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Death and Death by Violent Means

Hits: 1147 | Published Date: 30 Jul, 2012
| Speech delivered at: 26th Sitting- Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Gail Teixeira, MP

Ms. Teixeira: No, fireball is Philomena-Sahoye. I am not in that category. Death and death by violent means is even more traumatic. The death of the three men at Linden is painful for all of us and the families. We must find a space to try to find the answers for our country that would lead us down a path that could help us to come to terms with some of the major problems in our society and not to nook this for narrow interest.
I speak tonight with a very heavy heart. I was a former Minster of Home Affairs. I oversaw the Ministry of Home Affairs in the most violent criminal way that this country has ever experienced. I did so when a colleagues, Minister Gajraj, was before the Commission of Inquiry and when the Discipline Forces Commission for which Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger was a part of and Mr. Nandlall. It is six years later since I held that post. The death and violence I saw as the Minister and the person ultimately responsible to the people of this country, I was haunted and still am by the violence and the death that took place in that period. In 2004, upon assuming the post and I must say with great trepidation that there was the Eccles shooting of the guard at the Eccles gas station and people who were burnt in their houses at Agricola and there were people who were gunned at and some killed on the East Bank Highway. It is in my period of tenure that the Kaieteur News murders took place and they ran through Agricola and where people were killed. It is under my watch that my colleague from Toronto, Satyadeow Shaw, was murdered.
My Commission of Police is now the former Commission of Police, sitting on the other side of this House. I never thought at that time that any advice I was given had a political overtone. I accepted that I was given professional and technical advice and I operated on that basis. I will say this, I watched what happened on the Eccles corridor and where the police where incompetent, incapable and ineffective to stop the shooting down that took place on that night. Yes, some of the newspapers said that Teixeira should resign. No one came to this House to say that Teixeira should resign. Maybe, having listened to this side of the House, for every death that takes place under a Minister of Home Affairs he should resign.
It is not about whether I am a nice person or not, or whether I am a nicer person than Mr. Rohee. The holding of the post of the Minister of Home Affairs, the crown is heavy on the head. I have heard Mr. Greenidge talk about policy. The standing operating procedures under which the police operate are not designed by any Minister; they are written by the technical professional people in the Guyana Police Force. The standard operating procedures for the Fire Service and the Prison are also written by those persons.
There are many unanswered crimes in this country. There are many unanswered court cases in this country. There are also commissions of enquiries that have been held. The commission of enquiry that was held on Dr. Walter Rodney before 1992 is a sham. The Commission of Inquiry that was held on the Disciplined Forces Commission also faced many problems. The Disciplined Forces Commission presented the recommendations to this House in the Eight Parliament and in the Ninth Parliament. In the Eight Parliament we did not conclude the examination of the 168 recommendations. It came back in this House and a number of those issues, even when the report came out were being acted on by the Police, Prison Service, Fire Service and the Army. I know, because I remember as being a member of that committee, the Committee asked the Commission of the Police of that time to present it with its views on the recommendations and what actions were being taken. That was tabled in this House in the Committee and the former Commission of Police is well aware of this.
When we look at the motion there are a number of issues we need to examine. In any situation, and I remember in a number of the shootings, included in Buxton, the horror story of people being beheaded and shot down, young boys being killed by gangs and I remember those who were thought to be informing with the Police and the horror of it. Part of the horror was that people did not give evidence.
There cannot be a case unless somebody makes a report. That is why in the whole Citizen Security Project we developed new stations and the idea of the one-way mirrors and such like, to make witnesses feel more secure so that they could give information. One of the issues that we have to face as a country is the issue of trust and confidence. How do we build trust and confidence as a people, as political Parties, when the issue of trust… [Interruption] I come to trust because it relates to this motion - trust and confidence of the Police Force. When the Police Force did not act in the way people felt they should before 2006, the people felt the Police were powerless and lacked trust in the Police Force. When the Police Force went too far on a limb, they felt betrayed - the trust between the political parties and Members of this House on both sides. This motion brings out the issues of honor, principles and good faith.
