FIRE SERVICE (CHANGE OF NAME) BILL 2013 – Bill No. 13/2013
Mr. Rohee: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The struggle continues all over the world and Guyana is no exception.
There are calls for reforms in the criminal justice sector, the security sector, the financial sector, economic and social sectors. There are even calls for reform in the areas of literature and arts as we see manifested in the pages of our daily newspapers of those prolific letter writers who are now at each other’s throats. I do not think we need to go to that extent in respect to this particular Bill. The Fire Service (Change of Name) Bill 2013, it would be a grave injustice if the Opposition was to continue in taking this position against the organisation of the Guyana Fire Service. By the way, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, you must have noticed that the “noes” from the Opposition benches are more moderating. They are not as energetic and enthusiastic. I am trying to figure out from my deep throat sources what is the reason for that, but I will get around to that eventually. By the next sitting I will get around to that.
To treat the Guyana Fire Service in the manner in which the Opposition has treated the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2013 and the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2013... The Guyana Fire Service is basically a humanitarian service, notwithstanding the fact that so many persons would make allegation about the fire tender arriving without water, which is virtually a myth. When the activities of firefighters are followed around the world, take for example 9/11, and the heroic role played by firefighters, not only in that experience, but in other countries of the world, I think, to treat the Guyana Fire Service in the mode in which the previous Bills were treated would be a grave injustice to an organisation of this type. I see the Guyana Fire Service as basically a humanitarian service. Many people calls the Guyana Fire Service for various services – extinguishing fires, getting into a house that is locked from the inside and doing so many other things that are basically humanitarian. A car in an accident plunged into a trench with the driver and the passengers locked inside, it is the firefighters who are called upon to rescue those persons and that is why in many parts of the world the fire service is also known as a rescue service. Members of the Opposition may laugh at it, they may scoff at it, but there are hundreds of firefighters out there who are watching to see how they will deal with this. They have families; they have friends; they have constituents. I am happy to see that they are now piping up and getting back into their old selves. When the Opposition is quiet I get worried. The change of name for the Guyana Fire Service... I think there are a lot of people in this country, inside of this House, and outside of this House, who have a relationship with the Guyana Fire Service.
Many years ago the British Guiana Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service was a good example to show the humanitarian side of this organisation when there was an ambulance service. I must say that I am thankful to the Opposition. When the budget was presented a few months ago, the Members gave their approval to the budget for the Guyana Fire Service, in which there was as an allocation for the procurement of four ambulances for the Guyana Fire Service. The intention there is to rebuild the ambulance service of the Guyana Fire Service, which was there before, and we are now seeking to restore that. The Guyana Fire Service or the Guyana Fire and Rescue Service is now going to be demonstrated with the restoration of the ambulance service of the Guyana Fire Service, which was there since colonial time, but because of the economic difficulties, which the country went through in the late 1960s, 1970s and even up to the mid 1980s, the ambulance aspect of the Guyana Fire Service was removed, was done away with and the Guyana Fire Service was left to hobble, so to speak, on one foot.
Because of the economy is doing better, we are now in a position to build a service that not only has to do with extinguishing fires, but to provide a rescue service, a humanitarian service. I believe it would be heartless... We have to be the soul brothers of the Guyana Fire Service, to provide them with the support because these people sat down for days to consider whether they should move from just a simple fire service to a fire and rescue service. Having sat down and considered this move in that direction, I believe, we should support the Guyana Fire Service. How could we oppose the Guyana Fire Service, on what grounds? Is it because of Rohee? Is it because the Opposition Members took a position on the Linden shootings and that “Rohee must go” that they are not supporting the Fire Service (Change of Name) Bill? This is bigger than Rohee. [Mr. Ramjattan: Why did you not give Mr. Benn? We love Mr. Benn. We would have supported it.] You love Mr. Benn, I love him even more. “He ain’t heavy he is my brother.”
We ought not to take such an entrenched dogmatic position in respect to the Guyana Fire Service. I believe history will condemn you not absolve you. Some of you are prone to say that history will absolve you. History may absolve you badda. History will condemn you were you to take a position of not supporting a humble and a noble organisation such as the Guyana Fire Service. Firefighters are held in high esteem all over the world. [Ms. Ally: Increase their package.] The Guyana Fire Service has never made representation to me for that because they beyond that. I think the Guyana Fire Service, in respective of how much I might say or how long I might speak, itself has made representation by force of example, by dint of hard work, of sacrifice that it deserves this name change. I, therefore, wish to commend this name change to this House that the Guyana Fire Service to be the Guyana Fire and Rescue Service.
I, therefore, wish to ask that the Bill be read a second time. [Applause]
Mr. Rohee (replying): I think all that has been said it is difficult to refute because the services currently conducted by the Guyana Fire Service is twofold but really, one, extinguishing fires, rescuing people and providing a humanitarian service, in many respects. In practice, it is basically doing that, notwithstanding the Opposition non-support for the name change. The famous German Philosopher Feuerbach said that “practice is the criterion of truth.” If we agree with that – I see no reason why we should not – then the truth is that the Guyana Fire Service is performing certain duties and responsibilities which, in practice, tells us the truth about this organisation. That is sole criterion for which we should support this Bill.
What is unusual, so far in this matter, is the predisposition by the Opposition to put party rather than country first. The position of the Opposition is obviously a party’s position and not a country’s position. It cannot be otherwise because if this was a country’s position the Opposition would have supported this Bill, but this position of the Opposition is clearly a party’s political position which tells me that it is putting the party’s position before the country’s position. We are at a position now where are seeking to carry out these reforms...
Mr. Speaker: One second Minister. I am hearing the banter but some of these recommendations came out of the Discipline Forces Commissions Report which in a Special Select Committee...
Mr. Rohee: I was saving that vignette for the next Bill.
Mr. Speaker: That is a vignette, but I have actually sent for the copy of the report.
Mr. Rohee: I was saving that vignette for the last Bill, Mr. Speaker. You cannot throw out all at one time, but I am happy that you drew that to the attention of the House.
We are at a very interesting juncture of our country’s history where are seeking... Notwithstanding all of the turmoil and politics and whether money should go for Amalia Falls Hydropower Project, or whether moneys should go for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion project, or whether Rohee should go or whatever the case may be, the work has to go on and the country has to move forward.
I wish to commend this Bill before the House and to say that supporting this Bill would mean putting our country first rather than putting politics first. The Guyana Fire Service would welcome the support from this House for its name change. It would mean so many things in addition to the service - resources, more support, more external assistance, and so forth. I, therefore, wish to commend this Bill the House and ask that it be read a second time.