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The desire of the government parliamentarians to remove David Patterson as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is rife with suspicion. Admittedly Patterson has a fraud charge against him before the Court, but until the Court rules, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty holds true for him under Common Law principles. Further, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government cannot use the charge as any legitimate excuse to have Patterson removed from sitting on any committee.
The feigned moral high ground the government is seeking to perch itself comes at a price of ignoring its history. They perhaps think people have forgotten or they just don’t care. They are gambling that ‘it is what they say it is’ and will be accepted by all. Then Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali, who is now President, had 19 fraud charges against him. Ali not only sat in the Parliament and as Chair of PAC while these charges were hanging over his head, but he also ran for president.
Minister Juan Edghill is acting as the ‘anointed’ hatchet man or ‘anointed’ executioner to spearhead Patterson’s resignation from the National Assembly and or removal as Chair of the PAC. In local parlance, it would be said the goodly minister ‘found religion.’ But he may find it useful to pay attention to the biblical admonishment, “he that is without sin…let him first cast a stone….’ The minister should take the beam out of his own eye before he takes the speck out of Patterson’s. Since he is not without sin, he is incapable of credibly casting a stone.
Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has no locus standi to seek Patterson removal by a no-confidence vote without exposing the government’s hypocrisy. The opportunity is taken to remind the whip, who might be having convenient memory lapses, that Anil Nandlall who was charged for alleged theft of law books continued to function in the Assembly whilst the charge was active.
The cases of Ali and Nandlall were dismissed/withdrawn when the PPP/C entered office. They did not allow court adjudication to determine their innocence; they declared their innocence and used the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw their cases. During the period their matters were under judicial review they enjoyed the Common Law right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by the Court. Patterson is no less deserving or without similar rights.
The government’s antics to remove him is akin to a transparent smokescreen. Pardon the oxymoron, but it is necessary to best describe what they are doing. Like an octopus they are emitting a black ink hoping to avoid accountability by distracting attention. They are finding one excuse after another not to have the PAC function or remove the incumbent chair. They are acting as though they fear scrutiny.
The last time the PAC was able to do its work they were meeting with officials of the Army to account for their spending in 2016. For the year under review Brigadier Mark Philips was the Chief of Staff. The government is creating suspicions that it is skittish in having the army provide answers during the stewardship of Phillips, who is now Prime Minister. Their bluster may have escaped the prime minister’s attention or he’s complicit.
The political immaturity is so ridiculous were it not for the seriousness of overseeing government’s spending the government’s behaviour would attract big suck teeth. They are losing sight of the fact that the interest of the Guyanese people would be served if they stop acting as though they fear Patterson’s oversight ability, are running scared or have something to hide.
The acts of sabotage not to have the PAC sit predate the attempted no-confidence vote on Monday. It was first recognised with the Speaker’s dilatory tactics not to have the committee established, the abrupt aborting of a meeting, to calling for the chair’s resignation. As every day goes by it is becoming clearer and clearer the government is leading Guyana towards conflict.
I hope Guyanese are taking note of the signs that were happening for the longest while in the US that led to the besieging of the Capitol on 6th Jan. The government is creating similar ground for conflict and confrontation. They are creating a dangerous precedent in society, functioning as judge, jury and executioner and denying citizens their right to due process.
The Court has been asked to deliberate on the allegations of fraud against Patterson. Until such time a ruling is handed down indicting him, he should be able to continue his work in the PAC without being subjected to political harassment.