour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) Rawlston Adams, Patterson was placed on $200,000 bail by Magistrate Leron Daly for allegedly defrauding the Demerara Habour Bridge of approximately $162.6M.
It is alleged that between November 18, 2016 and February 1, 2018, Patterson and Adams conspired with each other to defraud the Habour Bridge Corporation of $162, 635,015 during their facilitation of a project for the feasibility study and design of a new bridge.
The senior functionaries were not required to plea to the indictable charge. The matter will come up again on February 15, 2021. Initially, the men appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, however, she recused herself from the matter on the grounds that she is known to both Patterson and Adams.
The charge against Patterson comes approximately three years after he was cleared by the then Police Legal Advisor, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, of any wrongdoing.
Outside of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, amid chants by executive members and supporters of the APNU+AFC, one of Patterson’s Attorney, Nigel Hughes, told reporters that the allegation is nothing but malicious.
“A foreign government approached the Government of Guyana, specifically, an agency of the ministry of which Mr. Patterson headed, expressing their interest in providing services to the Government of Guyana on the feasibility of the Demerara Bridge. This was not an activity or an action initiated by Mr. Patterson, and therefore, in the circumstances we believe this charge is not only unfounded but malevolent,” Hughes told reporters.
He also noted that the very feasibility study, is in part, being used by the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
“This matter and the institution of these charges seem clearly to be political rather than [of] legal jurisprudence,” Hughes said.
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, who spearheaded the peaceful picketing exercise outside of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, also contended that the charge against Patterson and Adams is politically motivated.
“This action by the PPP regime is basically a vindictive action and it is meant to create some problem with the leadership of the APNU+AFC,” Harmon said, while noting that since the PPP/C took Office on August 2, 2020, several senior functionaries and members of the coalition have been charged and placed before the Courts on charges that lack merit.
He said the peaceful exercise, conducted primarily by APNU+AFC Members of Parliament, is intended to register the coalition’s concern over the abuse of the Guyana Police Force by the PPP/C Administration.
“We are registering our concern…at the way in which this Government is using the Guyana Police Force, they have weaponized the Guyana Police Force to take action against citizens when there is no real cause for action,” Harmon said.
He said given the advice by Singh, there is no reason for the charge. “It is vindictive,” he iterated, while praising Patterson for his astute leadership while serving as Minister of Public Infrastructure.
The Opposition Leader said it would appear that the now Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill has launched an attack on Patterson, however, all would agree that Patterson was exceptional in his performance as Minister.
“Patterson delivered on many many infrastructure projects in this country, all across this country…now what we are getting, we are getting some rickety things as bus stands, and some rickety things that cost no more than $50,000 that Dharamlall said that he built for $2M,” Harmon said.
He said the coalition will continue to stand firm in support of Patterson.