Death and Death by Violent Means3255 30 Jul, 2012
Mr. Felix: We cannot deny that the incident on the 18th of July was most unfortunate. I would wish to put on record my sincerest sympathies to the relatives of Ron Somerset, Ivan Lewis and Shemroy Bouyea, all of whom were murdered by the men who took the oath to protect and serve them. That is why the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has brought this motion, mainly to point out to this nation that the Minister of Home Affairs has ministerial responsibility for the work of his Ministry, not just for his work, but for the work of his Ministry, so that in event of failure of it to execute a policy of Government, or if there is a complete breakdown in the performance of it, the Minister cannot cast the blame on the other operatives in the Ministry. He has to take responsibility.
We have heard the Hon. Member Mrs. Catherine Hughes expounded on the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and what action is expected to flow from it. We have also recognised in this House, based on the presentation by the Leader of the Opposition and Mrs. Hughes, that if the Minister is to accept responsibility he should resign. What we are asking here is not for the President to fire him, as was outlined by the Hon. Attorney General. We are saying that he must be moved by his moral conscience and go, so as to save this country from unnecessary deaths which have occurred ever since the PPP came into office. I will deal with that later.
The Constitution gives citizens of this country, article 147…
Mr. Speaker: One second Hon. Member. I am looking at the resolve clause of the motion. Are you varying it? Because you said that you are not asking for the Minister to be removed but that he should be moved by his conscience to resign. But the motion does say that there should be an immediate revocation of his appointment as a Minister. That is still the motion the extant motion on the floor.
Mr. Felix: Yes. There are two parts.
Mr. Speaker: One is to condemn the killings and the other is that the President revokes the appointment of this Minister.
Mr. Felix: But, he can also…
Mr. Speaker: He can.
Mr. Felix: He can also, by the exercise of his conscience, resign.
Mr. Speaker: Agreed, but I am saying what the motion says.
Mr. Felix: Yes. I agree.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. Proceed.
Mr. Felix: Citizens of this country have the right to the freedom to assemble and the freedom of associations to form political parties and to belong to trade unions. The people of Linden, faced with a crisis of having to pay increased electrical rates, had decided to protest against the imposition of those rates. They applied for and got the requisite permission and in the process of executing a lawful function they were cut down by bullets. The Guyana Police Force is a trained organisation to deal with crowd control issues, as I know it. Based on what I have seen, or we have all seen on the television, it does not appear to me that there was adequate preparation to confront the issues at Linden.
Let us look at their dress. A unit deployed for crowd control duties ought to have, with it, adequate tear smoke, respirators and shields so that it can deal with violence in a graduated way. I did not see any shields and there was no need…
Mr. Speaker: When you demitted office, have you left any shield?
Mr. Felix: I left shields there. As a matter of fact, in my term we bought modern shields and we had rehearsals and practice sessions on the East Bank of Demerara with those shields. [An Hon. Member (Government): What about the National Park?] At the National Park, another set of rehearsals were done there, but it was mainly on the East Bank of Demerara. The force has shields. I know that. The Guyana Police Force went way beyond of what it was required to do, to disperse the crowd. Those were unarmed people simply marching to express their feelings and frustrations with respect to the cruel rates which are being imposed on them and for that they were repaid with bullets. That was quite unprofessional. It speaks to the need for the Minister concerned to say what instruction, what advice, in accordance to section 6 (1) of the Police Act, which requires to give general orders and direction, in relation to a brewing problem. That is what we are after, but what we have seen with the Ministry of Home Affairs, since this Minister took office, is a series of killings - a series of brutal acts committed on our citizens. Since January, 2008, Guyanese at Lusignan suffered a massacre, what was the result – nothing, no inquiry. We do not know what happened there up to this date.
Mr. Speaker: Some charges were laid though. Were they not?
Mr. Felix: Pardon me.
Mr. Speaker: Were charges laid for there?
Mr. Felix: By the time we could have come out of the Lusignan massacre, there was the Bartica massacre. In June, 2008, eight men died at Lindo Creek. [Mr. Neendkumar: You were the Commissioner.] No. Again, no inquiry was done. In October, 2009… [Interruption] Mr. Speaker…
Mr. Speaker: We were going well. Go ahead.
Mr. Felix: …while a teenager was in police custody at Leonora Police Station, his genitals were burnt. We still have the issue of the pirates which cannot be sensibly tackled. Fishermen are still being beaten and robbed when going about their lawful business. What I have chronicled here has been a litany of failures by the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs and that is why we call for his head to roll.
