POLICE (CHANGE OF NAME) BILL 2013 – Bill No. 14/2013
Mr. Rohee: This is one particular Bill that is long overdue. It is not only overdue in terms of time, but it is overdue in terms of change that has been long in the making, both in our society and in the organisation or the institution called the Guyana Police Force. I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of Guyanese, I would even go so far as to say in the diaspora as well, and I have spoken to a number of fifth formers in a number of our schools secondary, students at colleges, at the University as well, who have never given me one iota of doubt about the need for such a change. I do not believe that they have come to such conclusion because they have read it in the Discipline Services Commission Report, the findings of that Commission; I do not think they have come to that conclusion because they have surfed the internet in order to draw some professional conclusion. Obviously, not so many of our people are professionally involved in intellectual thinking on matters of this kind. I think by virtue of their own experiences, by virtue of the culture, the customs, the mores in our country, the history, conversations, the day to day life that they experienced and the whole make up of our society, our own experiences with the police, that have made this large catchment of the population come to this conclusion that a name change would be consistent with the thinking in the society. For them, I think, that this name change should not only be informed, but also in content; that this name change should not be something of a cosmetic nature. It should be something that must be able to deliver a better service to the people. Unless this change is not only influenced from external forces outside of the Guyana Police Force, but is strongly influenced by agent of change within the organisation, that organisation called the force itself must assume responsibility, must assume ownership of this change, both informed and in context, that a better service to the customers, who are the people, the citizens of Guyana, can be provided.
This is a popular clamour. I believe the Discipline Services Commission, when it met and discussed the whole range, the whole gamut of issues related to police and security, and so on, captured that popular sentiment in the country. Apart from what the people went before the commission and said, the commission captured that popular sentiment and was able to translate that sentiment into a document called the Discipline Services Commission Report. Obviously the politicians were not satisfied with simply the publication of a report. It was decided that that report should come to the Parliament, it was decided that a Special Select Committee should be set up to examine the recommendations in that report, and after several months of discussions a report was submitted to the last Parliament and that report was adopted.
Both Government and Opposition sat in that Committee that examined the recommendations and one of the recommendations was for the country to move precisely in this direction. The Parliament adopted those recommendations and it was left to the relevant authorities for each recommendation, in terms of the applicability, to be implemented and pursued. This name change is consistent with one of the recommendations of the Discipline Services Commission Report and it is consistent with the general sentiments, national sentiments, I would call it, within our country. The force itself, as an institution, has accepted it. The leadership of the organisation sat, commensurate on this matter and agreed that it is in its best interest to accept this change, name change and institutional change.
The institutional change manifested in the reforms that are currently taking place within that organisation. There has been some disquiet about the process through which these reforms were triggered and initiated. But I believe, that notwithstanding this sense of disquiet and disagreement, the fact of the matter is the reforms are currently on the way and are being tackled from different angles, from different dimensions, so that to complement the change of name the reforms will give substance to sustain this name change, so that when we speak about our police service, we are not only talking about a name change per se, we are talking about and institution that has experienced transformation. Notwithstanding the profits of do where ever they might be, notwithstanding the publication of certain editorials which have condemned this reform even they have ever been started, questioned the new departments that has been set up by the virtue of the strategic plans that has been agreed by the Government and police force, mutually, and even identified individuals by name, who sit in this Strategic Management Department, who are responsible for executing the changes, institutionally, within the force, notwithstanding all of that, the fact of the matter is that the nation, the country and the people, who have elected us to sit here, have mandated their representatives to carry out these changes within the premier law enforcement agency or organisation/institution in this country.
What we are seeking to do here is not peculiar to Guyana. In most Caribbean countries the organisation in which the police constitute a body is called a police service. Most of the CARICOM countries would have gone through that transformation already. We are logging somewhat behind for a host of reasons, justifiably or unjustifiably, but the fact of the matter is that we are on our way.
In many countries around the world as well, reforms are taking place within these institutions. I believe that they are not doing so because it is the flavour of the day to do so because it is the sexy thing to do to make changes, or because the donors have insisted that unless the country makes these changes funds will not be forthcoming. No. In fact, the people of Guyana have, themselves, found it necessary to make these changes. These changes are driven by, what one will describe as the heresies that have been manifesting themselves in the country and recognising that these things are happening, we obviously have to respond to them in a revolutionary manner. This revolutionary manner is to bring about revolutionary changes with the expectation that the wishes, the aspirations, of the Guyanese people will be met and satisfied.
Modernisation of the police force around the world is something that is taken place almost in every country. I just came back from Russia where I met with representatives of police forces from around the world. More than 120 countries were at this gathering and I took the opportunity to meet with as many persons, as I could, who told me about the changes they, themselves, were seeking to effect in the police and in the security services in their respective countries.
This Bill is in keeping with the exigencies of the situation in many countries in the world. The name change from the Guyana Police Force to the Guyana Police Service, I believe, is beyond reproach. It should not be questioned; it should be supported and we should be united on this matter. I wish, therefore, to commend this Bill to the House and ask that it be read a second time.
