Death and Death by Violent Means2199 30 Jul, 2012
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development [Mr. G. Persaud]: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. I wish on behalf of the PPP/Civic and myself to join with my colleague Members of Parliament in expressing sincere condolences to the relatives, families and friends of the persons who died as a result of what took place in Linden on July 18th, 2012. I wish to also express sentiments for a speedy recovery to all those who were injured as well as all those who were traumatised by the incident of July 18th.
Further, I wish to express my sympathy to all the persons who have lost property and valuables due to several reported acts of arsons and other unacceptable incidents that occurred on July 18th and thereafter. I wish also to express my sympathy to the residents of Regions Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 who are denied access to and from the city of Georgetown and also, for the inconvenience and discomfort they are enduring due to the blockage of the main roadways and bridges leading into these Regions.
I listened to several statements made by Hon. Members of the Opposite side of this House who have spoken on this motion before this House. I have noted numerous contradictions and conflicting information shared by these Hon. Members as they seek to position themselves in Linden on July 18th and thereafter. Two quick examples are that we learnt from one speaker that the three deceased were shot in their hearts and we also learnt from another speaker that two persons were shot in their chest while another was shot in his head; that is one instance of where we had those contradicting information. We heard from another speaker that no warning was issued before fire opened on the protesters and we heard from another speaker that the warning was not loud enough and secondly that their smoke was used before the fatal shooting.
We have several professionals we are members of the legal profession as well as Members of this Hon. House. It is my humble view that if any matter which was engaging the attention of the Court had so many contradictions and conflicting information that such a matter would have been thrown out by the Court. Hence, I wish to appeal to all Members of this House, that this Motion should be amended as proposed by the Hon. Prime Minister and that we should support a full enquiry so that decisions that are made here would be based on empirical data and evidence of what actually took place.
This motion is requesting this Hon. House to take a decision against a Hon. Member, Mr. Clement Rohee, on the basis of inadequate, contradicting and conflicting information. This is a dangerous road that we are setting out on. It is my view that the only way we can have an objective unbiased assessment of what actually took place and the events which surrounded July 18th and thereafter in Linden is through the proposed Commission of Enquiry. We should direct our energies to support the early establishment of this Commission and await its findings and recommendations.
Listening to my Hon. Colleagues on the other side of this House, I am getting the impression that the Hon. Members on the Opposite side of this House are not interested in engaging in a debate on this Motion and the issues contained therein, but rather only waiting for it to end so that they can vote and once again remind this House that thirty-three is more than thirty-two. I say this because if we recall what took place last Wednesday in this House, the Hon. Member Ms. Gail Teixeira informed this House that there were several speakers on the Government’s side who would wish to speak to this Motion. She also said, and it was agreed, that preparation time was a necessary ingredient if we were to effectively debate this motion, a view that you also shared Mr. Speaker. It was very surprising that when the Hon. Member, Mdm. Gail Teixeira, sought to have an adjournment of this House the Hon. Member, Ms. Amna Ally, requested that we should have the vote. That in itself confirms what I am saying, that we are not interested in discussing this issue here; this is clear from the opposite side of the House.
There is a pre-drawn conclusion, and that conclusion is that irrespective of what is said, there will be no room for reasoning, safe and except that we vote and put this motion through. It is a known fact, and history can attest to this, that it is the People’s Progressive Party which fought relentlessly for the right to peaceful protest. These rights are now enshrined in our Constitution, largely because of the agitation and efforts of the People’s Progressive Part. So, it is a fallacy. It is clearly an act to seek to rewrite our history when we attempt to accuse the PPP/Civic Government of seeking to be anti-peaceful in relation to protests.
I listened attentively as Hon. Members of the Opposite side of this House seek to describe how peaceful the protest was and the reinforcing and reminding us of the enshrined right to protest as Guyanese, as view as I said earlier, I share totally.
