Deaths in Linden2523 25 Jul, 2012
Mr. Lumumba: I would like to join with the other colleagues in this House to apologise, if I can, or if I have the authority to, for the deaths of the citizens of Linden. Nowhere in the world should anyone be shot or injured because he or she is involved in a protest, and, in particular, a protest that spells out his or her concerns for what he or she perceived to be his or her economic conditions. I have been involved in many protests and one of the most frightening things is to watch the police in front of you with a weapon or a baton, so it was a sad day. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, in particular, the citizens of Linden and the Members on the opposite side, that the Government of Guyana, in particular the President of Guyana and the Minister of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Members and senior operatives in the party of the Government, did not give any instruction. I have worked with those comrades for a number of years and on most occasions they have been on the other side of brutality. [Mrs. Backer: Was it in the last twenty years?] Even in the last twenty years they were on the other side of brutality.
When we talk about this problem we must remember Kent State University when the National Guards shot many students. We must remember the young man in California, Mr. King, who was beaten by the police. We must remember the innocent people who were beaten and killed in Trinidad, recently, and in Jamaica. What is interesting, Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, in none of those occasions did the police chief or the Minister in charge of that particular entity had to resign. This issue cannot be about Minister Rohee.
This issue has wider implications. It is important that we as politicians and Members of Parliament talk about the genesis of this issue. Removing and impeaching Minister Rohee will not solve the problem of Linden. In order for us to focus on this we must speak about how we got to this point- the most important point.
There was a time in Linden that every young man and young woman, when graduated from school, would want to go and live and work in Linden. I learnt to use knives and forks in Linden at Stephenson’s House. Linden is where you would go in those days. Linden had the highest amount of employed people at one time in this country. Something had happened, something called the “Arab oil boycott”. Aluminium became competitive. The bauxite industry throughout the world collapsed.
Also, and I do not want to get involved as to who was in power. It is incidental that the People’s National Congress (PNC) was in power and Mr. Burnham and Mr. Hoyte was in power. The fact is that the bauxite industry around the world collapsed. When that industry collapsed people were laid off and sent home and Linden began to decline. In the same way, when the rice industry took blows the rice farmers still had to pay their electricity bills. When the sugar industry took blows they still had to pay their electricity bill. The questions cannot be about Minister Rohee, it has to be about how we solve the problem of Linden. It is very simplistic, Members of Parliament.
We are sent here to represent our constituents, but when we reach here we have to represent our country. We want to impeach Minister Rohee. The President has agreed to a Commission of Inquiry. We have had many terrible times. We had the death of Father Dark. We had the death of Vincent Teekah and we had the death of my brother and friend, Mr. Walter Rodney. I believe, in terms of internationalism, if there is any time for a Commission of Enquiry was at the death of Walter Rodney.
I believe that there must be a Commission of Enquiry. I believe that those who are responsible for the death of those people must be dealt with. But, we have no evidence that the Hon. Minister is involved. I think it is unfair for mature Members of Parliament to just select a person and treat him like a baseball. It is wrong. [Mrs. Backer: Let us take the Minister of Foreign Affairs.] You see that, Mr. Speaker, that is the point, they just want to take somebody.
It is politics. It is not about Minister Rohee, this attack is on the Government of Guyana. This is what you call an attempted political coup d’état. The President of Guyana has opened the door. He has said that he will put the tariff increase on hold. He said that he will organise the Opposition or those who were at the meeting to have a technical committee to study the increases. He also said he would have an economic team to look at inputs of Linden. He has opened the door.
I am saying that the Opposition Leader has to lead. The President has opened the door. Brother Granger has to lead. He has to seize the initiative and deal with the issue. This issue of Linden is not about Mr. Aubrey Norton, nor is it about Member of Parliament Mr. Greenidge. This issue of Linden is not about Mr. Solomon; it is about Guyana. When people talk about what has happened in Linden they are talking about Guyana. The internet does not say Linden, it says Guyana. I am saying to you that the Opposition Leader must lead- the President has opened the door.
The death of innocent people is historic and it is terrible, but the most fundamental question here is how we deal with the issue. We do not deal with the issue by hanging an innocent person without evidence or a trial. [Ms. Ally: We are not hanging anybody.] We are attempting to hang Minister Rohee. You are hoping to do that, but this Government will stand by the side of Minister Rohee because he is innocent. He did not direct any police or officer to fire any bullets on the people of Linden. [Mrs. Backer: How do you know?] [Ms. Ally: Were you there?] I know the man and the character of the human being. I have seen the development of this Minister. I know his capacity. Throughout this country they will tell you that Minister Rohee is probably, in terms of twenty or thirty years, one of the best Ministers this country has ever produce; they will tell you that. If you walk among the policemen you will hear the comments about Minister Rohee. He has brought discipline to them.
I find it interesting that when there was the “ballot box murder”, the Minister in the PNC Government did not resign. He was not impeached. Of course they could not impeach him because the election was rigged. Everybody was PNC in the Parliament, but still there was no talk. I am asking my brothers and sisters on the other side to look at the bigger picture. We must look at the development of Guyana. We recognise that this activity was horrible and terrible. None of us on this side can accept that. [Mr. B. Williams: Could it not have been prevented?] [Mr. Nagamootoo: And they are defending it.] I am not defending it. If you have evidence that the Minister gave those orders then the Minister has to go on trial. It is obvious, if you have evidence that Minister Rohee directed the assassination. The PNC had evidence of who killed Walter Rodney and did absolutely nothing. Let us deal with evidence.
I am saying comrades that this issue is not about Mr. Rohee; it is about the economic development and the future of Linden. In addition, it is about us working together to come up with a plan that is acceptable on both sides. You cannot have one person paying a $100 light bill and another person paying $10; it is unacceptable and cannot work. We recognise that we need to bring in the reform in Linden in a way that will minimise the pain. We recognise that, and we are prepared to sit and deal with that matter. But, one cannot have confrontation. We cannot have dialogue and one is occupying the streets. We cannot have dialogue and one is blocking the bridges.
The solution to this problem is not the impeaching and condemnation of Minister Rohee, a hardworking and efficient Minister. The issue here is with the Opposition Leader leading. I have said before, and I will reopen it, President Ramotar has opened the door. The people of Linden need to know that the President has said that he is going to put it on hold. He has a technical committee. I am asking the Opposition Leader to walk through that door and sit with the President and bring this issue to an end. It is not about impeaching Mr. Rohee, it is about bring the situation of Linden to an end so that people can live their normal lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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