Death and Death by Violent Means1891 30 Jul, 2012
Mr. B. Williams: Good morning to all. I shall endeavour to support the motion under the hand of the Hon. Leader to the Opposition while, at the same time, I am locked in the struggle within the arms of Morpheus.
I, in the first instance, would like to adopt the factual matrix inherent in the contributions of the Hon. Members Mr. Morian, the Member of Parliament for and of Linden and Mdm. Vanessa Kissoon. I do not think that we could gainsay the personal accounts that they have given and the narrative of the factual matrix on that date and that time.
Speaking to the first resolve clause, I would like to also record my commiserations with the family and surviving relatives of Shemroy Bouyea, Ivan Lewis and Ron Somerset. May their souls rest in peace and rise in glory.
The second resolve clause is very incisive and I am not going to detain this honourable House with too much more because, as I said, all of the preceding contributions have been enlightening. This no confidence motion speaks to the competency of the Minister in discharging his responsibilities within the Cabinet and to the people of Guyana, and, as I said earlier, the arguments are in pari materia in relation to the ability of this House to cut items in a budget as against the whole budget and in this House, again, under the Constitution, to remove the entire Cabinet, yet one Member cannot be moved against. I am respectfully submitting that once we say that we are a Westminster model Constitution, it means that the conventions, which we inherited and the conventions which were enforced, from time immemorial, from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, must apply here unless they are especially excepted – mutatis mutandis.
In the Standing Orders of this honourable House there is a provision which states “where these rules are silent then the practice and procedure of the House of Commons is applicable.” I do not know why the Members on the other side of this House tried to ignore the conventions that apply to this honourable House and rely only on anything that is in the Constitution and everything else is excluded. That is not so. We are respectfully submitting that the arguments in Woodhouse’s book, bearing on the responsibility of a Minister, are applicable and I endorse them.
Now it is a simple exercise. When Members look at the tenure of the Hon. Member Mr. Rohee they will see a string of matters that was so reprehensible; that was so appalling. The impact on the psyche of the Guyanese people is horrendous. Then the Minister compounds it by his own conduct and the arrogance that he displays with respect to the discharge of his remit. Only recently in this honourable House the Hon. Member, speaking to the issue of not giving leave to the police officers at that time… It all fits in. He was not giving any leave. Nobody asked him to come here to speak on anything about that, to the officers, because he had information that people are planning things. Then he labelled us by reading from what he contended was a report from the Special Branch and was saying that this person said this here and this person said that there. If Members cannot remember that in the House, it was very significant, and as far as I was concerned it was – I do not want to use too heavy a word – pointing us in a direction. After having regaled us with that, the next thing we knew, since it was only the Minister, in giving the kind of direction and control that he has under the Police Act to send a special unit to Linden, a special unit which promptly effected that devastation on those hapless people peacefully protesting on the bridge. That, I believe, speaks volumes.
We have argued over the years because this is not something new; we are not reinventing the wheel. Guyana has been made a killing field under the watch of this Government. Our sons, our brothers, our fathers were cut down. They slaughtered them; slaughtered under the watch of this Government.
The Minister, when he took over in 2006, had at his disposal the Patterson Report, the Simmons Report and the Disciplined Forces Commission Report. He discarded the Security Sector Reform Report from the UK Government. In other words, the Minister of Home Affairs had the duty to consider those reports and to attempt to implement the recommendations therein to make the police force efficacious. He had that specific remit, because specific emphasis was placed on recruiting proper people, training them properly, equipping them and preparing them to deal with certain situations. All of those he had, and what has the Minister done? Nothing! He has done nothing and so he has to accept the blame. He has to accept the responsibility for that, Mr. Speaker.
Representations were made when we met the last Commissioner of Police. I remember a team of us from the PNCR went there and I recall that I asked: Why is it that whenever the police is about to go and confront any form of protest they have to use live ammunition? I remember suggesting the use of rubber bullet and pepper sauce and the Commissioner laughed. The Commissioner laughed because it was not pepper sauce, it was pepper spray that I was supposed to say. We discussed that and he agreed…In fact, I was presently surprised to see that efforts had started being made to bring in these things. In fact, at one of the meetings of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector the present Minister informed us that he had actually ordered a water cannon, but we have heard what actually happened with the water cannon, or water gun, or whatever it is.