With every right there is also responsibility. Hence, in expressing one’s right to protest one must not infringe on the rights of others of freedom of movement and access. Everyone has rights and in pursuing one’s right, we should never seek to trample on the rights of others. Every Guyanese has equal rights. We must not practice what Mr. George Orwell would have said in his book, The Animal Farm, “...all humans are equal, but some are more equal than others”. The leader of any protest must recognise the rights of others and ensure that they lead their followers with such authority and responsibility that the rights of all are maintained. What has happened on July 18th and up to yesterday in Linden is not reflective of responsible leadership, rather it is the inverse.
There are many reports that main highways and connecting bridges are blocked and denying citizens of Guyana access through these main roads and highways. Vehicles are stopped and contents illegally removed, persons are forcibly relieved of their valuables, tolls are being extorted from some persons in order for them to have access. The worst of it yet is that the residents in Regions Nos.7, 8 and 9 are denied access to basic food items and other necessities of life. Fuel in itself is denied entry into Region 8 and 9 to the extent that the Regional Administration of 8 and 9 will find it extremely difficult to continue to provide electricity to those communities.
What wrong have these citizens in Regions 8 and 9 done? Why is it that these citizens of Region 8 and 9, Guyanese may I remind ourselves, what wrong have they done to these people in Region 10 that they are made to suffer as a result of some of the people in Region 10. The people in Region 10 are also encountering seriously hardships and difficulties, not because of Government policies at this present moment, it is because of irresponsible action and irresponsible leadership provided by those who acclaim to the high status of leaders. I ask us in this Assembly, what have the citizens in Region 7....
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I beg your pardon. I am hearing persons on the other side saying the word “murder”. I have heard it several times in the last few minutes.
Mr. Speaker: Could you identify them for me?
Ms. Teixeira: I really believe that the word “murder” is an extremely strong word. I am not aware that the motion is accusing anyone of murder.
Mr. Speaker: Statements made are what we call in the legal profession as “soschevoche” are not actually made and spoken into the record. I can only ask Members to mind their manners so to speak. I have heard the word used before. It is the opinion of some that is was murder. I have noted the words of the Minister himself who said that the ranks breached all known operational procedures and the outcome has been death. I do not know that the word “murder” or the finding of murder has been made. I do not know that I have the any authority to stop anyone from making any finding if they so desire, rightly or wrongly. Only a Court could make a finding that there has been murder. [Cellular phone rings] What is that? That is a murderous phone. Members please understand that we are still to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry and we are miles away from charges being made because there have been no findings. Bear in mind that these are just your opinions and not the opinions of the Assembly. Thank you very much.
Mr. G. Persaud: Thank you Mr. Speaker. It is indeed a very serious situation that would have occurred in Region 10- the loss of lives. I feel that we here as Parliamentarians are responsible people and that we should be able to deliberate on issues and problems and to find ourselves as part of the solutions. In so doing, I am hoping that we would recognise our responsibility to this Nation, and that we should all act and act in a very responsible manner both in and out of this Chamber. When we offer guidance and leadership we must do so in a responsible manner so that when we come up here and we speak, we will not raise eyebrows of others in wanting to know where was the person who we saw on the television the night before, or whether this was the person who made those statements that we saw in the newspapers. Or responsibility does not end here in this Chamber.
I am hoping, as I said, that good sense would prevail and that those leaders who have or who have made claims to having influential basis within the mining town, that they will seek to help us to have the main access roadways returned to unhindered traffic so that all the people in Regions Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 will enjoy Guyanese comfort to which they were accustomed to before July 18th. That is an entitlement; it is a right of Guyanese wherever they exist, to have unhindered access in this beautiful country of ours. Those of us who can contribute to that will be making rightful claim to purposeful leadership.
In concluding, I wish to reiterate my condolences to the relatives, families and friends of the deceased as well as my sympathies to all those who have suffered injuries and losses. I am calling on the Hon. Members of this House to reject the motion in its present form and to accept the amendments to this Motion so that we can pay our respects to the persons who have lost their lives and to those who have suffered injuries and loss of property and to those who are confronted with difficulties not of their own making. At the same time, I wish to reassure all of Guyana, particularly those persons who were directly victims of these recent incidents, that our Parliament’s commitment is strong and firm to support the full enquiry into this very unfortunate period in our country’s history. I thank you very much Mr. Speaker.
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