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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Death and Death by Violent Means

Hits: 2689 | Published Date: 30 Jul, 2012
| Speech delivered at: 26th Sitting- Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan, MP

Mr. Ramjattan: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I just want to, in this very late hour of the night it is midnight quite frankly, indicate that we must be not get tangential on the issues at hand. There are two issues here; two resolve clauses. One - that we express our condolences to the bereaved relatives and friends and we have all agreed to that. What happened on that unfortunate day is appalling, quite frankly, it was disgusting and something that each and every one of us if we have any sense of conscious must clearly condemn and we have all done so. This is the second issue of this motion.
What also is of serious note, is that there is, in Guyana, what is called certain conventions, which are practices and habits that we in this Parliament must adhere to, otherwise we then ought to be condemned.
[Mr. G. Persaud: Give us the precedents.]        I will get the precedent and the precedent will be given in the case of even Mr. Gajraj. Mr. Gajraj had to leave and step aside for a Commission of Inquiry to be held.    [Mr. G. Persaud: That is due process.]          What due process? We do not see that happening here. We saw that with Mr. Robert Corbin, he had an incident with some young woman and he had to wait until there was an investigation. Remember Mr. Hoyte had asked him to take leave and go and he went. Whatever it is, do not feel that this one might not be botched, unless we get an international core of experts to come here. But the trouble is we have had precedents that required us as Ministers to do a couple of things that are going to ensure what is called, accountability. That is what we want. If Ministers are going to go about doing their business as if no one will ever find them accountable, we are going to have that which is going to be disastrous. We are going to have catastrophes, we are going to have what is called non-accountability and that is the point I want to bring home here.
We also had a third example, and it had to do with Mr. Asgar Alli. Mr. Asgar Ali, we all know and I know because I was over there, did certain things and he was asked to leave and he honourably left in relations to certain incidences. That is why Mr. Jagdeo then became senior Minister and then of course, I understand he had indicated some of the information to the Hon. President then and that is the precedent. The precedent is that when things go wrong under you watch you have an obligation to ensure that you behave honourably and if you do not behave honourably the censorship can come and in this case it is coming and you have an obligation if the majority of the House says that indeed you resign, you must resign.
Mrs. Jagan in 1964, I think it was… These are precedents and, apparently, our Attorney General did not want to educate those Members over there about those precedents. That is what is called individual ministerial responsibility.  “I do not have the confidence of my department and I will go”. That is how Her Excellency, Mrs. Janet Jagan, went, and she walked.  We must understand here that these are the precedents. There are lots of texts that have been written on it. There is a famous professor who lectured to all of us, Albert Fiadjoe, who has written books. One of the texts he has written is Commonwealth Caribbean Public Law. In the latest edition he indicated that, notwithstanding that one has a written Constitution today, conventions from our British origins still apply.
“In the UK, with no written constitutional text, conventions have developed over time…”
This is on page 178 of the third edition.
“… and they play a critical role in the process of identifying the meaning of the constitutional rules. These understandings, these habits, these customs and practices which are not written down in any authoritative sense are nevertheless obeyed by the political directorate, although they are not enforceable in the courts or by even Parliament.”
Parliament, then, as a separate branch of the executive and the judiciary, must be understood. We must not muddle it as Hon. Member Ms. Gail Teixeira was trying to do when she gave the impression that we are denying due process. Mr. Rohee is not on a criminal trial in this House. That is not what we are here to do and that is why we are saying that the criminal law realm has not as yet been reached. The impression was being given that this Parliament has no authority in relation to asking for a no confidence motion.      [Ms. Teixeira: It is a no competence.]         I am saying that it has the competence, the authority, and it can do it. Everything it has.
What we are talking about is a concept and a doctrine in the ministerial realm, in the parliamentary realm, and it is very well set out in this very famous book, out of Oxford, by Diana Woodhouse, talking about Ministers and Parliament: Accountability in Theory and Practice. When we went to England I got this from, I think, that famous fellow who wrote about our practices here, Sir Davies. The trouble is that we must go back to what we learned and what we ought to learn about and not to muddle it up by saying that we are convicting the man without due process. It has nothing to do with that. What the book makes plain is that it is a political decision that has a constitutional basis of accountability because it is that realm we are dealing with here.
“The Constitution of every Westminster democracy prescribes in cases of serious error and even fault on the part of the Minister that he has been involved, he may be required to resign. It provides the rule, the precedent and the morality to which appeals can be made. The application of the rule depends on the narrow judgement of whether the fault is serious enough to warrant resignation, there being no constitutional definition of fault and the broader judgement depending on the Parliament.”
We here are members of the jury that will determine whether, indeed, the fault has been made. [Mr. Nandlall: Where is the fault?]       The fault has been made.        [Mr. Nandlall: You could have got rid of the Speaker.] It is not as if we have to go into some criminal law statute…
Mr. Speaker: One second Mr. Ramjattan. Why do you not use yourself as an example, Mr. Nandlall? Do not use me as an example. Do not bring me into the debate. Say that you would go - not the Speaker.
