Deaths in Linden2643 25 Jul, 2012
Attorney General Minister of Legal Affairs [Mr. Nandlall]: I rise to make my humble contribution to the motion which is on the floor. I begin by recognising that what transpired in Linden on the 18th day of July, 2012 is a tragedy and that is beyond disputation. Within two hours, thereafter, the Government of Guyana, through none other than His Excellency the President, issued a statement in which His Excellency expressed his deepest condolences to the relatives of those who died and wished to those who were injured a speedy recovery. In that very address, Sir, the President, exercising powers which reside in him, under the Commission of Inquiry Act, committed himself to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to enquire into this tragedy. The President, as he is lawfully permitted to do, did not proceed with the Commission of Inquiry in a unilateral manner, instead he took the approach, having regard to the obvious nature of the event, the solemnity of the occasion and the tragedy itself, that was consensual, an approach that would have allayed the concerns, the apprehensions and the emotions of persons who were related and un–related to the incident.
He invited the Opposition parties in the National Assembly and consulted with them in relation to how this Commission of Inquiry should proceed. As a result of those consultations, it was decided that the Commission of Inquiry will be established in a consultative manner. That the terms of reference will be crafted in a consensual manner; that those terms of reference are going to be broad enough to embrace every aspect of that tragedy; that the composition of this Commission will also receive the input of all the Opposition parties. Indeed, Sir, among or in between the Opposition parties there was some kind of disagreement as to whether there should be an international element on the Commission or not. Fortunately, Sir, in the spirit of compromise, all parties concerned arrived at a decision that a composition of this Commission of Inquiry will reflect an international injection and flavour.
It was also decided that the time frame for which this inquiry must conduct its business will be set. It was also decided that the Parliament, the National Assembly, will be invoked for supplementary financial provisions to be made to finance this exercise. All of these things were as a product of hours and hours of meetings and discussions by persons who are in this House, including the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, including your good self Sir and including other representatives of both the APNU and the AFC. It is against this backdrop that one must view this motion.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition begun by speaking about the right to life and about the various other rights which have been violated, and to those, it is not my objective to dispute them. My friend, Mrs. Hughes, the Hon. Member, spoke about the same thing and it is not my intention at all to dispute those violations. That is not my function. My function is of a higher calling. If we are truly concerned and not influenced by agendas that are outside of the Linden tragedy then we must not make utterances in this House and outside of this House, adopt postures inside of this House and outside of this House, which would tend to prejudge, to pre-empt and to prejudice that very exercise which we have all committed ourselves to. We are making, for example, a finding. We are asking for the Minister to go, and to make such a calling there has to be a conclusion that he is responsible and I am saying, Sir, that that is a matter for the Commission.
My friend, Mrs. Hughes, began her presentation by speaking about the murder of people in Linden. That is a conclusion and only the Commission of Inquiry will determine that. If we are to take the approach that whenever death results, however compelling we may perceive the circumstances to be, the person who we feel is responsible should be found guilty and condemned, then we have to abolish the entire legal system of this country. That is what we have to do, because we are sitting in the highest forum of this country and we are condemning the people for murder. We are condemning a Minister without any hearing, whatsoever. If it is that we are committed to a process about rights - that is what I understand the Leader of the Opposition who have tabled this motion, I believe, that is the force motivating him - that no longer shall we have violation of rights of the people of this country, yet, we in this National Assembly are violating rights of the people of this country. We are condemning people condemned without due process; we are condemning people without the right of natural justice…
Minister of Education [Ms. Manickchand]: May I interrupt for one moment?
Mr. Speaker: One second Mr. Nandlall.
Ms. Manickchand: Sir, there is interfering heckling coming from the gallery and I remember Your Honour making a decision about this before. I do not think that we can allow ourselves to degenerate. This is the highest House, please, Your Honour.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you Hon. Minister. Members of the public, I had on previous occasions indicated that you are invited to observe and to listen to the debate but not to participate in it. I take the notice given to me by the Minister, or the opportunity, rather, to inform you that any heckling or speaking, or any form of participation, will lead to your expulsion from the House. Serjeant-at-arms and assistant, please take note. Mr. Serjeant-at-arms, you are at the back there please be keen as to what is happening.
Mr. Nandlall: As difficult as it may be for some of us, it is our responsibility as leaders of this country, and as persons in whose hand resides the responsibility of charting our nation forward, to ensure that we recognise that all the rights for which we are clamouring will remain an illusion and will remain to be illusory if we do not ensure that parameters are established and the procedures are observed for the realisation of those rights and, hence, generations before us have erected the legal system to guarantee us that. The Commission of Inquiry is an alternative mode in that same mould and it is here that these systems were conceived. Then the Commission of Inquiry was conceived and passed by this very same Parliament - the Act that brings it into force. It is us who have made those institutions and we…
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Nandlall, could you perhaps address me….? [An Hon. Member: The motion.] It is not that. In England, recently, where there was the scandal of the wiretapping of persons’ cell phones there was a Judicial Inquiry but simultaneously members of the public were charged. Rebecca Brookes and others were charged, even while that Judicial Inquiry was going on.