The efforts of this Hon. Minister really have come to nought. When one looks at the report of the pathologist… The pathologist is an expert. He is definitely one of the best. I introduced him to Guyana. I introduced him to Guyana in a situation where a young woman was found on the road outside of a police station on the East Coast Demerara with her head crushed. I do not know what that has to do with boasting. I am telling you what happened. The woman was on the road slaughtered and her head was mashed in and the pathologist in this country said, “Oh, this looked like it was an accident,” and the police laid charge for dangerous driving.
When I got information from the family that it was domestic abuse, we sought the services of Mr. Daisley. If you saw the report on his presentation which showed clearly that the woman was dead at the time when the truck wheel ran over her head. I am saying that when I saw the results, which was published in the newspapers, from Dr. Daisley, where at least two persons were shot cleanly to their hearts, and the other one, not far from the heart, it is clear that whatever transpired that day someone was earmarked, especially in that group, to effect exactly what they intended to do. The mission there was to ensure that they killed people that afternoon, to send a message to the people of Linden about it, they think that they could protest. I am telling you that. There could be no random killing and with pinpoint accuracy persons are hit in the heart with a single shot. This has the hallmark of deliberation and it is a dark time for us. It is a dark time when people could plan to so callously and wantonly take life for political expediency. This is a serious time in this country. In fact, they must be warned. I am reminded of Psalm 37 (14):
“The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their own sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
Take heed. All who have ears to hear, let them hear.
On that ground alone, the Minister of Home Affairs has to accept responsibility. The Hon. Member Catherine Hughes made her contribution on the issue of ministerial responsibility and I endorse that. Woodhouse’s book, just used by the Hon. Member Mr. Ramjattan, I also endorse that. The Minister must be responsible. The buck stops there – at the Minister.
Further, our Constitution, article 197A (1), tells us clearly, and this is one of those provisions that came out of the constitutional reform process:
“The State’s defence and security policy…”
That is the highest level that is speaking to the remit of the security forces of Guyana,
“…shall be to defend national independence, preserve the country’s sovereignty and integrity, and guarantee the normal functioning of institutions and the security of citizens against any armed aggression”.
I am putting emphasis on that, “guarantee….the security of citizens against any armed aggression”.
Let us look at the Hon. Member Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger’s second resolve clause.
“That the National Assembly censures and expresses ‘no confidence’ in the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Clement Rohee, M.P., over his inability to discharge his responsibility for public security and calls for the immediate revocation of his appointment as a Minister of the Government and for his dismissal from office.”
Mr. Rohee is clearly in breach of article 197A because his remit is to protect citizens from armed aggression. What has happened? The police perpetrated armed aggression on the 18th July, 2012, against the people of Linden. So, it is a clear breach of the constitutional provision. What is his explanation for this? He has to take responsibility.
This fallacy of the Hon. Attorney General that we cannot do this and we cannot do that… I think my brothers painted clearly the dichotomy between the criminal trial, which we are not proceeding with here, and our business of censuring the Minister for incompetence and his breach of his remit.
Article 108 states that the removal of a Minister is dealt with in article 183. What is so important about this is that article 156 speaks about removal of a Member of Parliament. In other words, our Constitution clearly makes a distinction between removing a Member of Parliament and removing a Minister. Let us see what it states about removing a Minister, article 183 (2):
“The office of any Minister shall become vacant if the holder of the office –
(a) ceases to be a member of the Assembly for any cause other than a dissolution of Parliament;”
Do you see this sweep-all clause that it has here? It is for any cause, and any cause means and includes a no confidence motion.
(b) is not a member of the Assembly when the Assembly first meets after a dissolution of Parliament;
Well, we know that.
