Deaths in Linden1696 25 Jul, 2012
Minister of Housing and Water [Mr. Ali]: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Hon. Members on the opposite side to give me an opportunity to be heard; you know I have a very soft voice.
I concur with the Hon. Leader of the Opposition that tonight as we speak here not only Linden is listening all of Guyana is listening to us. We can never allow ourselves at this point as leaders to be reckless. We should not allow ourselves to be reckless in the way we address this issue of national importance, national significance and national implications, because this issue transcends the boundaries of Linden, Region 10; it goes to Region 8 and 9, and all of Guyana. We cannot use simplistic arguments to cast everything into one bundle. The Hon. Leader of the Opposition when he concluded said we must be careful in blaming the police, or do not cast blame to the police; something to that effect. I believe that in this House we have good people. I believe in every leader there are good qualities. I believe in the Police Force there are good police officers. I believe there are police officers who understand the roles and responsibilities and must be careful that we do not condemn the police officers and the disciplined forces in one broad brush as we address this issue.
I wish to join the Government in expressing our sympathies to the families of those who died. Also, we express our prayers for those who are injured. Similarly, I express our support to those in the society who lost assets, to those in our society went through untold damages, and to those that are affected psychologically by the varied events. We must not be short of understanding the wide variation of events that surround the issue we are discussing. Whilst we speak about humanity, whilst we speak about democracy, whilst we speak about leadership, whilst we speak about decency, all of these things carry with them a weight of responsibility. As such as leaders we cannot allow what can be termed a decent protest to be infiltrated with elements. I can go here because I am not going to stand in this House and cast with a wide broad brush all those who protested responsible for the destruction and loss of property that took place.
I am going to position that when we lead we must understand that our leadership carries with it the burden of responsibilities. We cannot... [Interruption] I am coming to that, we cannot allow the peaceful protest to be infiltrated by elements that present distinct dangers to property and people. I make that statement comprehensively clear.
When we speak about democracy, we must understand that democracy brings with it certain structural mechanisms; it brings with it checks and balances; it brings with it remedies. Just as the Hon. Member, Ms. Vanessa Kissoon recalled her involvement and I say to you, Hon. Member, that indeed that must be a traumatic experience. I recall too that I was among the first set of people who visited my Comrade, the Hon. Former Minister, Satyadeow Sawh’s home and saw him lying in a pool of blood, with his sister and brother, shot cold blooded, dead. I remember the emotions that rushed through. I remember the calm nature of the leadership of my party then, because they were faced with many questions. I am happy today that my party, my leaders, presented leadership at that time. [Interruption]
The Hon. Member, Mr. Nagamootoo, if you check back the statements he made on that occasion you will understand what I mean when I say I congratulate the leaders of my party on this side for the leadership they exercised during that period.
As I speak about democracy and as I speak about the checks and balances, immediately after the events of that night in Linden, the party – the Government – issued a statement, long before any statement from the Opposition. The statement outlined very clearly the Government’s commitment to inquiry, to ascertain what were the events... [Interruption] this speaks directly... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, I have noticed that whenever there is a reference to visits to Linden it causes this. It could be and this is just on the side, that at some point in time this National Assembly wish to have a delegation representing the Assembly go to Linden, but obviously that...[Interruption]
Mr. Ali: Mr. Speaker...
Mr. Speaker: I am just saying that as a collective, some of us may go to show sympathy to the people.
Mr. Ali: Mr. Speaker, I was saying that democracy brings with it these mechanisms and immediately the Government committed itself to a Commission of Inquiry. The immediate call from the Opposition was for the Government to establish the very inquiry. The AFC asked that an international person be a part of the inquiry. Am I right? The President made a commitment after that, that not only was the Government committed to this inquiry, but that the Government was committed to examine the request made by the Alliance for Change. Here is it that you are asking for the democratic process to work; here it is that we are talking about Governments in a democratic environment and we are trying to shoo the democratic mechanism before it starts.
We cannot pre-empt that inquiry; we cannot make conclusive statements here; we cannot do that it would not be responsible. [Mrs. Backer: So we must not sympathise with them, we cannot bring a motion.] Of course you can sympathise, all of us are sympathising.
As I have said before, if you take the arguments of the Hon. Member, Mrs. Cathy Hughes, when she said that the final responsibility lies with the Minister, similarly, when we talked about the burning of public infrastructure, the damage to property and the fear that these events generate - there are records to show what was incited and what was said – then the leaders must bear responsibility for this destruction. And if we go by that simplistic argument then all the leaders who would have been part of this activity that sought this type of destruction should offer their resignation here. We cannot have double standards so when you want to speak about responsibility and the consequence of responsibility, it must be equal on all sides.
I want to say that the primary objective of that peaceful protest was, as the Hon. Minister Benn said, to look to present a case in relation to a policy of the Government that would have seen a phased and structural implementation of a plan that would have brought parity in terms of the payment for electricity. We cannot escape that. That is the geneses of the protest.
This Parliament is going to be tested, I am sure. For a matter of fact, if I may offer some advice to my brother, the Minister of Finance, I would say to him, we must understand that there must be parity in policy and Guyana Power and Light Corporation (GPL) has been talking about the consequences of a national increase for electricity because of the conditions the Parliament presented. Let me say that in the interest of all of Guyana I will ask the Hon. Member, the Minister of Finance, to bring to this National Assembly supplementary provisions that would see the cushioning of any increase of electricity across the broad nationally and let us see whether it would be accepted in the National Assembly. Let us bring that supplementary and let us see what will be the position. We will see then what is political posturing and what leadership is.
It is not fair to say that the Government was not dialoguing on this issue. The Hon. Leader of the Opposition would tell you that one of the issues that was discussed during the budget was this very policy. [Mrs. Backer: And what happened?] And what happened was that the Prime Minister came to the National Assembly, read a statement and I cannot remember anyone objecting to the statement, I cannot remember or recall anyone objecting to the statement, but good political leadership would dictate that we all take ownership of that statement; that we all take responsibility for that statement. That is what good political leadership would dictate.
Let me say that during the intervening period I did not see a single motion from the Opposition addressing this policy of increases in Linden. Not a single motion. Let us understand the genesis, let us understand the purpose of the protest and let our brothers and sisters in Linden understand comprehensively who stood consistently on their side. I would appeal to my brothers and sisters in Linden not to be misled on this issue.
My Hon. Friend, my Hon. Brother, one who has played a great role in monitoring me, the Hon. Clement Rohee. I stand here tonight in this National Assembly as a proud student of Clement Rohee. I want to say that the Hon. Clement Rohee is not a novelist; the Hon. Clement Rohee understands his role and responsibility comprehensively; the Hon. Clement Rohee is one of the most careful thinkers, he will never ever act in an irresponsible manner and I can say this confidently without fear of contradiction. Whilst we may not want to accept this, the Hon. Clement Rohee is one of Guyana’s finest internationalists. [Interruption] I can repeat this.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members we are still mourning the deaths of three persons and asking this House to take action on the death of these three persons. I remind you again why we are here. We are here because three persons were killed and we are asking this House to approve a motion that condemns the deaths, expresses sympathy and holds a Minister responsible, remember that. Thank you.
Mr. Ali: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It is because Mr. Clement Rohee is one of our finest internationalists that is why I know he understands international rules, international regulations and international policies governing the execution of his duties and responsibilities to the people of Guyana.
On this note, I wish to conclude by reiterating the Government’s sympathy with the families at this time and I wish to equally state that this Government stands with an outstanding Comrade, an outstanding Minister and we are fully in support with our Minister, the Hon. Clement Rohee.
I thank you. [Applause]
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