– Ali granted self-bail following 19 ‘politically trumped-up’ chargesIn light of the politically trumped up charges brought against former Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali on Wednesday by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) strongly condemned the move, describing it as a deliberate act intended to tarnish the Party’s leaders in order to impact the choice of its presidential candidate for the 2020 General and Regional Elections.Former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali accompanied by two of his attorneys – Priya Manickchand and Sase Gunraj as the leave the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on WednesdayThe Party is contending that after thrashing the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change Government at the Local Government Elections (LGE), the no-confidence motion filed against them and the visionless budget that has plunged them into even deeper political woes, as promised, it has upped the political vendetta against the Opposition.“Their institution, a few days before the National Budget debates begins and of course, the no-confidence motion is no coincidence. The modus operandi in the arrest of Irfaan Ali, says it all,” the PPP stated in a release.According to reports gathered, a vanload of Policemen turned up at the Member of Parliament’s house at about 04:00h, arrested him and took him to the Headquarters of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).This however, came as a surprise since Ali attended SOCU’s office on every occasion he was requested to do so over the last year hence, the Party stated that there was no need for the show of power. “But, this is the [People’s National Congress] PNC back in form,” it added.“We are not oblivious to the fact that these charges are intended to tarnish our leaders in order to impact the choice of the PPP’s presidential candidate for the 2020 General and Regional Elections. This plan will also not succeed but it will succeed only in making us stronger and even more determined to lead and unite, not only our supporters, but every fair, law abiding and patriotic Guyanese, irrespective of class, race or religion in an indefatigable movement and struggle to remove this corrupt, incompetent and vengeful cabal from Government”.Ali appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts where the 19 politically trumped up charges in relation to the sale of plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara were read to him.According to SOCU, Ali sold 19 plots of land located at Goedverwagting and Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, below their valued prices. The plots of land, they claimed, were “recklessly” sold at $39.8 million when they were actually valued $212.4 million at the time of their sale.Nevertheless, Ali was not required to plead to the charges. SOCU’s Special Prosecutor Patrice Henry, had no objections to bail but asked the court that it be granted in a substantial amount to guarantee the defendant returns to court.But Ali’s battery of lawyers – including Anil Nandlall, Priya and Jaya Manickchand, Davendra Kissoon and Sase Gunraj – opposed the cash bail application.Attorney Kissoon argued that there is no reason for the 38-year-old Member of Parliament not to be released on his own recognizance, citing his numerous commitments pertaining to national duties, which he “intends to dutifully fulfil”.The defence attorney also mentioned that Ali does not only have his parliamentary commitments but also has quite a reputation since he acted as both the President and Prime Minister under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.After listening to the two sides, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan granted the former Housing Minister self-bail on all 19 counts and set January 7, 2019, as his return court date.Speaking with reporters moments after stepping out the courtroom on Wednesday, the former Housing Minister said, “I have during my tenure, with the help of my staff and the PPP/C Government, we have distributed more than one hundred thousand house lots and regularised lots so maybe it should’ve been a 100,000 charges then for every house lot that was given. But I believe firmly in justice, I believe firmly in trusting the creator and understanding that no form of wickedness, no form of political victimisation, no form of this pressure that the Government believe they can bring on us to silence us, to silence democracy, to silence free speech, to silence an opposition that is exposing them, it is not going to work. This has made me strong, I am more resolute.He recalled in Parliament two weeks ago that Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had said to him and Nandlall in the Chambers, during one of his hecklings, “Don’t worry you will get convicted (to Nandlall) and you will get charged (to Ali) very soon.” Hence, the charges on Wednesday were no strange occurrence.Nevertheless, Ali told reporters that he is confident in the country’s justice system and that he would be vindicated of the 19 charges.“I have nothing to fear. I have served and I’ve served to the best of my ability and I will continue to do so without fear or favour… We will defend this, we will defend everything that they throw before us because we believe in what we did. We did it with honesty and integrity and… the only condition that we did it in was in service to the people of this country,” he posited.Nevertheless, Attorney Priya Manickchand had told media operatives earlier that the PPP will be fighting this ‘act of oppression’ by the coalition Government against Ali, who is set to kick off the Opposition’s debate on the 2019 Budget next Monday.“This will be met with lawful but equal force. So this kind of oppressive behaviour that the Government is engaging in right now, which is to charge and/or lock up members of the Opposition, and attempt to intimidate members of the Opposition… it’s not going to work,” she asserted.