Restriction on the Right to Assembly2970 09 Aug, 2012
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I had a good long look at this motion. I have been around a little and while all of us are concerned that no one in Guyana is hindered from their right to assemble, to associate, to speak, to get information, we are also proud to uphold the principle that says, “while you enjoy your rights in a democracy you do not have the right to prevent other people from enjoying their rights”.
This issue of access to decision making bodies of a state is nothing new. What we have seen has been an evolution, while in the former days persons would get information from soap boxes and loud speakers outside of the House things have changed for the better. I do not see that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country will be getting their information from Parliament by a loud speaker outside of the House. I do not see that. In fact, if I look at the penultimate “Whereas” clause of the motion it speaks to the practice of ensuring the “legislature shall be accessible and open to citizens and the media subject only to demonstrate public safety and work requirements”. I am quoting directly from the penultimate ‘Whereas’ clause of the motion.
The last ‘Whereas’ clause says:
“…it is expected that the Guyana Police Force will take steps to ensure the safety and security of Members of Parliament, the staff of the National Assembly, and those who access the said National Assembly.’
This is what the Guyana Police Force has been doing. I have not heard the Guyana Police Force stopping anyone from coming into the Gallery.
The evolution of Parliament has been one which has had limited capacity. I have been in a few of them. Some order system has been put in place for members of the public to access Parliament. This is not something which has escaped the Parliamentary Management Committee. It is right now on the agenda of the Parliamentary Management Committee to ensure there is a mechanism where there can be fair access to the gallery by the public. The issue of disseminating the proceeds of the sitting of Parliament have taken new electronic, novel means – internet, Skype, live radio streaming, media access, cameras, cell phones, live broad streaming where a person can sit in the comfort of their office or own home and hear every single word that is said. So this issue of a loud speaker outside Parliament that will make this Parliament educate the Nation, I think, is a red herring. For me there is a larger issue. For all of us here there is a larger issue.
Mr. Speaker, you just have to look at the headlines all around the world. I am seeing one here from one of the Iranian publications. It says:
“Iranian Opposition Leader Mr. Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi condemned the latest attack by Ahmedinajad supporters on the Islamic Parliament.”
[Mrs. Lawrence: Bring us closer to home.] Yes, I will bring you closer to home; very close to home. In April, 2012, Foiled Plans - Terrorist Plan to Attack House of Parliament in Islamabad.
“Attack on the Indian Parliament… [Mr. Nagamootoo: You are paranoid.] I am coming to that. That word ‘paranoid’ is right here in the PowerPoint presentation. I am not paranoid. Are we going to call the whole Parliamentary Management Committee which wants to put two sets of scanners paranoid?
“Attack on the Indian Parliament 13th December, 2001”. That whole incident is on YouTube. “Taliban Attacks Afghan Parliament”, 15th April, 2012 [Mrs. Lawrence: Come home.] Let us come home. Mr. Speaker, 28th July, 2012; the Editorial in the Trinidadian Guardian headlined “1990 Must Never Be Forgotten”. That was referring to the 27th July attack by the Jamaat Al Muslimeen on the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. After 22 years, only a few days ago the Trinidadian newspaper was saying ‘this must never be forgotten’. We are coming closer and closer to home.
Maurice Bishop - we cannot forget what happened in Grenada. We have our history in the Westminster system.
From my own experiences, my first long stay in the United Kingdom, I had just finished playing a cricket match on 5th November, 1989 on a cricket ground in Crowley and I was invited to view the fireworks that night. They said it was Guy Fawkes Night. I did not know who was Guy Fawkes. When I went back I was told why the British or the English – I do not know which part because I am always confused like everyone else about the geography of England. But Guy Fawkes Night, 5th November, 1605 where 30 persons who felt aggrieved by a decision decided to blow up both Houses of Parliament.
Mr. Nagamootoo: Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a Point of Order.
Mr. Nadir: Mr. Speaker, I think the Standing Orders say I should not give ground until you declare.
Mr. Speaker: No, the Standing Orders say if there is a point of clarification the Member standing can decide whether to yield or not. If it is a point of order you must.
Mr. Nadir: He has to state what it is.
Mr. Speaker: He is about to.
Mr. Nagamootoo: The Member has gone out of the scope and relevance of this motion. I believe that the rules of this House should bring him within some reasonable ambit within this debate. He is indicting every citizen as a terrorist.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members on one side of the House there is going to be the proposition that things should be opened up and expanded. And on the other there is going to be opposition to that, the view being that things are as they are for good reason. The Member is tracing the history of security breaches very infamous and not so infamous. In as much as it is tending towards 1 O’clock I find the argument relevant to the discussion.