Mr. Ramjattan: This is at page 163, which makes it quite clear. By the way, it identifies almost sixty-nine  resignations, including the Dugdale and the Crichel Down affair and the Profumo affair, right down to the man who went into the Queen’s bedroom, all of that. Indeed, it has it.
The adviser to the Government on good governance, who earns a lot of money, must advise properly and not muddle the criminal law with the ministerial realm, since it might be money that is not properly salaried to her.
“The extent to which a resignation is regarded as a ministerial obligation, thereby carrying the ring of honour, duty and dignity or as a punishment depends on the speed with which it is executed, the mistake involved and the rhetoric surrounding the resignation from press and members of the public and all.”
[Mr. Nandlall: Punishment has to follow wrongdoing.]        That is the reason we can do that. The wrongdoing is already in what we are saying here, by virtue of all that has been said by the previous speaker and Mr. Nagamootoo. I will go to the next page, because I want this to be understood.
“Precedent provides a measure of what may be serious enough to require resignation but in the end the judgement is of a particular situation and is made by the political actors involved.”
Do you know who the political actors are? We the Members of this House are.     [Mr. Nandlall: It is acting capriciously.]      We are not acting capriciously. We have set out, as brilliantly done by Mr. James Bond, a series and string of events that indeed caused a lack of confidence in this Minister. This is but the last stop.
At page 165, when going on, after distilling all of the sixty-nine incidents, it states:
“It is the function to protect good government as a whole. Moreover, the price paid for this is that the individual Minister must abide by those decisions.”
At the very end of it, it makes quite clear this position, which is at page 173 of the book:
“Politicians call for constitutional requirements to be fulfilled, at least in part, for political reasons, but by so doing they reinforce the constitutional morality which in turn gives the system legitimacy.”
This is a kind of philosophical unpinning of the convention.
“The convention of individual ministerial responsibility is therefore a determining factor in ministerial resignations. There are times when circumstances militate against its operation, but this does not reduce its significance. It does, however, illustrate that for resignations to occur there needs to be a coincidence of breach of constitutional requirements and political desirability.”
[Mr. Nandlall: “A breach”, do you hear that?]        Yes. That is what we are saying. The constitutional requirement for fault is which is considered by the political actors to be so. We here make the decision as to whether there is fault and we are saying that when he talked  all that he talked, as mentioned by Mr. Nagamootoo, the Hon. Member, and dealing with all of the ways which he was talking about– “we are going to kick butt” and do this and that – there has to be fault here. That nexus obviously means that the conditions have been. Who decides that? We will decide that. If these conditions are met, the resignation is required. The requirement, as I will want to emphasis, needs to coincide with the desirability of such a resignation in the wider political context.
The threshold has been made here. I do not think that when Ms. Teixeira was Minister any threshold was met. She was trying to confuse chalk with cheese, when citizens and, probably, narcotic dealers and terrorists, and whosoever, were killing each other. This is not the case here. This is a case in which a certain department of a Minister…, and the Minister, only hours before sending it to Linden, made a certain speech to it, whatever that was. I also went to the National Park, where I generally would walk on some afternoons, and I saw him with certain policemen and the water cannon, a week before. He was there. He even saw me, I think. That is what he was doing. He was obviously taking charge of operational matters. That was an operation matter. What was he doing at the National Park telling the Commissioner of Police? Mr. Brummel was there too. Was it how to point the ‘water gun’? What is it called - the water cannon? Well, it turned out to be a ‘water gun’.
I want to make this point, which was so very well made – I have it down here – that in convention, it arises out of being a subset of the larger constitutional provision that we have in our Constitution, which is that this Parliament here can have a no confidence motion against the entire Government, that is, all twenty-three Ministers must go, yet they do not want to utilise this individual responsibility of Ministers to be the basis in which we can have one go. It is like the argument that was made in the case of the budget, where it was said that we can cut the budget from $179 billion to $0, but we cannot cut it by $1. Thank God the Chief Justice understood the argument. It is important that we understand that if one can knock down  twenty-three Ministers, why is it that we cannot, in relation to the conditions being met and the conditions being what we here are going to address and deal with and come to a conclusion as to whether it is fault or serious or not… ? That is important. We have to indicate…
This thing is going on in England all the time. A more recent Oxford text, Constitutional Law and Administrative Law, by Pollard and Parpworth, the 2005 edition, indicated, at page 171, that between 1945 and 1997 a total of  sixty-five Ministers resigned on the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility. Sixty-five Ministers had to go.
