PPP/C non-cooperation and Monday’s mayhem in the National Assembly

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WHEN you sow the wind, you are likely to reap the whirlwind. The PPP/C made it very clear, arising from the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, that it will not cooperate with the government. It is the government that has chosen not to see this threat as being real and focused. The altercation between Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland and Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill was not by accident, for it had the features of a well-orchestrated plan to disrupt any activity the government seems to be in charge of.

Instructively, this opposition comprises men and women of the previous government, who, when stridently challenged on any issue, rather than deal with its substance, focused more in defining and determining how dissenters should behave.  Their conduct in the Parliament on Monday, were they sitting in the Executive, and the opposition had behaved in similar manner, they would have condemned it, called it a threat to democracy and supported the police action. For less than what happened Monday they would have unleashed the rogue elements in the Guyana Police Force to suppress the voices of dissent and brutalise the people. It would have mattered not whether the people were maimed or killed, what would have mattered is the importance of silencing dissent and governing with an iron fist.

Times have changed and those who once governed like tyrants are now without the clout and influence of state power. Let it be made very clear, there shall be no support for any who uses state power and influence to transgress the rights of citizens or seek to not govern in the interest of society. The PPP/C never thought it would have been in the opposition and the evils its leadership visited on the people would come back to haunt them. This should also serve as a lesson to the APNU+AFC, for there will be a time when it goes into the opposition. When you govern by doing the right thing, when not in office there is no need to fear that the evils done to others will be visited on you.

Edghill who probably believed — as he did during the 2015 elections that Jesus would vote PPP– that he was ordained by Jesus to strike the rod for the creation of the mayhem on Monday. This is a man whose actions should come as no surprise. There was an incident with him as a member of the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) party where under his name police permission was sought to hold a political rally at the Square of the Revolution. This was during the Janet Jagan presidency.

He was visited by Deputy Commissioner Bunbury and advised that there shall be no rally. He was so terrified, shaken and afraid, when the media visited him to receive a comment for the non-holding of the rally he was mummed. What I am saying here could be confirmed by Julia Johnson, Adam Harris and Hamilton Green. Not long after this incident, he abandoned the GGG, crawled on his belly and went to the PPP/C.

Examining the several clips of footage of Monday’s incident was nothing short of despicable. The ruling of the Speaker was correct based on the Standing Orders, which are the rules made by the MPs to govern the conduct of the business of the House. These rules cannot be cherry-picked and must be respected by one and all in order to create an atmosphere of law and order in doing the people’s business.

Edghill was told by the Speaker to take his seat, he refused and continued challenging the Speaker’s ruling/authority. The Speaker thereafter ruled him out of order and informed him to leave the chamber for the remainder of the session. He defied every ruling by the Speaker and promptly informed the House that he will not leave. He was then goaded along in the disrespect for the rules and Speaker’s authority by his colleagues from the opposition bench.  The Speaker referred to the Sergeant-of-arms to have him removed from the House which he resisted. It was after these events that the police were invited to the House to have him removed.

On the arrival of the police a human shield was made around Edghill which supports the view that this was an activity that falls within the PPP/C’s plan of non-cooperation. The debate on whether it was right or wrong for the police to be called in will continue. The issue before this nation is that of Edghill’s response to a legitimate ruling and with the encouragement from his colleagues that led to the mayhem which subsequently caused the police to be there. That conduct, which was led by Gail Teixeira, was never a part of the culture of the House, neither is it permissible under the Standing Orders. The MP was fortunate to come off with a slap on the wrist. He should have been banned for the life of this 11th parliament.

This argument of being elected by the people does not grant immunity to disrespect the rules of the people’s House and not expect to face the consequences. Immunity in the House is confined within the Standing Orders, and as a leader if you cannot follow the rules/laws that govern the institution and your presence in it, then you have disqualified yourself to lead.

After years of governing by and applauding police excesses, on Monday when the opposition and the police clashed, they talked about police excesses and violating standard operating procedures like sleeping beauty who fell into a deep sleep and suddenly awakened to reality.  The opposition MPs that cried and condemned the police’s actions honoured the police when they shot and killed peaceful demonstrators in Linden in July 2012.

When Robert Corbin and Jerome Khan went in front of what was then Office of the President to address citizens who were protesting, they were arrested by the police, physically manhandled, thrown into a vehicle and taken away to the station. The PPP/C government applauded the police for their conduct.

In 2011 when Eddie Collins, James Bond, et al were shot by the police in Hadfield Street and blood oozed from their bodies, the PPP/C government justified the act.  When bodies were dropping like flies during the 2002-2006 crime spree, the PPP/C did not activate the Coroner’s Act but was content, through Roger Luncheon, to attribute the scourge to the presence of phantom squads.

To the MP, proudly knighted “the feral blast” by her colleague as I watched you cry and bemoan the police treatment I saw in you the tears of women, including Varshnie Singh, who felt violated and powerless in the presence and abuse of the powerful and armed. Society remembers your response to Ms. Singh’s stories and pleas that it was a private matter and you could not express an opinion. Violation, whether occurring to a person in his/her private or public capacity is wrong, should be investigated, and the findings addressed within the ambit of the law. Those MPs who felt it was OK to form a human barrier to prevent the police from getting near to Edghill, in normal circumstances had any citizen done that he/she would have been placed in the lock-ups, charged, and placed before the court for obstructing the police in executing its duties.

While there’s no tolerance for police excesses, fair assessment of the situation saw the obstruction the officers faced in the discharge of an assignment by a group of men and women — inclusive of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers — physically and verbally brawling, flaying around like wild animals, reaching for and grabbing at each other’s body parts, more focused on non-cooperation than conducting themselves in a manner befitting their presence in the House. The chief architect behind this act of non-cooperation set up Edghill and others, who like lambs went to the slaughter, as he stayed away and only appeared when it was considered safe.

As to the men who shouted rape and made allegations that the police were raping the women, shame on you. Your conduct has brought disrepute to manhood. It was wicked, sexist and un-manly to make light of the sexual violation of another’s body, fully well aware the act constitutes a crime. This conduct shows you have no qualms about using the vulnerable in our midst to advance self-serving agendas and divide the society. Monday’s incident must not only record an anomaly in conduct, but also occurrence. We are paying our elected representatives to do better, must expect and demand better from them.