GEORGETOWN, Guyana, September 14, (CMC) – The Guyana government said, last Friday, that the authorities have been unable to proceed with criminal investigations against several people, who have been linked to stealing public funds and other property, because of the refusal of some witnesses to give written statements.,
“You can give a lot of the evidence to an auditor, but when it comes to criminal prosecutions, you have to do the written statements, and some of these persons, who have to testify when they know what the investigations are all about, have been telling some of the police… that they are scared to death,” Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, told a news conference.
The Guyana government has spent more than GUY$130 million (One Guyana dollar =US$0.004 cents) on at least 45 forensic audits since coming to office, just over a year ago.
Ramjattan said the absence of a Witness Protection Act to guarantee witnesses their safety, during and after court cases, was also another factor, and he noted that steps are being taken to enact such legislation.
“Once that stumbling block can be overcome, if there is a witness protection plan, certainly we are going to go into investigations of all these persons,” Ramjattan said, adding that efforts were being made to persuade “these very vital witnesses, who have the cogent, convincing evidence, to please talk out”.
“We are having a multiplicity of reasons why some of them are not coming forward,” he said, adding, although they have previously given factual statements in the forensic audits.
Ramjattan also disclosed that he is willing to limit the responsibilities of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to probing financial crimes, but does not support the idea of separating the agency from the Guyana Police Force.
“We are going to listen to the voices of the opposition too and if they feel that, OK, if this thing is long or if another person in Cabinet feels that it is not the appropriate thing, well fine, we are going to narrow it down back, but at least we did well, in that we have a Standing Order for SOCU,” he told reporters.
Ramjattan made known his position after Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, expressed their displeasure in the SOCU Protocol, which is now part of the police force’s standing orders, handing responsibilities for investigating a range of other non-financial crimes to that unit.
He said that SOCU’s powers are very “expansive” but he questioned the wisdom of having a unit, which might have little or no financial investigations to work on, lying idle.