“(c) is, by virtue of article 156 (2) or (3), required to cease to perform his functions as a member of the Assembly.”
That is when he ceases to be a Member of Parliament. To contend that there is nothing, no provision, and no power within this Parliament to remove a Minister cannot be entertained because any clause must include a no confidence motion. The President has to act because the President is part of this Parliament. To make it clear, the only distinction between the Parliament and the National Assembly is when the President is sitting. Once the President sits, it is Parliament. When he is not sitting, it is the National Assembly. Therefore when the National Assembly finds, by a majority, that it has no confidence in a Minister, the President, who appointed that Minister, is enjoined to act.
This has nothing to do with any criminal investigation and inquiry. This has to do with looking at what is there on a mere visual apprehension of the facts surrounding this contention. Everyone said that there were uniformed policemen who fired into the crowd. The question of individual responsibly or legal culpability, or criminal responsibility, is not what we are dealing with here. We know that the police went and shot into a peaceful crowd and, therefore, it is a question for the Minister. We are seeing all of the killings and the slaughter all over. We have seen and we have heard all that has happened.
This question about the Commission of Inquiry: The Commission of Inquiry, which is being worked on right now, is going to be independent, because sometimes there have been flawed Commissions of Inquiry. The one dealing with the predecessor of this Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Gajraj, was flawed because the remit and the terms of reference did not go far enough. My sister, the Hon. Member Mrs. Backer, would know, because we worked on that together and there was much resistance to going further with proper terms of reference in order for us to get to the bottom of the mischief.
The problem with those Commissions of Inquiry really is that they do not get material witnesses to come and testify for the simple reason, despite for the past decade we have been talking to this Government, it has not put in place any witness protection programme. It has never done so. As a result, people are not prepared to go and make any reports to any police station, because the moment they go and make a report at a police station, as soon as they go out there, the telephone is picked up and the people are informed. The Guyanese people have no confidence in going and give any information to anybody. [An Hon. Member (Government): You were hooked up.] You can talk about how much hooking up as you like. I would hook up with any Commissioner of Police. I prefer to be hooked up with any Commissioner of Police than with Mr. Roger Khan.
From whatever angle we look at the issue before us in this motion, we cannot escape the fact that the Minister has shown and exhibited a gross dereliction of his duty. He has. We do not have an effective police fighting unit. There are not any of the recommendations implemented. Nothing has been done. We are in the same boat as we were in 2000. The police, in fact…and we are not talking about every policeman; we are talking about certain rogue cops. We know that a lot of those special force units bypass the Commissioner of Police and report directly to the Minister. We know that. That came out in the case of his predecessor also. We hold him… [Ms. Teixeira: I was his predecessor. Are you talking about me?] I do not know why you want to be the last action hero.
We cannot countenance that there are people who have been starved as a matter of policy. They have been made economically depressed and deprived as a matter of policy. When they try to highlight it and protest against it, as they are entitled to do under article 147 of our Constitution, they are mowed down. It is totally reprehensible. We cannot continue to countenance the slaughter of our people by certain members of our police force.
Until and unless there is all of the systems put in place to have a viable police force, there will be a search for the Minister who has the ability to do that. Perhaps the energetic Attorney General should be moved into that portfolio. With his energy I cannot get to see cricket anymore in Guyana. Let us move him to the Ministry of Home Affairs, so that we can get cricket again.
Mr. Speaker, it is very late and a lot has been said on this matter, but I just wish to ask you and the Members of this honourable House to appreciate just what is the important thrust of this motion. The motion is talking about the competency of the Minister of Home Affairs in discharging his responsibility. His incompetency has led, yet again, to the shooting to death of the Guyanese people who were going about their constitutional business. I am supporting this motion, overwhelmingly, and I urge this House… [Mr. Neendkumar: As amended.] I have nothing to do with any proposed amendments to this motion. The motion is affective as it is and I am supporting this motion and I ask the other Members of the House to support this motion and to see that the Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Member Clement Rohee, is removed off the backs of the Guyanese people.
Thank you. [Applause]
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