Mr. Speaker: Metaphorically.
Mr. Felix: It is metaphorically and not literally. How can this nation survive such neglect? How can this nation survive with incompetence at its head if we cannot sensibly deal with these issues and bring resolution to them? But, yet, there is more. The Hon. Minister, in overlooking the Guyana Police Force, allowed a purchase to take place of a boat at a cost of $16 million dollars, and do you know what has happened? He called upon it to pay back. The Government money has been replaced, but the offence has not been punished. It looks as though, in this country, wrongdoings, on the Government side, have a cover-up – plastered over. Then there was the infamous I do not know what to call it. I cannot describe it. It is not a water cannon, as I know it; it is a water can, at best. The cannon went away from it, Mr. Speaker.
In today’s newspaper, and I am looking here at the Kaieteur News, page 14, it states that the water cannon had to be taken to Linden on a low bed truck. It could not make the highway on its own. On its own independent motor force it could not make the highway. Then, when the water cannon was there and it was attempted to be put into operation – distress - it could not have worked. It was spilling water anywhere other than at the crowd. These issues sound humorous, but it is our moneys wasted. First of all, we heard it cost $37 million and when I asked the question the Minister response was $20 million, but we know that it can buy a Prado, or a good 4x4 jeep would cost, in Guyana, about $20 million. My thing is, if that cost $20 million, it had to be resurrected from some rubbish heap in China, polished up and brought here. That is what we have there. The issue here…
Mr. Speaker: Is it of Chinese origin or…?
Mr. Felix: That is what the Minister said in his response. I would have been pleased to be associated with the purchased of the water cannon, because in exercising the use of force, or deciding on the use of force, you need to start from the least and then traverse to the highest, depending on the circumstances at that time. Here, there is a water cannon, which was intended to save lives but it cannot help, so the poor policemen, in which the Hon. Leader of the Opposition had been calling for more training and equipment of the police, are still without an essential piece of equipment to be efficiently functioning and to help them in the discharge of their duties.
The rules of engagement, all over the world,…There were battle shields to tear smoke to firearms. There is now in place rubber bullets; there is the water cannon. My question to Hon. Minister earlier was to ensure that there are proper protocols for these two areas, more particularly the water cannon, for the use of force. I do not think that part of the question was answered, but at any rate what we have cannot be used.
These failures on the part of a senior Government functionary must be taken into context of the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. We do not want to pick on the Government Minister at any slight failing and ask for his resignation. What is being done here is assigning responsibility to the relevant Minister for a series of failures since he became the Minister of Home Affairs in 2006. That is what this motion is all about, because we cannot carry dead weight. This nation should not be allowed to carry dead weight. A Minister appointed to office must deliver. The Minister responsible for national security must take steps to ensure that safety is assured under his watch.
Look at this situation: When the PPP/C came into Government there was Minister Feroze Mohamed – no problems. He did what he was supposed to do; it removed him. It brought another honourable gentleman who sat in this House. [Ms. Teixeira: The Prime Minister was the next Minister of Home Affairs.] Yes. We know that. We do not have any problems with him, or you.
Mr. Speaker: Stand by Ms. Teixeira.
Mr. Felix: You did not cause deaths. The Prime Minister’s stint was so short that we could hardly remember. There was the issue with Minister Gajraj – dead bodies all over the place. The only reason that he might not have ended up as a guest of the State is because of the inquiry. Then there was Minister Teixeira, great person, but the PPP/C was not satisfied with her because she was not delivering dead bodies, so it brought…
Mr. Speaker: With great respect, I will have to add that that insinuation I would not allow.
Mr. Felix: It is withdrawn, Mr. Speaker, and respectfully so.
Then with the current Minister of Home Affairs, again, dead bodies are all over the country. I am saying to you, Sir, that our issues need to be resolved in a much safer manner when the State’s law enforcement agencies engage our people. The police force should not be seen to be at war with its population. The police force must be seen to be protecting the public rather than gunning it down.
Mr. Speaker: Could you then respond to the previous speaker’s statement about the culture of non–violence?
