NO REGRETS - Azan shoots back at politically corrupt label
RICHARD AZAN has declared that he has no regrets over his actions to facilitate the illegal construction of wooden shops at the Spaldings Market in his North West Clarendon constituency.
"I was there all day yesterday (Wednesday) and today (Thursday), and they are standing with me. I don't have any regrets. They say they are firm and strong behind me," Azan told The Gleaner yesterday.
In a report to Parliament this week, Contractor General Dirk Harrison said Azan's actions were, at best, "politically corrupt" and asked the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to decide whether Azan, the junior minister for transport, works and housing, and others should be prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud the Clarendon Parish Council of revenue.
But speaking with The Gleaner ahead of the release of a statement today, Azan said his constituents are firmly behind him for his actions.
"They are in a better place today, and if I was politically corrupt in doing that, I don't mind it," Azan said.
The country should hear by next Thursday whether Azan will face criminal charges for his involvement in the Spaldings Market affair.
DPP Paula Llewellyn, who gave the timeline yesterday, said her office has already completed a preliminary assessment of the Office of the Contractor General's (OCG) findings.
Noting that she is being assisted by two of her most senior prosecutors, Llewellyn told The Gleaner that she expects to arrive at a legal determination in the coming days.
"By the end of [next] week, we will be in a position to respond to the referral by the Office of the Contractor General in respect of Mr Azan," she said, adding that her findings will be made public.
RECOMMENDED TO BE CHARGED
In his 140-page report to Parliament, Harrison charged that there was a "web of conspiracy" behind the illegal construction of several wooden shops at the Spaldings Market on lands owned by the Clarendon Parish Council.
"Due consideration must also be given to the fact that Minister Azan, in convening and/or participating in a meeting where, herein, rates were set for the lease of the illegally constructed wooden shops, and the designation of the person responsible for the collection of the rent further implicates the Hon Richard Azan in the web of conspiracy," Harrison said in his report.
Azan has maintained that he did not derive any benefits from the arrangements.
But under pressure from civil-society groups, members of the public, and the parliamentary opposition to resign, the embattled junior minister will, today, tell the nation whether he will accede to the chorus of calls for him to step down.
"Minister Azan, I fully expect, after reading it (the OCG's special report of investigation) and consulting with his attorneys, to hear a statement from him tomorrow (today)," general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP), Peter Bunting, said yesterday.
The party's deputy general secretary, Julian Robinson, also indicated that the PNP hierarchy would speak to the issue today following Azan's declaration.
Asked what effect the scandal dogging Azan is likely to have on the PNP as it prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Phillip Paulwell, leader of government business in the House of Representatives, conceded that the report was damaging.
"The timing is bad, for sure," Paulwell said while responding to questions yesterday at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street offices in Kingston.
Harrison, in his report, said Azan meddled in a matter over which he had no jurisdiction and that he should have known better, seeing he had served as councillor for a number of years.
The contractor general recommended that "due consideration be given to instituting appropriate disciplinary action against the Hon Richard Azan, in accordance with the Westminster model of government".