Minister of Health [Dr. Ramsaran]: Mr. Speaker, I was going to intervene when I could not catch the eye of my Chief Whip. I was prepared, but as you explained, Mr. Ifraan Ali was allowed because of circumstances that you decided on or that you explained. So if you would Sir, with your permission, I would like to make my small contribution if my Chief Whip allows that. It is a democratic party we have of matured adults we have over here, so Ms. Teixeira fully would support my intervention. With your indulgence Sir, could I continue?
Mr. Speaker: Go ahead, Sir.
Dr. Ramsaran: I have listened to the speakers from this side of the House and I have listened to the rambling and raving of the hecklers from over that side which tended to support some of the contentions made by the speakers on this side, that there is more to the mortar than the pestle concerning this motion.
Linden has occupied a special place in the history of this nation even before it was called Linden. People tended in their presentations to refer to events that might have happened there in the past. I want to concentrate on those which happened more recently and the approach by this administration in supporting the efforts of Linden, especially in those days when the bauxite industry started to fail.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, as in the recent past, repeatedly explained how that came about - changes on the world market and so on - and I am still speaking to the motion. This administration has been fair handed with the community of Linden. This administration, especially in those years when the bauxite industry was failing badly, no fault of the citizens of Linden, but due to the wider international arena. We stood by Linden, even in those days when the wider economy was feeling the shocks of international crisis.
Someone said close down the plant, there it was colleagues and if I could remind you and as Mr. Samuel Hinds have reminded you repeatedly, the impact of the international market forces and the demand or the lack of demand for commodities. I would not go into that, I will leave it for the economist like Mr. Greenidge to expound on that when he stands up next time.
I noted that they were kind of a bit cowardly. Is that Parliamentary language Mr. Speaker? Not wanting to take up these 45 minutes, so I am happily... [Mr. Greenidge: Cowardly?] Not wanting to join the debate, so when he does stand up he can probably tell us why Linden went into trouble. The bauxite industry across the world was diminishing. [Ms. Ally: Speak to the motion.] I am speaking to the motion; I am putting it in the setting. This administration has consistently tried to do better for Linden and we see Linden positioned for a better future as the economy improves and as we unfold our continental destiny. The road linking Guyana to Brazil; the talk of the deep water harbour, are all linked with a bigger plan.
This administration has been studiously reaching out to the residents of Linden. And do you know why? Because we have had a chequered history; a chequered relationship with Linden in the past and it is in the interest of this Administration to do well in Linden. To show that we have been doing and the resources that we have invested in Linden and not only in the controversial subsidy to the electricity bills in Linden, but in other areas to create for example alternative forms of employment, bringing for example, the various Government sponsored economic projects.
The call centre, a small start; my good friend the Hon. Greenidge is asking how many jobs. How many jobs are you now threatening with this protest? That is the problem. Today, earlier, I got a call from the media and, of course, I quickly invited them to come and talk to me. Apparently there was some misunderstanding that I had helped to airlift a patient from the West Demerara Hospital to Georgetown. Of course, that patient came in by boat. The real thing was that we had airlifted a patient from Linden, a quick short shift and at the same time the Regional Chairman had nothing to do with it. He is a stranger to the truth. The hero in this regard is one Dr. Mohammed, one of the heads. He was never spoken to, to clarify it. You see how many things are coming out with this discussion on the electricity bill and the crisis in Linden? The Chairman of Region 10 is claiming he caused the patient to be airlifted. The professionals in the hospital decided that the patient needed to be airlifted. We will not allow a layman to decide that a patient has to be airlifted. He is, Mr. Speaker, a stranger to the truth. That was reported today, I think, in the Stabroek News... [Interruption]
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, there is the Standing Order about attacking someone in their absence who does not have the capacity to defend themselves. The person has been identified because the Hon. Minister has repeated on three occasions that it is the Chairman of Region 10 that he is speaking about.
Dr. Ramsarran: No.
Mrs. Backer: You said that.
Dr. Ramsarran: I never said the Chairman of Region 10.
Mrs. Backer: You said it was the Chairman of Region 10 and about airlifting the person from Linden and that he is a stranger to the truth. And he said it more than once.
Dr. Ramsarran: I was quoting, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker that was my Point of Order.
Dr. Ramsarran: Thank you Hon. Backer.
Mr. Speaker: Who were you referring to Hon. Member?
Dr. Ramsarran: Mr. Speaker, I was referring specifically to a paragraph today in one of the popular newspapers...
Mr. Speaker: That says what?
Dr. Ramsarran: In which it said, that he concurred that he had caused the patient to be airlifted. That is far from the truth. It is in today’s newspaper. It is in the public domain.
Mr. Speaker: Can you produce the newspaper?
Dr. Ramsarran: Well I can get it easily and I am certain that the Parliament, so well run, will have a copy of that newspaper. It is the Stabroek News I think, pass it and I will show you it, it is right in there. Apparently we have another stranger to the truth; he is saying it is not in there, imagine that.
Coming back to the point, while I got that call I was able to point out that the Ministry of Health, for example, responded in quick shift. The man who was responsible for that quick airlift is a professional who is one of heroes of this crisis, one Dr. Rayasat. He is not here and I will praise him. He has been doing a very good job under trying circumstances with his team of nine doctors - five Guyanese and four Chinese. That is what we need to praise, that in this dark time there is still a silver lining – the professionals, the doctors and the nurses in spite of their positions and I encourage you to say it again and again.
The nurses and the doctors acted very professional and I want to thank them for that, in spite of the fact that several of them might have their own personal opinions. We were managing the process effectively. Blood was sent to Linden even when we had to smuggle it over the bridge. You had 20 or 40 units sent in there easily.