Mr. Nandlall: What was the Judicial Inquiry about?
Mr. Speaker: As to whether or not the newspapers…
Hon. Members (Opposition): They were involved.
Mr. Nandlall: It cannot be whether they were involved. It cannot be.
Mr. Speaker: … and others were involved in the illegal interference with persons email or telephone. But it is something that I will do some research on, myself.
Mr. Nandlall: Very well, Sir. We can speak on that, but that is outside of the motion. My friend has been… [Interruption from Opposition Members.] I am speaking directly to the motion. The motion in its entirety is one that pre-empts and prejudices and undermines the integrity of the process to which we have committed ourselves. And then we come to Minister Rohee. The call is made for his resignation. The call is made for this Assembly to vote that it has no confidence in him. The legal truth of the matter is that Mr. Rohee simply does not hold office due to the confidence of this Assembly - and that is the truth. A Minister is appointed under the Constitution by the President. He comes here as an elected official by the people of this country and he sits here as a Minister by virtue of his appointment under the Constitution and therefore only the President can remove him. [Ms. Ally: Which part of the Constitution says so?] Since you are inviting me, article 183 speaks to Minister and it states how Ministers are to be removed from office. A Minister having being appointed by the Government cannot be removed by the National Assembly.
Whether we talk from here to thy kingdom come, the National Assembly has no power to remove Minister Rohee. It is as simple as that. [Mr. Ramjattan: That is arrogance.] What do you want me to say? My friend is accusing me of arrogance because I am speaking about the Constitution of the country. I am saying, again, that the National Assembly has no power in law, or under the Constitution, to remove Minister Rohee from office. In fact, the only official…
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order, nowhere in this motion does it state or imply that this House has the right to remove Minister Rohee. [Mr. Neendkumar: That is not a Point of Order.] It is a Point of Order, because the Attorney General’s whole premise is based on this and I would invite the Hon. Attorney General to read the second resolve clause.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, if the Hon. Attorney General has a different interpretation to the motion to the one that you have, that is his right, and I do not recognise it as a valid Point of Order.
Mr. Nandlall: Thank you very much Sir. Article 184 is the only article that speaks, anywhere in the Constitution, about the no confidence of any official in the National Assembly and do you know who that official is, Sir? Ironically, it is the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is the only Member in this Assembly who can be removed by virtue of a no confidence vote, as per the Constitution. It is my duty to inform the House of what the position is in relation to no confidence.
I also would like to deal with the Minister of Home Affairs relationship with the police, because the motion speaks about that relationship. It lies in section 7 of the Police Act and it states:
“The Commissioner shall, subject to the general orders and directions of the Minister, have the command and superintendence of the force and he shall be responsible to the Minister for the peace and good order throughout Guyana for the efficient administration and government of the force and for the proper expenditure of all public moneys appropriated for the service thereof.”
That is the relationship between the Minister and the Commissioner of Police, in relation to the police force. The Minister has nearly an overall general supervisory control. He cannot direct the day to day operations of the force. We do not have to go very far for an interpretation of the section. In a commission established by this House, “Report of the Discipline Forces Commission”, which was laid in this National Assembly, and which was unanimously approved by this National Assembly… [Interruption from the Opposition Members.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, allow the Minister to make his presentation, please.
Mr. Nandlall: …and of which myself and the Hon. Leader of the Opposition were Members, that commission dealt at length with an interpretation of that section and an examination of that relationship. It is contained, at pages 45 to 46 of the report, a report which was adopted by this National Assembly unanimously, and there is a paragraph that has some relevance which I would like to read.
“Since the statutory power of the Minister relates to an executive function and responsibility, the power to issue general orders and directions to the Commissioner is necessarily limited to general orders and directions of an executive nature and not a power to issue general orders and directions which involve encroachment on the internal power of the Commissioner to command and superintend the GPF.”
That is the position.
Having regard to this statutory relationship, on what basis does this motion seeks to indict the Minister without a hearing? Now I can understand if there is an inquiry. [Hon. Members (Opposition): This is a hearing.] This cannot be a hearing. If it is that proper authentic evidence is adduced to establish that Minister Rohee actively participated in the exercise or he gave directions and those directions resulted in the tragedy, well then that is a case, but in the absence of that, incomplete vacuum, this National Assembly is asking for a Minister to resign, in relation to functions which are performed by an independent statutory tribunal. [Mrs. Backer: Any citizen can call for the removal of anybody.] Any citizen can call; the National Assembly should not fall into that error and carry out such a futile exercise. That is the point I am making Sir.
The point is that while we remain committed to ensure that those who are responsible for the tragedy at Linden are brought to justice, and that is our commitment as a Government, and we are prepared to embark upon the extant procedures to which we have committed ourselves. We must await the outcome of that process, because it is out of that process that we will determine whether anyone will be charged, whether who will be charged, or whether for what offence they will be charged, and everything outside of that is pre-emptive and prejudicial. The process of the National Assembly, unfortunately, is being misused to persecute that cause. That is a matter that has already, by our own agreement, been remitted to another tribunal which has the jurisdiction to deal with it.
That is all I would like to say at this point in time. Thank you very much, Sir.
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