By Zena Henry
The National Assembly is slated to discuss the contentious placements of police barricades around the Parliament Buildings and the inconvenience it poses to citizens.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Desmond Trotman, a few weeks ago, put forward a motion challenging the change made by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), while aiming for the abandonment of the practice.
The motion is expected to be dealt with during private matters or during the course of Non- Governmental business.
Trotman, in his motion, stated that the sessions of the National Assembly have always been accessible to the public and that right had been afforded to citizens by convention. From the early beginnings of the National Assembly Trotman stated, there have been public gatherings outside the Public Building, including demonstrations and protest.
In citing the law, Trotman’s motion argues that under the Constitution of Guyana, Article 147 enshrines the right of every citizen to enjoy, unhindered, his or her freedom of assemble, association and freedom to demonstrate peacefully, “that is to say, his or her right to assemble freely, to demonstrate peacefully and to associate with other persons…”
The motion continued that the Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community states inter alia, at Article VI:
“The States shall take all appropriate measures to promote and maintain an effectively functioning representational system, including the holding of regular sessions of representatives of the people,” and at Article VII: “Every person shall have the right to assemble, demonstrate peacefully and to draw up and present petitions, subject to such restrictions as may be imposed by national law in the public interest and which are reasonably justifiable in a free and democratic society.”
Trotman’s information continued that the Recommended Benchmarks of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at 9.1.1 (Values of the Legislature) states that the “Legislature shall be accessible, and open to citizens and the Media, subject only to demonstrate public safety and work requirements.
Trotman, however, said that 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 but the Guyana Police Force should relocate its barricades so as to allow freedom of assembly within a closer proximity of the National Assembly, Public Buildings.
Trotman resolved that the National Assembly declare the right of citizens to assemble and demonstrate peacefully. They should not be hindered by the Guyana Police Force or any other agency or institution of state.
He concluded that the Parliament Office should make arrangements for the broadcast of National Assembly sittings in the environs of the National Assembly.
Since the erecting of the barricades, many persons have voiced their dissatisfaction and disapproval of this action, while arguing for their right to assemble. Persons have complained immensely about the snail like pace of traffic during Parliament meetings and the inconvenience of taking longer routes to avoid the police barricades.
Police barricades could be found some distance away from the Parliament Buildings, forcing motorists to find alternative routes. Citizens are not even permitted to walk along the sidewalks within the barricades.
At Sendall Place and Brickdam, which has the barricade furthest away from Parliament, persons are told to either take Croal or Hadfield Street to get to the market.
Only persons heading to the Saint Stanislaus College are permitted entry but only to the school. When asked why the police barricade was so far from the Public Building and why persons were not permitted to walk beyond, a police rank told this publication to speak with authorities.
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