Mr. Felix: I was about to say that I would like to join Hon. Member Robert Persaud in that call because the violence seems to be pervading this country, but I saw Minister Manickchand attempting to deal with one part of it on the national scheme, domestic violence and violence in other forms. I am talking here about the police needing to resolve matters safely, but they cannot do so if they are not well equipped. They cannot do so if the requisite equipment that they need is not provided, or provided in a timely manner, or in good quality. We have a Minister who interferes with the work of the police. I knew that from the time he moved into the complex of the police’s headquarters that trouble was coming. [Mrs. Backer: The trouble is here.] Yes, Hon. Member Backer, the trouble is here. The Minister, first of all, got involved with the Commissioner’s work, with Mr. Ramnarine, but I will show something as to why they had wanted to kill Mr. Ramnarine. Well, I meant metaphorically.
Mr. Speaker: Did you mean his career?
Mr. Felix: It is his career.
Mr. Speaker: This is a motion about people being killed and so you have to be careful about…
Mr. Felix: I am showing you that this Minister is not doing his work. He is paying more attention to the work of the Commissioner. That is what I am coming to, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I beg your indulgence. The Member is violating the Standing Orders, over and over again. I am appealing to you to please keep order. This is not a public meeting; this is not a rally. This is the National Assembly of Guyana, let us have some respect. The allegations are made, with no attempt to even put an example, making scathing attacks on people’s personal lives and their political lives. I think it is unacceptable in this House.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, the Minister of Home Affairs is under scrutiny and there are going to be references to his tenure of office. I am monitoring Mr. Felix very closely, as you could see and hear. I have asked him to put the last word “kill” into its proper context because of the nature of what we are dealing with. Mr. Felix is about to make a statement and I see him waving a piece of paper.
Mr. Felix: It is two pieces, Mr. Speaker. When I spoke about the Minister’s interference in the Commissioner’s work… Let me read a document. As a matter of fact, as I was leaving my home this morning I got a mail and when I opened that mail…
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, let me say something. Have a seat. We are debating a motion on the Minister’s involvement, if at all, with regard to the killings, or the shootings, and the deaths on July 18th, so you have to be careful about introducing extraneous matters about interference in the office of the Commissioner. Those may very well be the issue of a substantive motion. I may allow you to make a reference, but I am not going to allow you to go into any debts because it has no bearing on the motion at hand. If so, it is the Minister, we will keep going on and changing the goalpost to get him on this and that. We are dealing with the issue and incident surrounding July 18th. I have no doubt that the file against him or against any Member may very well grow in thickness, but we have to be careful to what extent we move from July 18th into matters that have nothing to do with that date or incidental to it. Is that letter or that mail you have received today is a reference to something surrounding July 18th, either the leading up to the day itself or after, or is it something completely different to that?
Mr. Felix: It would not, Mr. Speaker, be leading up to July 18th, but it clearly shows the Minister’s behaviour in office.
Mr. Speaker: Okay. Well let us hear it.
Mr. Felix: I am reading what is on the letterhead – Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Minister, addressed to Mr. Leroy Brummel.
Application for firearm licence.
Reference is made to application for firearm licence submitted by…”
And that is omitted. The application is supported by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“You are hereby requested to address this application in a specific manner, i.e. process expeditiously and in favour of the applicant in respect of a hand gun.”
The other one is just as similar to it. [Mrs. Backer: Signed by whom?] Signed: “Clement J. Rohee.”
Mr. Speaker: As you know, Ms. Teixeira, it was going to pass. In law, sometimes you ask a question and get the answer. It was going to pass without the signee. Go ahead.
Mr. Felix: I would not make the other comments. I am subject to your caution, Mr. Speaker, so I am going to hold the other comments probably for another time. This is why an officer got himself in problems.
Mr. Speaker: Was there not another regime for the handling of firearm licence, approved within recent months, where there was something done?
Mr. Felix: Well, there is none that I know of. I heard of something else being introduced. We want a Minister who knows his role and who does his role.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Felix is not aware that the regulations concerning the firearms, which came out of the Commission of Inquiry and the Report of the Disciplined Forces Commission, were tabled in this House in 2009 and those govern the way the firearms… I am just elucidating as Mr. Felix seems to be unaware… [Interruption from Opposition Members.] Be quiet.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I need for my own edification… I know that there was something published recently on the grant of licences in which the Minister has some involvement, rightly or wrongly. There was something done. I just want to get a copy of it, if it is available, but I know that there is something.
Mr. Felix: The point I was about to make is that the Minister should focus on substantive areas of responsibility. I am saying here that there are very many other issues which need his attention but which apparently are being allowed to flounder without any proper attention.
The call by A Partnership for National Unity for the Minister to either resign is fully supported by me. The Minister should do the honourable thing and resign and do not wait for anything further. This is too much of a strain on this nation and we can do without him.
I thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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