This Parliament and on this floor, on the general floor, we have no competence whatsoever to address evidence and information of who so what, when and where, who did what, when and where. The issues of policies that Mr. Greenidge talks about is very hairy-fairy because the policy issues are, did the police have the Standing Operating Procedures (SOP)? Did they follow the SOPs? Who were the persons that fired is not policy; that is not policy Mr. Greenidge. Mr. Speaker, we talked a lot about human rights in this House on 25th July and today. I believe that we are still a country that upholds democratic principles and human rights. Therefore, a person is innocent until proven guilty; a person has the right to trial. If one does not hold to these two principles, these two rights, we descend into anarchy. This House has no competence to deal with being the investigator. This House in this form here, in this large gathering here, has no competence to investigate, to be the judge, the jury and the executioner. We have no such competence.
The Attorney General has spoken about the constitutional issues; my colleague Minister Ganga Persaud has spoken about the humanitarian issues. Mr. Speaker on the 18th July when the report came in we were first told all different numbers to do with the dead and injured.  An immediate statement was released to deal with the full investigation; a full independent investigation. On the following day there were meetings with the Chamber of Commerce from Region No. 10, Linden, with the Leader of the APNU, Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger, Mr. Trotman as leader of the AFC, and his delegation. The issue was raised to do with the electricity tariffs by the President and both parties said, “this is not the time to talk about electricity tariffs; this is a security problem, and let us address the security problem”. There was a discussion about a Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened; who is responsible and anybody who has been responsible will face the full letter of the law.
I believe on 19th July there was an honorable agreement among gentlemen and gentlewoman, being myself of course. Mr. Hughes was there. Sorry, gentlewomen. At that meeting we had come to an agreement that this was the best way to go, to find out what happened and to take action to make sure that all those who were guilty, responsible and culpable would have the full letter of law thrown at them, and that whatever remedial action needed to be taken to rectify it will be done.
I have talk about trust and honor. Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger I have a lot of respect for you. I have not known you before until after the elections, and I work with you as my Government does, as a man of honor; and I believe that you are a man of honor. But we cannot sit as we do in the inter-parliamentary Party dialogue and agree on a course of action, agree on sub-committees, and in the midst of the sub-committee looking at an issue there is a motion before the House, such as moved by Mr. Ramjattan on the Independence of Parliament. We had a discussion on another issue in the April budget talks. There were a series of issues in which there is a document, and we went through the eleven points raised by Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger. We reached agreement on some, some we did not, others were postponed, some were deferred and a whole range of deadlines were set on some. The Commission of Inquiry is what we agreed to. When we agreed to this on 19th July, Mr. Harmon and Dr. Luncheon were designated to meet and talk about terms of reference. Mr. Speaker you may not know that as of today, they were meetings that went on between the Government and the Opposition to do with those terms of reference. In other words, that this is not a pie in the sky, this is something that we are genuinely, I believe, working on. We believe that this is the way, with an independent commission of inquiry. The AFC insisted on the Commission being international but the agreement between the APNU and the Government is that there would be international presence. When those parties talk this issue would be address. It was not understood. In fact when we were coming to meet on 25th July the issue was about an adjournment motion, and that could be well understood. It was to be an adjournment motion to deal with the events in Linden - the killing of three people, the injured, the loss of property and all these things. The Motion was changed into a motion of no confidence. I do not know what triggered this. I do not know what made a switch in course. But the motion is calling for the Minister to resign and or to be removed.
Let me now deal with this issue. I do not understand why this switch in course because the Commission of Inquiry would deal with all of this. If it were found that the Minister of Home Affairs gave a direct order or was implicated his head would go - we have said that as a Government already - and anybody else that is involved. However, you in this House have brought a motion…
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Mr. Speaker, a Point of Order.
Mr. Speaker: Point of Order?