Mr. Rohee (replying): Mr. Speaker, I did not realise that this Bill would have generated such interest, but I am happy to know that that is so and I think the people of Guyana... I recall some time ago, reading in one of our local newspapers, an Hon. Member of the Opposition saying words to the effect that if police ranks were to be asked about their support for the Minister of Home Affairs, one would get a different answer. We are seeing a manifestation of what may appear to be – I have to be careful how I put this – the Opposition’s understanding of what they think exist in the Police Force on this matter.
I want to warn, however, that on a matter of this type, when we are talking about the future of the Guyana Police Force, and not any other organisation... We are not talking about an association of coconut water sellers; we are not talking about the man who sells mauby or buns by the street corner; we are talking about the Guyana Police Force as a constitutional body that is enshrined in Acts of Parliament. If my reading of the Opposition’s position is correct that it will vote against this name change, my concern, and I think it is the concern of many of my colleagues on this side of the House, and many people outside of this House, notwithstanding what the Opposition may think about what they have in terms of support of Guyana Police Force, this will send a very troubling signal in this country.
I, as a patriotic person, believe that we should not, for want of better words, send confusing signals to organisations like Police Forces. They are a disciplined force. There are some Members on this side of the House who were once in disciplined organisations. If you are to send from this House, one of highest fora in this land, a signal to the Guyana Police Force that this House is divided in terms of the future of the Guyana Police Force, I believe that we are miscalculating, to put it mildly. I believe we are miscalculating.
To have a political tug-of-war over the future of an organisation such as the Guyana Police Force and partially making a joke and a mockery of it in this House is most regrettable. I am not saying that we, on this side of the House, are the only ones who take the Guyana Police Force and the future of the Guyana Police Force seriously. I am not saying that at all but I can only judge on the basis of behaviour in the House and the way they vote, Mr. Speaker. I believe that a political tug-of-war over the Guyana Police Force is unnecessary. You cannot and ought not to send from this House divided views on the future of the Guyana Police Force. [Members (Opposition): Resign.] Mr. Speaker, the Opposition is obviously not convinced. They might have their own information, but I am saying that that information might lead to miscalculation. They are obviously not convinced by virtue of their position. It reminds me of the old saying. You know, sometimes some people do not know when they are dead. [Mrs. Backer: Is that a threat?] Some people do not know when they are dead. Allow me to finish what I want to say. Like the old saying, ‘Back to back, belly to belly, I don’t care a damn, I don’ dead already.’ So this don’t care a damn position of not caring what are the consequences as long as Mr. Rohee is there... As long as they continue to live in that syndrome, Mr. Speaker, because we are here in politics… This is all about politics. I do not know which one on that side of the House could predict the political postures of the PPP/C. If we have to wait until the next Elections to bring this Bill back, so shall we.
If the Opposition is of the view that its political fortunes are ironclad and us guaranteed that it will be in the same position as it is now come the next Elections, let us leave that to the electorates!
Mr. Speaker: Minister, I only need to know whether you are quoting from a deep-throated intelligence report.
Mr. Rohee: I have already gone over that, Mr. Speaker. That is the section where [inaudible] Mr. Speaker, I once heard a former President of the Republic and former leader of the People’s National Congress/Reform say that one must never say never in politics, but this is the problem that the Opposition has found itself in.
Another former leader of the PNC, before the former leaders that I spoke about, once said...I think I am old enough to say these things because many of the youngsters over there do not know these things, with due respect to their parliamentary status. That particular leader of the PNC once said that politics is not only the art of making deals... [Mrs. Backer: It is the art of shooting people.] That will come out in the inquiry into Dr. Rodney’s death. Hold your breath. Politics is not only the art of making deals, but it is a question of determining how far one can go with the realities. [Mr. B. Williams: Are you going in the box for the Dr. Rodney inquiry? Are you going to do that again?] I will repeat what I told you the last time: I have a wife, not a man.
Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that I am being diverted into other areas. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we need to hear the Minister and conclude this debate.
Mr. Rohee: The name change that we are seeking, is it to be agreed to, would obviously take the reforms at a much faster pace. But having regard to the Opposition’s intended position, which is virtually to slow it down or to torpedo it, let me say without any sign of contradiction that the reform process that is currently underway is inexorable. It will continue. Notwithstanding the political shenanigans, politicking and so on, serious work has to go on, on a day-by-day basis. Even if there is not the support for the name change in this House, the substance of the change, the institutional reforms... [Mr. B. Williams: Wrap this thing up.] Mr. Speaker, this is a historic debate for the purpose of the archives and the Hansard because it is the first time in the annals of our history we are debating a name change for the Guyana Police Force.
Notwithstanding the position that the Opposition has opted for, we will continue with the reforms and we will continue with the work of the consultancies to press ahead with the strategic plans for these organisations. There are certain reforms which could be proceeded with, notwithstanding the Opposition’s position on the name change and, as I said, that is to be regretted. Had we had the support with the name change, obviously, much more could have been done.
We will continue, nevertheless, and we will await the Eleventh Parliament when, instead of being on the minority/majority side, so to speak, we will once again be in a position to table these Bills – four progressive and democratic pieces of legislation, none reactionary in nature, all progressive, all democratic, all forward-looking, all which the nation has been calling for. Yet, we have an Opposition which has dug itself into a hole, which has backed itself into a position from which it cannot extricate itself and it is now the victim and now its own worst enemy.
I rest my case and ask that the Bill be read a second time. [Applause]