PPP says Gov’t intends to retain SARU members on SARA; Harmon denies
The State Assets Recovery Bill 2017 was on Thursday, April 13, 2017, passed in the National Assembly, paving the way for the establishment of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA).
The Opposition Peoples’ Progressive Party walked out of the National Assembly shortly before the bill was passed, after the Debate was cut short by a motion put forward by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman. However, its members who spoke earlier in the evening called for the bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee as it believes SARA will be used for “political intimidation”; an accusation which it continually levelled against SARU.
In a statement on Saturday (April 22, 2017), the Opposition claimed that the Government will not appoint a Director and Deputy Director of State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) pursuant to the provisions of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill when it is assented to, but “intends to use the current members of SARU to act in the place of the Director and Deputy Director and other officers of SARA”. However, it clarified that this would be done for a transitionary period that will last as long as 12 months.
“This position of the Government has confirmed what we said from the inception that SARA will be an agency staffed by politicians and imbued with a political mandate to witch-hunt, persecute, harass and intimidate identified segments of our population; that SARA has very little to do with justice but is driven by an agenda overwhelmed with political vengeance and discrimination,” the party said.
The PPP called out Dr. Clive Thomas who was the Director of SARU, as one of the many persons who has repeatedly made public statements conclusive of the guilt of many persons without any investigation.
“In fact, Clive Thomas, who is identified to act as the Director has already indicated that he has list of private properties in respect of which he will seek court orders. It begs the questions: How was this list compiled? On what basis were these properties identified? Since SARU has and never had no investigative powers, who did investigations which led to the conclusion that these properties are stolen state assets?” the PPP said.
As such, the party retained that has nothing to do with recovering stolen state assets and investigating corruption in public office but only for witch-hunting.
Asked about the potential retaining of Dr. Clive Thomas on SARA at his most recent Post Cabinet media briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said “in that bill, there is a process by which the Director and Deputy Director and Officers of the Agency will be appointed. So it’s not a matter of whether the Government will retain Dr. Thomas or not, this is now a process which is being put in place by an Act of Parliament once it is signed and that act will see the Appointment Committee of the National Assembly who will review the nominees or the applicants for the positions and they will be appointed by that process.”