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Just to clarify; just to make a Point of Order. At the meeting that I attended on the 19th July with the AFC and the PPP/C - it was a tripartite meeting - I made it clear that I did not have confidence in the Minister of Home Affairs and I will take measures for him to leave, to go. The Minister of Home Affairs was present, I said there was nothing personal but that I did not have confidence in his competence. It is not a question of honor, and I do not think that the speaker should impugn my honor. I made it clear at the meeting of the 19th that I did not have confidence in the Minister of Home Affairs to look after public security.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker the Hon. Member has a right to express his views on what he thinks the Minister is or is not. That does not mean it went into the discussion on the terms of reference 
Mr. Speaker: One second. I believe what the Leader of the Opposition is saying is that what he has done here was not a sleight of hand. He did state at the meeting at the Office of The President at which I was present, that one of the four demands being made by the APNU was the resignation or the removal of the Minister. The Minister was present and he listened. That demand was repeated by the AFC at the time. Maybe Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger will explain what let to this action being taken. Perhaps he anticipated that some action may have been taken by Government, I do not know, but the point is that he did list as a demand the resignation or removal of the Minister, in that meeting, as a condition precedent. Thank you.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker we all have our notes, I assume. The issue is that there was never the understanding on the part of Government that there was any linkage between the two issues, or was this going to move to a motion in this House. What was a clear understanding of good faith was that the Commission of Inquiry would address the events that led up to what happened in Linden - the shootings - and get to the bottom of who killed these people.
This motion before us we have amended. And I appeal to Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger as the motion has been amended. He is now elected as Head of the People’s National Congress (PNC), he is now Head of the APNU and he is now Leader of the Opposition. As I said, the crown is heavy on the head that wears it. So the amendments we made on the motion uphold the main points in relation to the condemning of the killing, the sympathy to the families, and includes a request to this House to endorse the Commission of Inquiry being set up with suitable and agreed on terms of reference. I understand up to tonight that there has been some movement. We need to get on and do this. Therefore, I am saying to Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger in particular, that the amendments we have made offer an opportunity for this House to reach agreement on this motion and to move forward. If this is all about showing who has got the votes then I should have been removed as the Minister of Home Affairs. In fact the Commissioner of Police then should have been removed too. I remember well… [Interruption] I am talking about the principles you laid down. You have laid down the principles not me.    [Mr. Ramjattan: … ministerial responsibility.]     Let us get to ministerial responsibility because you do not understand what you are talking about. Ministerial responsibility is being bandied about. Ministerial responsibility is a principle, it is not a legal instrument; it is a principle and is always based on the recognition of the duality between the Executive and the Parliament. Always recognize that.  The moving of a no confidence against the Government is completely different from a no confidence against a Minister. Therefore it is also when one does bring censure motions against Ministers. I am coating from “Responsible Government, Ministerial Responsibility, Motions of Censure, No Confidence,” by David Blunt, The Australasian Parliamentary Review Spring 2004:
“Ministers (in response to the things that he must resign) very rarely resign for failings on the part of the administrative units under their authority.”
This has to do with the ministerial responsibility. In the circumstances when Ministers do resign they fall into a number of categories. Where the Minister cannot support government policies, that is collective responsibility; where the Minister is involved in unethical conduct or some sort of scandal like the sex scandals of the British Government in the1960s which some of you might be too young to know about; where the Minister misleads Parliament, and where the Minister is directly responsible for major error; where there is direct personal culpable evidence. Now Mr. Speaker, direct culpable evidence, but nothing has been said in this House that there is any direct culpable evidence against the Minister. I have heard subjectivism; I have heard all sorts of things, but whether we believe in it or not, whether we feel it is right or not, we must uphold the principles of ‘innocent until proven’ and ‘the right to trial’.
Mr. Speaker, the Members here… [Interruption by Mr. Ramjattan] No I do not understand anything Mr. Ramjattan; you must you must take the job of the Minister of Home Affairs and let us see how you do. [Interruption] Including pepper sauce and every else; let us hear about the pepper sauce.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, let us get this debate completed. I need to hear Ms. Teixeira address this House. I need to hear her. [Interruption]
Ms. Teixeira:  I am provocative. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker: Many provocative and emotive statements have been made during the currency of this debate on either side. Let us accord her some respect; let us her, please.
