Deaths in Linden3339 25 Jul, 2012
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Today, Linden is listening to every word spoken in this House. Linden is listening to every ruling, to every debate and to every speech that comes from this House. Guyana is learning about the mindset of its Members of Parliament, about their motives. Guyana is learning about how seriously people deal with the matters of death, deal with the matter of law enforcement and shooting. Today, this House has embarked on a road that will enhance our democracy and enhance the value of this House in representing the interest of our people.
This motion is not about Government and Opposition. This motion is not about the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) on one side and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) on the other side. This motion is about the type of society that we want to live in. This motion is about the nation of Guyana. This motion is about the type of country that we want our children to grow up in. This motion is about humanity. This is not about rhetoric. We are talking about dead people. We are talking about human beings who have been shot in the street.
On the night of the 18th, July, 2012, I travelled up to Linden. I went into the hospital. I held the body of a young man shot in his head; another shot in his chest. I spoke to every victim - women shot with hot lead in their legs; women shot in their backs. This is not about joke; this is not about filibuster. This is about humanity and this House must stand up for the humanity of the citizens of Guyana.
This debate turns on three issues. One is about the fundamental rights of Guyanese citizens - the right to life and the right to assembly.
This motion turns on the ministerial responsibility of persons who are elected to govern this country – the doctrine of ministerial responsibility.
This motion turns on the duty of this National Assembly to represent the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for us. We cannot sit on our hands and allow injustice to go on. We cannot ignore the cries of our people in Linden or anywhere else.
These three issues are the issues that we must decide on today. It is not about who speaks for how long, but whether we will live in a country where the fundamental rights of citizens are guaranteed, where our Ministers demonstrate ministerial responsibility and whether this House performs its obligatory role to represent the interest of our nation and our people.
There is no need to speak further about the right to life and about the right to assemble. These matters are covered in the motion and they are covered in our Constitution, in sections 138 and 147 of our Constitution. But when you see, Mr. Speaker, dead bodies, which have not yet grown cold, you ask yourself, “What could have caused this madness, this insanity, that Guyanese could pump hot lead into the bodies of young people who were not committing any crime? They were not injuring anybody. They were not damaging property. This is insanity and somebody must be responsible and we have to deal today, and henceforth, with the doctrine of ministerial responsibility.
Somebody must take responsibility for those deaths. It was not misadventure; it was not an accident. It is not an accident to shoot a young man in his face; it is not an accident to shoot a young man in his heart, to shoot two dozen people. It cannot be an accident. Something went badly wrong.
The police ought to be a trained force. It ought to be well administered. The Minister of Home Affairs, himself, admitted that there are other devices, there are other measures, which could have been applied to disperse a crowd. He spoke of tear smoke and baton; he spoke of water cannon. Why were those measures not applied? What is this madness? That something occurs at 10.40 in the morning and then after that, almost six hours or more, the police disengaged and returned with lethal fire. Somebody must be responsible for making that decision.
The Hon. Minister has boasted, through the pages of the newspaper, and in particular the Guyana Information Agency (GINA), that he has responsibility for issuing general or special directions. What direction, then, did he issue? If he has power then he also has responsibility. If he has power to issue directions and he fails to do so, it is the business of this House. Equally, if he has power to issue directions and he misdirects, it is the business of this House and he must give account. Whether he acts or fails to act he is responsible for the consequences of his conduct or misconduct. This is not the time to blame the corporals and the commissioners. This is the time to step forward and accept responsibility.
The Linden killings were sudden; they were shocking, but we all know that the crisis was burning like a slow fuse for three months. We also know that the protest was notified. We all know that permission was granted. The Guyana Police Force had every opportunity to be prepared. We all know that leave was cancelled. We all know that equipment was acquired. We all know that the police had procedures; that they had shields and batons; that they had abundant stocks of tear smoke, that they have handcuffs to arrest people whom they feel broke the law; that they had rubber pellets, which they used to a great effect on 6th December, 2011, but why is it that they used hot lead against innocent people on 18th July, 2012?
There was notice of the shutdown, but it was greeted with a degree of unpreparedness which we must not tolerate. Bullets in the face, bullets in the chest, this is not a war zone. This is not Baghdad or Damascus. This is an ordinary town in Guyana with peaceful protesters against what they feel is an imposition on them. They had the right to picket; they had the right to assemble; they had the right to demonstrate; nobody denied that. But what did we find? On the very day of the atrocity, the Guyana Police Force’s press release never mentioned the deaths; it never mentioned the use of deadly fire. The police simply mentioned some disorder and that they were stoned with bottles and bricks. The force’s release was a magnificent piece of dissemination. There was no mention of a death even though I was able to travel from Georgetown to Linden and see dead bodies. The police said nothing about it.
Then the Government, itself, and the evidence is there, blamed the Opposition. From the 18th July, the misinformation began and that is what the most heartbreaking thing about this crisis is. Instead of accepting responsibility, going into the region, speaking to the leaders, not only expressing condolences, but removing the guilty people and trying them and charging them for murder, solving the crisis…It has only now happened, even though, in an attempt to advert the crisis, I had personally written to the President inviting him to have face to face meetings with the officials and representatives of Region 10, inviting him to discontinue the plan to impose the increased tariff from 1st July, inviting him to implement a form of economic recovery plan. It did not have to come to this, but all of those signals were ignored while the officers and policemen greased their guns.