I want to thank the Hon. Neendkumar, who is so very versed with things of Linden. Forgive me, Mr. Speaker and Members of Parliament.
Stabroek News, Wednesday, July 25, 2012, page 11, headline, “Critical Linden shooting victim flown to city”, subtitled “protestors threaten ‘total lock off’ of town”, the words “‘total lock off’” are in inverted commas. This is what it states and this is to what I was referring – the dishonesty in the political directorate in the township. This is by someone called Cathy Richards. I am certain that the people in Linden are familiar with Cathy Richards. [Mr. Ramjattan: How many columns are there?] There are several columns. It also continues on page 25. I see that the Hon. Member Dr. Norton is looking for it. Sir, could I help you? It is on page 11. This is what it states, in the second paragraph of the second column:
“Region Ten Chairman Sharma Solomon confirmed that the transfer of critical patients was a result of his negotiation between the authorities.”
I want to indicate that, particularly in the case of the airlifted, very critically ill, unfortunate young man, Mr. Ulric Michael Cameron, said to be thirty-three years old and of 23 Canvas City, who reported sustained gunshot wounds to the face and chest, that airlift was done in a jiffy with the intervention of, first and foremost, the doctor who was in charge of him and who correctly kept him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Linden and then monitored him, he and his professional team, including several doctors from the Chinese brigade. I want to particularly thank the Chinese brigade for staying with us through thick and thin in Linden - young professionals and I applaud them. Now they are becoming somewhat apprehensive – I am coming back to this paragraph – and this is damaging the image of Guyana. They are now asking to be withdrawn, those doctors, but we want to praise them for helping Dr. Riyastat in his preservation of the life of Mr. Ulric Michael Cameron. Here it is what I am referring to, and so I am not slandering anyone. I am referring to a document which is public.
Mr. Speaker: Dr. Ramsaran, you are in no position to deny, however, that during discussions with His Excellency certain undertakings were given to the Chairman about the movement or transfer of the injured. There was a discussion and certain undertakings were given by His Excellency that he would ensure that this was done.
Dr. Ramsaran: What I am saying is that I know Mr. Solomon knew subsequent to those transfers. For example, more particularly, he knew of it.
Mr. Speaker: If in the heart of the discussions with the President this matter was raised and the President expressed that he would intervene to facilitate, I do not think that it would be in error for Mr. Solomon to say that he had a hand in it, even though doctors would have recommended it and have seen it done.
Dr. Ramsaran: I thank you for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, but as I understand it, the doctors had already made and confirmed those arrangements. The doctor communicated with us and the honourable Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Dr. Luncheon, was very instrumental… [Interruption from Opposition Members.] No! I want to tell you that Dr. Riyastat is an authoritative person; he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in Linden.
Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you this, the Linden Hospital did a good job. The Ministry of Health took special effort to see that the necessary supplies… [Mr. Backer: You could put down the papers now.] I am coming back to the papers just now. For the benefit of the cameras I will raise the papers up.
We ensured that the injured of Linden had the necessary supplies. This is what I want to get over: Even while there is a crisis, even while the administration was being criticised for allegedly not taking care of the interest of Lindeners we airlifted, yesterday, in short shifts, three thousand pounds of additional supplies to augment those which were becoming expended because we could not get through the road. That is why it had to be done six days after.
While I was speaking to the media and the people on the ground about the need for supplies, people in satellite communities, in the area, were complaining that their food supplies were running out. I told them: “Why do not you speak to those who are responsible for your starvation? Who is blocking the roads? It was not the PPP/Civic.”
I want to bring the point over that the PPP/Civic administration recognises the contribution that Lindeners have made. It is not only that; it is positioning the township for greater things. It would have been the most irrational thing if an administration, having invested so heavily in Linden, and having valued the political support, and recognising the political significance of Linden, was to assault the Linden community like that. I am suspecting that those protestors, who had a noble intention – peaceful protest against a policy, which is their right – in some instances, were misled. I am told that several religious leaders had joined initially but then decided that they will not continue since the protest was going beyond what they had agreed upon - the religious community.
I would like to say that the PPP/Civic wants to say…
Mr. Morian: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order. I was one of those religious leaders who was on the bridge and we all stayed there until the shooting ended and helped to take the people to the hospital.
Dr. Ramsaran: Thank you for the information. My information is that there were many religious leaders. I am happy that the good gentleman, the Hon. Member, was one. There were others who left.
Ms. Kissoon: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order. On Saturday, after we would have met with the President on Thursday, there were almost forty religious leaders and they all agreed that we would have continued peacefully. They agreed. There was a meeting with the business community and every sector of the region. Pastor Morian was present and he can attest to that. I do not know where this Minister is getting his information from. He needs to be properly guided and informed.
Mr. Speaker: What the Minister said was that it was his understand that some Ministers or religious people – he did not give a denomination – may have withdrawn. I do not think that any of us is in a position to challenge that. Forty may have attended but if two fell out or for whatever reason were not present, we do not know. Unless he names name and challenges, for example, the Hon. Member Mr. Morian or someone else specifically who said that they were there, that Point of Order would not go through.
Dr. Ramsaran: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your guidance and I want to congratulate Pastor Morian for his good contribution of being there with the people. I am certain that if he had not been there and not tempered them there might have been an even worse situation. I congratulate him. My information is that many other religious leaders decamped. They decamped because they realised that the grouping was being misled into the track of violence and into the track of the police.
I want to express sympathy with those who have lost relatives and I want to tell this House that the Ministry of Health will continue to make sure that the hospital is positioned to give whatever support is needed.
Thank you Mr. Speaker. [Applause]