Ms. Teixeira: An example that I want to bring into the debate is the issue of the Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica in 2010 were the Joint Services or the equivalent of that in Jamaica, invaded Tivoli Gardens in relation to crime and gangs. 73 people were killed, including children, by gangs and by police in the crossfire. There was a whole debate in the Jamaican Parliament about a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Golding. In fact, in his own Party there were two different views. One Member brought a no-confidence motion for Prime Minister Golding to  resign, and the other felt that if that was done it would embolden the criminals who were for the first time retreating. Instead there were proposals on how to improve the crime situation. The motion against Prime Minister Golding was taken to a vote and the no-confidence motion did not win. Of course afterwards there was the Dudus Coke affair and Prime Minister Golding called an election.
This was a case where 73 people were killed in crossfire; if you saw the footage and the heavy armory that was used.
Mr. Speaker let me go back to my period because I see the motion talks about only under Minister Rohee...     [Ms. Backer: Because it is Mr. Rohee that we are dealing with.]      Well, yes, because you all decided that you did not want to deal with me because you had other people whom you want to keep in the Force. Therefore, you did not want to point a finger at me. You were happy with the arrangements. As the Americans said, and as the Wikipedia said, I was lightweight. However, Mr. Speaker, this House has to very judicious. A right to vote, a right to assemble, a right to protest, a right to speak are critical rights that must be protected. No one has challenged the right of people in Linden to protest; to peaceful protest. I heard all sorts of and very disturbing things Mr. Speaker of innuendoes, of statements of what did and did not happen, and comparing the situation with other communities. This I find very painful because the problem that confronts this country is about a fragile democracy in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, where we are still struggling to overcome poverty. The issue of how the cake is divided up and how people are able to improve their lives is always going to be a contest.  There is always going to be those who play with people insecurities, whether its ethnicity or gender or religion.
I again turn my attention to the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger. I think about what would be the best thing for this country, what would be the best thing for this House. We talked about a strategic partnership and this type of thing; we talked about how we are going to work together, and national unity. Tonight when we take this vote it would be a test about our national unity. Are we prepared? Are we prepared? Are we prepared? Mr. Speaker are we prepared that opposition looks carefully at the amending motion to retain the essence of Brigadier (Ret’d) Grangers motion and to allowed for a forward path, a way for us to agree and go forward?
Mr. Speaker, I believe firmly in the good faith efforts of those who have been meeting from 19th July to now. I believe firmly in the good faith efforts that we have had with the regional representatives, Mr. Solomon and Ms. Kissoon. I regret that as of tonight I understand on television that the announcement by the Chairman is that he has no written document of his engagement with the President of Guyana when, in fact, on Tuesday, 24th July, arising out of discussion with the Regional Chairman, Hon. Member Ms. Kissoon, Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine and, of course, Mr. Aubrey Norton we agreed that we will try to find the draft language to go forward with the technical team to look at the electricity increases and the economic issues that confront Linden. As of now, a week later, we have not got a response, and it is not because Mr. Solomon and I do not talk, and it is not because the President and Mr. Solomon are not talking. They have been talking whether in physical presence or on the phone. They have been talking.
Mr. Speaker, maybe Mr. Greenidge has just return to Guyana, but I will say this for my Prime Minister, that the issue of electricity has been an ongoing issue. There have been many formulas, many options, and many consultations over and over and over and over again in Linden. I will just go back as far as 2006. I would not even go back to before that; I would not even go back to when Mr. Burnham was the President. I am dealing with the last five years. There were many options and each time they were turned down. The blocking of the bridge is not the first time. There was one in 2009. In 2009 Mr. Corbin and President Jagdeo went up about five days after it started; not as some people are saying, the day after it started and all that nonsense.                    [Mrs. Backer: Inaudible]   I am talking about when they went up together Madam. Madam, listen carefully.
