Deaths in Linden1655 25 Jul, 2012
Ms. Manickchand: May it please you, Sir. Mr. Speaker, I rise to say tonight how very sorry I am, and I think Your Honour heard how very sorry we are that the events that came to the… [Interruption] Sir, we understand, I am very sorry about the events that brought this motion to the table.
Mr. Speaker: No singing please.
Ms. Manickchand: It sounded like a female voice. I was kind of surprised. Mr. Speaker I am not talking to the motion proper. I will come to the motion proper because this motion I speak of is one that is supposedly addressed to Minister Clement Rohee. I will come to why I do not believe that is the real motive tonight.
Citizens of the earth once born, in my view and in the view of the Government on whose behalf I speak tonight, have an alienable right to assembly; an alienable right to congregate; an alienable right to protest. I would not be surprised if I am part of a protest someday. That right must never be taken away from people without cause. We hold that view firmly. I am firmly of the view that if protesters are protesting peacefully and they are shot at by anybody, whoever shoots at them - and we will find that out at the inquiry - should be judged harshly, and should face the full force of the law. That is my view. I am not part of the proponent. I have heard the other view too that comes out of persons who hold themselves out to be human rights activists. I remember this matter coming up a while ago at a bar association conference when the escapees were creating havoc – that they should be arrested, patted on the back, offered coffee in the police station. I am not of that view. If someone is coming to the police with a bazooka one cannot ask the police to hold a shield and a baton. I say they should protect themselves because those policemen have to go back home to children and family, and they have to protect the State. But I say firmly that if there are peaceful protesters protesting then the Government feels strongly that we must allow them to protest. That is reflected in the view offered by Minister Rohee himself on a public programme. There was a protest coming up and he had a discussion with the police where it was understood and agreed that the highest level of restraint would be used… [Interruption] I am quoting Minister Rohee; it might not be word for word… that would allow for the protesters to exercise their right to protest. The Minister says he had that discussion and it was agreed on by the persons in charge. That persons were shot or that persons died as a result of activities that took place that night is beyond horrific and it must never be accepted by us in this House or by us in this country. Indeed, I believe Minister Rohee might have been acting that day when he met with those people with the understanding, having come out of an environment, where he himself might have been protesting, and he himself was dragged along [Interruption] Brickdam and locked up, where he himself might have been shot at, where we know we have the dark history…
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we cannot be telling other Members to shut their mouths. This is the National Assembly of Guyana. At the end of the day this is the National Assembly of Guyana, the most August and distinguished House in the land and we cannot and will not, speak to each other like that.
Mrs. Manickchand: Sir, we recognise those days as the dark, dark days in our nation, the time when people protesting because votes were stolen were shot. They are known as the “ballot box martyrs”. I understand – I was not existing at the time – that some of us in this House are very familiar with those days. We might want to question whether those persons who are so familiar with those days have moral authority to speak on today’s events or to lead a motion on today’s events. We must never return to the days when to protest the rigging of an election, when to protest something that a citizen feels aggrieved about sees us removing those persons for exercising their very right. I believe that was operating in Minister Rohee’s mind when he met with the Commander and the Police Force and asked them to use the highest level of restraint. What we know from 18th July must remain in our country’s mind, must remain in our country’s history a dark day, one that we will do all we can not to repeat. It must be something we work and strive not to have occurred again. What happened that night, we do not know as yet. All of us in here have asked for and have committed to an inquiry; we are going to find out what happened. I say without reservation and without apology that whatever that inquiry shows or whoever that inquiry shows to be culpable, that person must face our law and must be treated condignly. If indeed the inquiry shows that Minister Rohee gave an order – the Minister is saying he did not – I do not know that since when to fix one injustice we are going to deny the Minister his right to be allowed to defend himself. If Minister Rohee is culpable, then he too must face the full force of the law.
I am saying clearly that I do not believe, giving all the Minister has said, given the fact that nothing has been refuted, that there is any evidence before this National Assembly to call for the Minister’s removal. What we see are events that night that says somebody behaved like a rogue. Does that mean that we are to treat everybody that had responsibility that night as rogues? We have seen repeatedly across the world - in this country and in other countries - where there is a group of persons some of those persons will be delinquent persons. That is just how the world works. We have a Police Force and we have seen time and again, not as often as we have seen it for other countries – let us take the Trayvon Thomas – that there are policemen and women who go beyond the call of duty. I have seen them. Some of them give counsel, they are mothers, they are cooks, they are nurses, they are police officers, and they still have to go home and function. I have seen policemen and women who go way beyond the call of duty. Then there is an incident like the incident of Trayvon Thomas where two or three rogue officers acting on their own, without instructions and contrary to instructions and policies that are written, do something that is contrary to everything we understand to be inherently owned by a human being – they burn a young boy on his pelvic area. What do we do? Is the Minister responsible? Is the Commander responsible? We disciplined those officers.
Mr. Speaker: I just spoke about Members speaking to each other about shutting up, shutting your mouth and such like. We will not have that in this House. Allow the Minister to proceed, please.
Ms. Manickchand: In the same vein now, whoever did this may well have been acting in a rogue manner. If they were we must deal with them. We must send a condign message all across this land, echoing and resounding, that we as a people will not tolerate this. We will not allow this to happen under our watch while we remain alive under this earth, under this country’s flag. That is the message we must send.