Mr. Nadir: Thank you Mr. Speaker. No one from this side of the House mentioned anything when 1718 was mentioned by the mover of the motion when Parliament had no internet. He used a few centuries ago to reinforce his contention about speakers outside. But we have to have the same kind of respect for each other. While we can sit and listen to Members of the Opposition go back centuries – I want to thank you for that ruling, sir – we have a grounding in the Westminster system, and we have also a necessary concern for safety and security of this Parliament.
So these persons who are aggrieved, and this is the point, the aggrieved persons are not necessarily representing the overwhelming majority of the people, but are aggrieved persons. The Jamaat al Muslimeen in Trinidad and Tobago did not represent the overwhelming opposition when they stormed Parliament and killed a number of people.
Bernard Curd and his people when they attacked the state mechanism… In our case it is Parliament made up of the President and the National Assembly – when they attached the head of the government then they did not represent the overwhelming majority of the people. So I want to agree most strongly with that Editorial of the newspaper the Trinidadian Guardian published a few days ago that says these things must not be forgotten. I raise that because the British celebrate this attack on Parliament every 5th November, from 1606 up to now. [Mrs. Lawrence: Why?] Because they do not want any single group again… the British people should mature themselves and in a decent way deal with their differences. [Interruption]Yes, it is true; it is very, very true. One cannot get access so easily to most Parliaments; there is a mechanism. They are cordoned off.
We have to be concerned not only about us. Someone mentioned paranoia. I can say I am a coward, yes. I am as paranoid as anyone of us who sit on that Security Committee dealing with the issue of security in Parliament. When there has been a short history of the assassination of a Minister of Government, only a few years ago… [Interruption] Mr. Speaker, that is imputing motive. And look from who? A retired Lieutenant Colonel. We have had a very short history.
When Mrs. Jagan addressed the Eight Parliament, at the start, there were the crowds out there… [Mrs. Lawrence: They did not have a big crowd out there] You were not here. Many members were not here. I stood on the balcony and saw some of them even encouraging school children to throw rocks on the car. The videos are available. So while we may have a few here, we have work-study students, staff, the public in the gallery, media people, all of those are people who have to get the protection of the Guyana Police Force.
I have boldly written here the words “am I paranoid”. I have had the opportunity to study under a very famous criminologist, Sociology 325 at the University of Alberta in the year 1979-1980. It was a gentleman by the name of David Rappaport who had just been commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to do a series on assassination and terrorism. He was at that time the foremost expert. When I read the book I knew that being in politics is an occupational hazard one has to accept. So those who feel I am paranoid they will see in my transcript that, why? John F. Kennedy himself said, “if someone wants to assassinate you they will get you.” Idi Amin wore a gun – all of this is in that book – why? He said yes at least I might get a shot off too.
Mr. Speaker, you know the origin of the word assassin. It comes from the Arabic heritage. At that time the assassins will tell the victim I will kill you at 8 O’clock. And lo and behold, at 8 O’clock one of the king’s guards themselves might turn back. Are we talking ‘nancy story’ for history, no.
When one looks at what happens to Rajiv Gandhi as he goes to Sri Lanka and inspects the guard of honour and one of the guards steps out and gun butts him… This is in my lifetime, what I saw live on television. So this issue of security in the National Assembly, and on the days of the sitting, has to take on serious significant and top priority for the Guyana Police Force. One of the things they tell you is to leave the experts to do their job. I know it is causing inconvenience to a lot of people because of a few barricades. All over where there are Parliaments and serious decision making is made one sees similar inconveniences. It is a very small price to pay. I cannot help if among us we may have people who are not well exposed. It is a small price to pay. Imagine what the Trinidadians had to pay when there was the attack on their Parliament. How long did it take to recover? I do not even want to raise the occurrence in Grenada. So this might seem very innocuous. It might seem we do not have anything to worry about, but it is a chance that this Nation should not take. This is not about the security of Parliament. This is about the disruption of the lives of every citizen should there be an attack on the State. We do not want to treat lightly with that. No one, no responsible Police Commissioner would want to treat lightly with that.
At this early hour of 10th August I really want to urge the mover of this motion to see that there are much larger national security issues at stake here than the inconveniences of a few persons. We can work on many, many measures, as Mr. Speaker you have done with your school visits. Parliament’s reputation, and what we do here, is not going to be reinforced by a few loudspeakers and a few persons standing in the sun. Parliament’s reputation is going to be enhanced by some of the initiatives you are taking, like going to the school children, to let them feel and see and touch the decision makers, by having the technology and broadcasting to them. So we are not limitless in our ideas. But in terms of our security, in terms of the security of the State, we have to take it with all of the care and concern for this fledgling democracy called Guyana. Only 1992 is being rebuilt. So like in Trinidad and Tobago we have to be concerned and not let pass ‘slow fire and more fire campaigns’, the attack on the late President Janet Jagan, the assassination of Sash Sawh… e cannot take those lightly. In the interest of unity where the security of the Nation is concerned the mover of this motion should stand up and withdraw it.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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