As I indicated, I just want to speak on this one aspect of the resolution. I want to add this point. Ms. Gail Teixeira stood there and gave the impression...       [Ms. Teixeira: You love to talk about me, do you not?]        I love talking about you. This is what I got only today from Dr. Luncheon. The Government Members are saying that they want to include an inquiry that is going to involve all and sundry. It is not really accurate. This is what Dr. Luncheon wants, as the terms of reference...       [Ms. Teixeira: It is a draft.]         It is a draft, my dear. I will show you a second draft and neither draft got that he wants a ministerial inquiry. What does he want?  It is the actual sequence of the events at the bridge, the management of the police detachment…
Mr. Nandlall: Sir, if I may, the last draft that we ironed out – which Mr. Harmon can bear me out on – ministerial responsibility was a specific item on that draft agreed upon. Mr. Ramjattan was not there. He is going to misrepresent that the Commission of Inquiry is not going to deal with ministerial responsibility when we specifically added that as an item.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Harmon, could you clarify please, quickly?
Mr. Ramjattan: Mr. Luncheon also has a second draft which I just got from Mr. Harmon and I could read it out. [Ms. Ally: He did not send you that one though.] He did not send me this.
“Specifically to ascertain whether the police were responsible for the shooting, if so determined;
To ascertain whether the police had justification to use force;
Specifically to ascertain details of the police deployment at the scene of the protest when the shooting took place;
To identify the nature of the perpetrators of the violence and the destruction caused;
To enquire also into the organisation of the protest and its form against the electricity tariff;
Specifically to identify the political parties and other agents and their role in organising and maintaining the protest.”
That is what he has here. You can have it.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Ramjattan, you are reading from what was sent to you by the Office of the President.
Mr. Ramjattan: No. I read that first and that had nothing to do with it and he said that Mr. Harmon had the second draft from Mr. Luncheon. I just read the second draft.
Mr. Speaker: Very well. Proceed.
Mr. Ramjattan: It had nothing to do with ministerial responsibility.        [Mr. Nandlall: There is a draft that deals with…]       Okay, you have other drafts. The trouble is that it does not appear, at this stage, that there is going to be an inquiry into the ministerial misconduct. Ministerial misconduct is largely a matter for the Parliament and if we then feel that the Minister is criminally liable or there is some evidence as to his criminality that will come under the Commission of Inquiry, but this is not a case where we are saying that the minister is criminally liable. That is why it is chalk to cheese. We are not saying that the Minister is criminally liable. We are saying that he is ministerial accountable and that is a totally different realm. That is why it would appear that there is a total incomprehension of what the motion is all about – a total incomprehension. They want to muddle the issue and talk to the people out there about “Ramjattan an’ dem and Granger wan’ fuh go and lackup de man.” No. We are not getting there. That is to carry on the propaganda.
This is what we are talking about and I want to leave it there, Mr. Speaker, because they are misleading this House into giving the impression that we are denying due process. In a scenario like this, it is not due process; it has nothing to do with it. It has now that we, being peers, are asking what the Minister has done over the past couple of incidences. What has happened here? His role that he played, as far as we know, and from the evidence that we have at hand we do not have the confidence of this man being in our House as a Minister. That is what we did. Moreover, there was decency about the presidency of Mr. Jagdeo when he asked Mr. Gajraj to leave. There was decency about Mr. Desmond Hoyte asking Minister Corbin, then, to leave; he stepped down. That is the first thing that happened, but we do not have that happening there. Mr. Ramotar seems not to want to do it. I have named the conventions and I have named the precedents. They felt that we did not have the precedents. That same Dudus affair is another precedent. Mr. Bruce Golding, the Prime Minister, had to resign and that was with narcotic dealers going into Tivoli Gardens. Here there were policemen going to peaceful citizens and shooting them. What is the equivalence? It cannot be equated. It is important that that be understood.
Here is the important point that I wish to make: Accountability is the basis of this whole thing; it is the platform. When we can start having…
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ramjattan keeps talking about certain things concerning comparisons that were made. In the sixth AND WHEREAS clause of the original motion, it makes it very clear that the door was open to deal with other issues other than the killings in Linden. The sixth AND WHEREAS clause talks about banditry, piracy, torture, narcotics, and so on. The references, which were made, are in relation to that paragraph in which Mr. Ramjattan seems not to recognise as a part of the motion.
Mr. Ramjattan:  It has to do with accountability. If we do not start this process of living certain examples where Ministers are going to be held accountable, we are not going to have good governance in this country. We must set the example. In Guyana, a lot of the Ministers love the Westminster model that is called the “power and privilege side” of it – “Dem ah Minista an, deh gon live it up. Deh gon drive Prado an deh gon geh security guards.” That is the kudos side, but when it comes to the accountability side they do not want it. We love the power and privilege side, but we must also appreciate what is called the “accountability and responsibility side’. That is what we have to bring home to our Ministers. This is a good opportunity because the threshold has been made, there have been constitutional improprieties, in my opinion, and it would appear as though it is the opinion of the Opposition Members here, and we must ensure that indeed the “responsibility and accountability side” is upheld.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]

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Designation: Second Vice President and Minister of Security
Profession: Attorney-at-Law
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