We have to try to find a solution to this issue. Therefore, we cannot be sitting in the back rooms talking and reaching agreement and then coming into the House with an alternative path.             [Mrs. Backer: It is not an alternative path.]       You do not want to call it an alternative path. How do you have a motion on this floor calling for the resignation of a Minister on a basis of which you have not proven culpability?  It is all conjecture; it is all speculation. Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger in particular - no other person on that side except Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger - because I believe that Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger has an opportunity tonight as the Leader of the PNC/R now to show that he wants to find a way out. 
The amendments have been put to this House. I am asking Mr. Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger that if he wishes to suspend the discussion to give him time we would more than willing to work with him. If he does not the amendment of the motion, allow for space, space for us to work together as APNU, AFC and the Government. Is that not what we say we want?  Is that not what we say we want? You can talk about shields and water cannons and this and that, but I will tell you this, just to close on that technical issue. I remember being fascinated as the Minister of Home Affairs with water cannons because with the big Seattle riots they were using water cannons and I saw these water cannons being used and pelting people up in the air. I remember talking to my Commissioner of Police, as my chief advisor, on this issue because the none-lethal methods people have talked about are actually not as none lethal as you think they are. This House debated in 2009, Mr. Franklin’s bringing a motion on the use of tasers. 
Ms. Teixeira: Tasers are considered more non-lethal than the heavy methods.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Franklyn’s motion was for the House to adopt the concept of non-lethal use of force, including the use of tasers.
Ms. Teixeira: Yes.
Mr. Speaker: Because I seconded the motion with him and I have been recalling it all night, so it was not just limited to tasers.
Ms. Teixeira: I did not misrepresent, the discussion was looking on non-lethal weapons. The Speaker has added on the other part. I was not misrepresenting. Mr. Speaker, any weapon can be used for lethal and non-lethal purposes. The reason with the water cannon, the advice I got was that the Minister of Home Affairs, in relations to the water cannon with which we had wanted to represent to the Government to buy for us, was that it was not a good idea, it could be very lethal because it could pelt people up and around the sky and break their limbs. Now I am hearing from the person who advised me that this was not a good idea, that, “Why was the water cannon not used?” This is why I am asking...
Mr. Felix: A Point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I just want to make a point. I would like the [Interruption]    [Mr. Seeraj: Why do you not radio it in.]    I have to ask Mr. Rohee. I would the Minister to clarify...  [Interruption]...my position...
Mr. Speaker: If something has been said that you need to clarify for the record you can do so.
Mr. Felix: Yes, it is a clarification. The situation with the water cannon is one in which the Government of Guyana now sought to purchase. I did not advise them by something as               [Mr. B. Williams: Derelict.]   a proper word, derelict as this one, because that cannot throw anyone anywhere.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, I do not get your Point of Clarification up to now. You have used the current piece of equipment as a reference which was acquired long after you left office. You can clarify something that happened when you were Commissioner, you are not doing so. So I am not interested in what is present now and bought now. The question is, do you need to clarify anything about your tenure as Commissioner of Police, vis-a-vis a water cannon? If not, it is not a valid clarification. Mr. Felix do you need... very well proceed Hon. Member.
Ms. Teixeira: In conclusion, I believe that we have an opportunity in this House tonight to have ... [Mrs. Backer: You sound so convincing.]       I am sorry if I sound convincing darling. The issue is that we have an opportunity that the good faith efforts, we can do an analysis to say who did what at the wrong time, who did not go and do what when they were supposed to have, we can do all the analysis because all of us will write our memoirs at one time. I am waiting to write mine about my period as Minister of Home Affairs, but I am waiting for some persons to not be around, because what I have to say will be detrimental.
Let us in this House, - we have started on a part of a Commission of Inquiry, we have worked on the terms of reference - let us in this motion amend it to reflect that this House totally and unambiguously supports the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and that we commit ourselves that whosoever is guilty; whosoever has been involved; who is responsible, that they will be dealt harshly and by the letter of the law.
We have a choice tonight, we can go on a path of law and order or we can go on a path of anarchy, you choose which one, I know which side I am on. Thank you.

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