I now come to what is the link between Mr. Clement Rohee as a policy maker, as a person who went beyond giving general directions as the motion describes, and the persons who pulled the trigger that night. We have not heard here any evidence or any suggestions that relate to [Mr. B. Williams: Set the Hansard straight- which night?] Mr. Williams clearly wants to speak, Sir. We have no evidence that suggests Minister Rohee was in any way involved with the persons who caused the deaths. I do not know how those deaths were caused as yet. The opposition Members may be right. I do not know if it was night. I may be jumping the gun too. I may be influenced by the newspaper reports. [Interruption] I am talking about the events of 18th July that is what the motion is about. How is Minister Rohee responsible for this? I gave an instruction and I have said publicly that if a student wrote the National Grade Six Assessment that student cannot get a school that is higher than the grade awarded. One could get a lateral transfer, but one cannot get a transfer to a school that is higher. I have discovered enough to lead me to believe today that somewhere in this country some students were transferred to higher schools. If we use the Hon. Member Catherine Hughes’ definition of a minister being responsible for all that happens then I have to be knocked off. I have to be sent home. [Noisy Interruption] This I believe is the crux. I will come to these mumblings – Mr. Robeson Benn must go home; Ms. Priya Manickchand must go home - in a minute because I believe that is what this motion is about. I would have to go home because this is something happening under my watch.
Neesa Gopaul, let us use that. I as Minister… [Noisy interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members I can no longer hear the Minister. I lost her. With the din, I cannot hear her.
Ms. Manickchand: Take the horrible incident of Neesa Gopaul. As Minister, I established the Child Protection Agency. It is that Agency that Neesa Gopaul complained to and it is that Agency that failed her. I never met her. [Mr. D. Trotman: The teachers were fired.] The teachers were not fired. I didn’t know her story. If we were to take this to its logical conclusion then I too must go home. [Shouts of yes] Two weeks prior to Neesa Gopaul in this country, the exact circumstances with a young girl happened in New York. I do not see the Americans calling for the Secretary of Human Services to go home. Hon. Member Odinga Lumumba mentioned the King incident but we did not see people calling for the Secretary of Defence to go home, or the Police Commissioner to go home. This definition where if something happens under one’s Ministry one should go home is very wide.
If we were to take this matter to its logical end, we have an elected political party in this National Assembly, elected by the people of this country, a small percentage of people but people all the same. They expect them to come here and represent them in the Alliance for Change. One of these Members fails to turn up at an important meeting that the Alliance for change has deemed important. As a result something happened so that the people they say they represented are unhappy. The distinction is being made that it is Minister versus non-minister, but the fact is that this Member is a public officer, a Member of Parliament, and is representing persons. At the very least, if we take this to its logical end, then the leader should go home.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a motion about Mr. Clement Rohee and his culpability; this is a motion about getting into government through the back door. This is a motion about removing us one by one.
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a Point of Order. This motion, the first of the two resolve clauses, speaks about extending sympathy on the death … [Interruption] No, we are hearing the sole purpose of this motion is to get people in through the back door.
“…that this National Assembly condemns the killing and extends sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased”
Is the Minister saying that is us trying to get into government by back door? How dare she disrespect these people? These are human beings who are dead.
Mr. Speaker: Mrs. Backer, when there was mirth and laughter a few moments ago. I do not think people remembered three people had died. There was a lot of laughter.
Secondly, when the Minister began she did express condolences and sympathy to the family. As I said this is a very sensitive issue and I am going to allow some latitude on it. If Members feel aggrieved by statements made by another Member on the other side Members will have a chance to rebut.
Proceed please Hon. Minister.
Ms. Manickchand: I believe there have been enough mutterings heard by all in this House. These started with Hon. Member Mr. Norton who said, “it coming” when someone said, “you want to remove the Government”; the whole PPP going. Then there was an echo at the back, Mr. Robeson Benn must go too. Then we heard Ms. Priya Manickchand must go. Then we heard, while Mr. Nandlall was speaking, that Nandlall must go. In my respectful view and I hold the view firmly, that this has very little to do with Mr. Clement Rohee. This has to do with trying to break the Government down so you could get into office. You cannot do it like that. You have to have an election and convince people to vote for you. That is what this is about. I am saying now and putting it on the record that shortly we will see another motion like this against another Member of this side. Then it will be followed again, with one against another Member. They will do that with just as little reason as this. What you will see, because of the same false pretenses, sir, is motion after motion trying to weaken the Government. We say that is not going to happen. The people of Guyana are not stupid. The people of Guyana are not going to be fooled. The people who support the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) are not going to be fooled. I am saying here tonight there is no reason, as yet, to link Mr. Clement Rohee to anything horrible that happened. We are acknowledging that horrible things happened. We are saying, sir, there is an inquiry and we must await its outcome and then we can be liberal with our calls. In the meanwhile any effort to remove anybody on this side is really an effort to get into government without convincing the people of this country that the PNC and the Alliance For Change (AFC) are capable of running a government.
I wish to say as it relates to the resolve clauses, resolve clause number one states:
“…that we condemn the activities that led to the death of three persons and that we extend sympathies to those families”
We say unreservedly, without apology, that this pains us too. We cannot accept that anything has been established here tonight or before that allows us to go down this very dangerous, undemocratic road of saying that Minister Rohee should enjoy from us a no confidence vote.
I thank you. [Applause]
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