This is a single incident, but it is enough to expose a pattern, a pattern of maltreatment and mistreatment of certain citizens in this country which has been taking place over a long time - a pattern of misdirection, a pattern of mismanagement, a pattern of mistaken priorities.
We have no confidence in the ability of the Minister of Home Affairs to protect our citizens and to preserve the security of the citizens of this nation. The age of cover-ups is over. The age of police brutality will be brought to an end by this National Assembly. The age of political interference in the professional work of the Guyana Police Force is over. The age of treating the poor and dispossessed of our country as second class citizens is over. Twenty years in the Cabinet is a long time and I could understand the tiredness and the fatigue, but the future beckons us. We want a Minister who will heal the wounds of the people of Linden. We want a Minister who will pursue serious reform of the Guyana Police Force and the security sector. We want a professional police force which will protect our women and children from the atrocities such as what we saw last Wednesday. Mr. Speaker, we want the Minister to go.
Thank you. [Applause]
July 30, 2012
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger (replying): As oppose to the one hundred and sixty-six thousand people who the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs said are standing behind him, I have the honour to speak for the one hundred and seventy-five thousand who voted for the Alliance For Change and A Partnership for National Unity on the 28th of November, 2011.
We met here to discuss the killing of three persons. Is anyone responsible? Is anyone culpable? Is anyone blameworthy? We have heard the authentic testimony of eye witnesses of the Hon. Member Mr. Renis Morian, the Hon. Member Vanessa Kissoon and the Hon. Member Desmond Trotman, persons who were in Linden on the 18th of July. I, myself, was in Linden on the night of 18th of July and I saw some of the injured persons, women with gunshot wounds to their backs. I saw the three dead bodies in the Linden Hospital Complex.
This is not the occasion on the sad and the tragic death of those three Lindeners; this is not the occasion for frivolous anecdotes; this is not the occasion to trivialise the deaths of those three martyrs. This House is not the place to make jokes about those three deaths. This is not the place in which we should make fun of the agony of the citizens of the residents of Linden; this is not the place and this is not the time to use the debate for filibuster which is being taken place by the instance that every person on the Government side should speak. This is not the occasion to dilute this notion by using dialogue as a sort of device to delay the inevitable decision on the fate of the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs.
This motion is not about electricity rates; this motion is about the competence of the Minister of Home Affairs. We support a Commission of Inquiry, and this honourable House supported the Commission of Inquiry into the disciplined forces nine years ago and where did it get? Nine years have passed since the Disciplined Forces Commission Report has been published and we must ensure that we do not only put faith in Commission of Inquiry, but we must also put faith in the action on which we can take on the floor of this House.
The killings of 18th of July were not force majeure; they were not of in active gods. They were deliberate acts of people who aimed shots at human beings; there were deliberate acts of people of policemen who shot into the chest of young men. We have not come here to discuss anything other than the fundamental rights of our citizens, than ministerial responsibility and the responsibility of this House to determine how action is to be taken to protect our citizens. That is the rule of this National Assembly and we will not abandon that rule.
This motion is not a premature one. If anything is delayed, if anything, this motion is pre-emptive to prevent further mischief. It is a pre-emptive to prevent further police lawlessness; it is pre-emptive because it pays attention to a fault that has been committed, and we want to prevent that fault from being recur. We will not wait for the Commission of Inquiry; we will not wait nine years, as we had to wait for the Disciplined Forces Commission Report. We are going to ensure that there is justice tonight. We are going to ensure that the people who presided over the last shooting will not preside over another shooting.
There is no other institution in this country that can prevent this insanity, only this House can do it. There is no other institution in this country that can authoritatively call for and demand of the revocation of the appointment of the Minister of Home Affairs. This is what we have come to do this evening and this is what we shall leave, having done. Yes, we support a Commission of Inquiry, but a Commission of Inquiry is not a substitute for the revocation of the appointment of this Minister. We shall support the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry. We shall contribute to the drafting of terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry, we shall support, just as we supported the Disciplined Forces Commission, the Commission of Inquiry, but we will not wait another night to prevent this lawlessness or to stop this lawlessness in the Guyana Police Force. This is what we must do this morning.
We are not complaining about the Minister’s inactivity. The Minister is very active. We know that. The Minister is no slough. His colleagues have come here to remind us of how much he can do, how much he has done, how alert he is, how active he is. We are here about the Minister’s performance, not his activity. For over six years there has been a gradual pattern which has built up, a slow fuse if you want to call it that Mr. Prime Minister. He has been able to solve the most serious crises in public security and the 18th of July was the limit, and we will not take any more of it. We are the majority and we have no confidence in the ability of Minister Clement James Rohee to protect the public security of this country. We reject the amendments offered by the Government side and we call upon this honourable House to support the motion standing in my name and to support the revocation of appointment of Minister Clement James Rohee. [Applause]
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