Death and Death by Violent Means1878 30 Jul, 2012
Dr. Persaud: I rise to speak to the motion as presented by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition. I do so with a deep sense of sadness, sadness at what transpired on the 18th of July and what continues to happen in Linden and throughout the rest of the country. This sadness is tempted with a bit of optimism today as I saw the amendments tabled by the Hon. Leader of the House, the Prime Minister.
I sit in this august House, like each one of the Hon. Members, carrying the sometimes difficult burdens of responsibility - responsibility for what I say; responsibility for what I do - and ultimately knowing that the responsibility for the decisions taken at this National Assembly of which I am a part will affect every single Guyanese in our country.
On entering this hallowed chamber, on entering this National Assembly, each one of us lost the privilege of making judgement based on emotion, on political agendas, personal gratifications, rather the people of Guyana, each one of the citizens of Guyana, expect from us rational, reasonable, intelligent outcomes which will benefit not some Guyanese, but all Guyanese. It is intelligent outcomes which will benefit Guyanese not today, not tomorrow, but for the future and also decisions that will inspire and influence parliamentarians and every aspiring parliamentarian in the future. At this juncture of our country’s history, we all have a chance, as the highest decision making forum, to walk together unfettered by anything, safe the welfare of the people of Guyana. I am asking this House to consider those amendments placed by the Prime Minister.
A motion has been brought to this House by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition. This motion has flouted the norm of parliamentary procedures in a number of ways, in its presentation, and seeks an end result in one of the resolutions as beyond…
Mr. Speaker: One second Hon. Member. You said that this motion has flouted parliamentary procedures and that would mean that the Clerk and I allowed the procedures to be flouted. Just to say that there was extensive discussion - analysis. The Clerk even consulted with his counterpart in Trinidad and Tobago. I spoke to the former Speaker of Grenada. We consulted experts, past and present, on this motion to ensure that everything correctly was done. Maybe it ought not to have been brought in the opinion of your party, but in terms of the procedures, I am saying that we did everything possible to ensure that it was properly before the House, if at all it was to be heard.
Dr. Persaud: Thank you for that clarification Mr. Speaker. But I would like to dissect this motion and pay attention to key phrases that were used within the motion. One of those was, I would just like to quote it:
“…censures and expresses a ‘no confidence’ in the Minister of Home Affairs,… over his inability to discharge his responsibility for public security and calls for the immediate revocation of his appointment as a Minister of Government and dismissal from office.”
The Constitution clearly stipulates no confidence can only be invoked in two instances, and I would like to state them.
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution clearly states that the Cabinet, including the President, can be asked to resign with a vote of no confidence by a majority vote by the National Assembly, but then… [Mrs. Backer: I hope you understand what that means.] Of course, I do. Thank you.
The other case in which that no confidence can be invoked is against the Leader of the Opposition, in article 184, if he does not enjoy the confidence of the National Assembly. If we look at articles 108 and 183 of our Constitution, it is pellucidly clear that the Minister can only demit his office if he resigns or it is directed by the President. In terms of asking of it to be done by the National Assembly, it cannot happen.
Speaking of the Minister of Home Affairs responsibility, and I quote from the Police Act, chapter 16:01:
“The Commissioner shall, subject to the general orders and directions of the Minister have command and superintendence of the Force, and he shall be responsible for peace, good order throughout Guyana…”
The power of the Minister is confined to general orders and directions of an executive nature to the Commissioner and those that would be seen as internally supervising or micromanaging any operation by the Guyana Police Force. In other words, the Minister may give general orders or directions as to what functional operations should be carried out, but not necessarily how they should be carried out.
I am not immune to the pain of those who have lost their family members or a loved one on the 18th of July through lethal gunfire in Linden. In fact, working in an emergency room has given me an unwanted familiarity with death by various types of trauma and the grief of the survival family, subsequently. I listened to reports and presentations made by all those who sit in this National Assembly and emanating from the media. I listened to those reports of those who experienced traumatic moment and understand their pain, their sadness and, yes, even their anger. No one and no one should lose their life in struggling for what they believed in. We all would have struggled, and even protested, for what we believe in, at some point in time.
It would be reprehensible of me to condone those fatal shootings. It would be remiss of me if I did not recognise the commitment of those health workers who fought tirelessly to save life and limb and the courage of those in this House who rendered assistance to those who were in dire straits. To those families who have lost their near, dear and love one, I extend my condolences, my prayer and my sympathy. To all the leaders who sit in this National Assembly, in the wake in the sequence of events which transpired, I say this: Reason and responsibility must be foremost in our mind and in our actions. We should not be cavalier in our statements, nor our actions without regard for implications and consequences that may follow there on. Every citizen of this country has the fundamental right to life and the loss of life should not be used - I am going to borrow one word - as “collateral” to fuel political agenda.
If we look at article 38 of the Constitution it talks about the right to life and how life can be lost, what is constitutionally allowed in terms of taking life. I am sure that all Members are fully aware of this article in the Constitution. I merely draw from our Constitution. No one in this House should or is dismissing that people have died; no one is taking the enormity of those deaths lightly. We are a country with laws and with a Constitution. These instruments govern the way forward. There are initiatives by the Government and the President, objective evidence-based initiatives and means of establishing what transpired, and these have been implemented in the form of post-mortems involving independent personnel, such as pathologist, and a Commission of Inquiry has also been one such initiative. These should be allowed to determine the way forward, how we should proceed within the ambit of the law, as the findings, unearthed through these media, will determine who is culpable, who bears responsibility, and I have no doubt in my mind, once this is revealed, the penalties will be just.
Every action in life brings with it consequences and more so responsibilities. We have a responsibility that our actions do not worsen an already volatile situation. We have a responsibility to every citizen in Guyana that our actions do not in any way encroach on their fundamental rights. I want to quote again from the Constitution, article 40:
“Every person in Guyana is entitled to a basic right to a happy, creative and productive life, free from hunger, ignorance and want. That right includes the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.”
Blocking the access bridges, haranguing and harassing others not involved in a cause deny them this fundamental right. People are hungry; people are suffering; blocking those bridges is not allowing them food and fuel, but we should not contribute more to it. I must say leaders in this House, in the truest sense, should be with the people they are leading to action at all times, to be recognised as the tempering authority, to channel their followers’ energies, to protest peacefully and to ensure that a cause is not misused as an opportunity to lute, attack or damage public or personal property or harm other citizens. Peaceful protest does not encompass any of these things.
Article 32 of the Constitution states:
“It is the joint duty of the State, the society and every citizen to combat and prevent crime and other violations of the law and to take care of and protect public property.”
I scoured the reports and did not see many leaders on the front line that sad day. Maybe things would have transpired differently.
The AFC, where was its leader? The one person I saw and heard of is Ms. Vanessa Kissoon. She was there. We also talk that we want… [Interruption from Opposition Members] Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that I am addressing the National Assembly with all its decorum and not a street corner. I also feel if we want things to happen and we want things to happen the right way we must provide those conditions for those things to happen. Continuously blocking bridges, continuously causing unrest, what kind of conditions are we putting in place for anyone to go there? Do you not think that each one of us want to go there? I looked at one of the headlines and I saw that the joint forces advised people not to go there.
Dialogue, in which agreements are honoured, is the way forward. If it is perceived that things have gone irate on both sides of the House as the old adage says: “two wrongs do not make a right”. I say to the leaders, all leaders, let us exhibit those qualities of us by the people of Guyana - maturity, reason, intelligence, sincerity and of paramount importance concern for the welfare of all of our citizens and our beloved country. That is why I am here; that is why you are here; that is why each one of us is here. Do not let us descend into the quagmire of injudicious actions in our haste to appear as champions of justice. As Guyana and the world watch us, I would like to quote Mahatma Gandhi. He believes in ahimsa and non-violence:
“We may never be strong enough to be entirely non-violent in thought, word and deed, but we must keep non-violence as our goal and make strong progress towards it. The attainment of freedom whether for a person or nation or a world must be an exact proportion to the attainment of non-violence for each. Non-violence is not a garment to put on and off at will. It is a seat in the heart and must be an inseparable of our being. Violence breeds violence, pure goals could never justify impure a violent action. They say the means after all is just the means. I will say the means after all is everything. As the means, so is the end. If we take of care of the means we are bound to reach the end sooner or later.”
I am not in support of the motion as it is. I beg of this House, I beg of all of us sitting here, let us consider, let us deeply consider the amendments proposed by the Prime Minister which clearly delineate a sequence of events which have unfolded after the 18th of July. Let us vote with a conscience; let us vote for the welfare of the people of Guyana.
I thank you Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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