…says Parliament has no authority to remove a Minister
“People were suggesting that the protest was Peaceful…let us leave that to the Commission of Inquiry,” – Robeson Benn
By Gary Eleazar
There is nothing in the Guyana Constitution that permits its Parliament to remove an appointment Cabinet Minister.
This point was made by Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Anil Nandlall as he opened the Government arguments on Wednesday evening to the no confidence motion raised against Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee.
This notion was re-enforced yesterday by Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon, who in updating media operatives yesterday, said that only a no confidence motion against the entire Government is catered for in the Constitution.
Wednesday’s Parliamentary proceedings got off to a rocky start as its Government Members of Parliament were greeted by a crowd of placard-bearing, chanting protesters, attired in black, who were in solidarity with the people of Linden, and made no bones about their position of having Rohee removed as Minister.
Inside of the National Assembly it was no different as the Combined Opposition navigated the Parliamentary rules to have the motion debated as a matter of “urgent public business” on the very day.
This was vehemently objected to by the Government, primarily through its Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who protested the move to have the motion debated and voted on the very day.
Speaker of the House, Raphael Trotman suspended the sitting of the House to consider the arguments and make a ruling.
No Suspension, Rohee must Go
Word of the hiatus was met with the protesters chanting in the environs of the Parliament Building, “No Suspension, Rohee must go.”
The House was eventually convened when Speaker of the House Trotman ruled that the motion could be proceeded with and to this, Government lined up every single member to speak on the motion.
By time the allotted hours for Wednesday’s session had expired, only a few of the Government’s speakers had completed.
As such, the debate was pushed back to Monday, July 30, at which point it is expected that it will be voted on.
Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Brigadier (ret.) David Granger, who piloted the motion, told the House that Guyana is paying attention to every word of the debate.
“Guyana is learning how seriously we deal with the matters of death, law enforcement and shootings,” Granger asserted.
The Opposition Leader told the House that the Minister by his own admission concedes that there are other measures that could have been applied to disperse a crowd and asked, “Why were they not applied….somebody must be responsible for making the decision.”
Granger was adamant that the move against Rohee has nothing to do with Government or Opposition, but rather about humanity. “This motion is not rhetoric, it is about dead people.”
No Confidence against Granger
Nandlall, who vehemently defended the Minister during his opening arguments to the motion, indicated that the Opposition could “talk from now until thy kingdom come” but the end result will be the same.
The Attorney General further argued that the only Member of Parliament for which the constituent allows for removal by way of a no confidence motion is the Leader of the Opposition, who in this case, is Granger.
Nandlall was dared by way of heckling to bring a no confidence motion against Granger.
The retired Brigadier in making a case for Rohee to be removed as Minister told the House that the People of Guyana “want a minister who will heal the wounds of Linden…who will pursue serious reform”
Granger said that the Combined Opposition does not currently enjoy the confidence of the Minister to competently remain at the helm of the Home Affairs Ministry and as such declared, “we want the minister to go.”
Nandlall in the Minister’s defence, boldly declared that Rohee cannot be removed simply because the House does not enjoy his confidence, and he further charged that there is nothing in law that will compel the Government to adhere to the motion.
He spelled out the only provisions that would allow for the dismissal of the Minister which ultimately rests with the President
The Attorney General was adamant that “What transpired in Linden is a tragedy beyond dispute and he pointed to the Government’s immediate response which included a public statement.”
Nandlall also spoke to the Commission of Inquiry that has been committed to by the government, and calls the motion pre-emptive given that culpability has not been established as yet.
“If we are truly concerned and not influenced by agendas outside of the Linden tragedy, then we must not make utterances in the House which would tend to prejudice the very exercise which we have all committed ourselves.”
Nandlall was adamant that the motion assumes a foregone conclusion of murder and, “by making such a calling there is a conclusion that he (Rohee) is responsible.”
The Government’s Legal Adviser was adamant that this is a matter to be determined by the Commission of Inquiry and asked if every time there is a death and there is a perception of guilt on a part, “we take action.”
He suggested that if this is the case then the entire legal system should be abolished.
“We are condemning a Minister without any hearing.”
Nonetheless, the Minister was adamant that the National Assembly has no power to remove Rohee from office, despite all of the parliamentary posturing.
Rohee does not direct
He was adamant also that Rohee does not have any direct involvement in the day to day administration of the Force saying that he merely has “an overall general supervisory control…he cannot direct the day to day operations of the force.”
Alliance for Change Member of Parliament Cathy Hughes was adamant that as Minister, the buck should stop with him, and as such, he should proffer his resignation or be removed.
Nandlall argued that “If evidence can be proffered that he is actively involved or gave directions then there is a case.”
Vanessa Kisson who has been one of the key figures behind the Linden protest along with Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon, told the House that the young men were murdered by ranks of the Guyana Police Force, operating on the general instructions of Rohee as Minister. She pointed to the pathologist report conducted on the victims which confirmed that all three men were shot to the heart.
She was adamant that based on the information available thus far, it is a clear case of orchestrated murder.
Kissoon even pointed to the sequence of events and told the House that there is the belief in Linden that there was a plot on July 18, when the three Lindeners were killed, to assassinate the leadership of Linden, including Solomon.
She was adamant that “Rohee must take responsibility and resign.”
Kissoon said too that now that the pathologist report has been completed “there is now need for a criminal investigation and charges must be laid against the policemen.”
Presidential Advisor on Empowerment Odinga Lumumba, in his presentation, sought to apologise on behalf of the Government for the killings, but said “it had nothing to do with Rohee. He said that the Commission of Inquiry will determine the facts, and at present there is no evidence that Minister Rohee was guilty.
Several other government officials spoke to the motion, with some at times questioning the peaceful nature of the protest march which eventually led to the shootings.
Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn during his presentation lamented the fact that the protest action had taken an unlawful turn while on the bridge.
While he did express regret on the part of the shooting, he sought to remind the House that by preventing access across the Wismar/Mackenzie Bridge the protesters had been in breach of the laws. He even pointed to the protest action that was being held outside of the parliament chambers at the time and said that that too was illegal.
The Minister, through heckling, was dared to send the police to shoot the persons involved in the ‘illegal’ protest action outside of the Parliament Building.
Some Ministers sought to insinuate that the motion had nothing to do with Rohee but instead was targeted at the entire Government.
Public Works Minister Benn told the House that as it relates to the electricity tariff increase for Linden, the people of the region never intended to make the payment.
“Kissoon had screeched from that side of the House…Let me withdraw and say scream…we ain’t paying anything,” said Benn who sought to explain that “positions taken on this matter have somehow led to an unfortunate situation.”
Benn told the House that he listened to the heart-rending account given by Kissoon as it relates to the shooting incident and pointed to the police action.
The Minister said that he has seen video footage showing that the police ranks gave warnings to the protesters to disperse on several occasions.
He added that he saw a banner which was unfurled indicating that the protesters should remove themselves from the bridge and added that, “we never would have contemplated anyone would be shot to death….”
The Public Works Minister suggested that a quick perusal of the laws of Guyana would reveal that the blocking of any public road or bridge is an unlawful act, “right now the blocking of entrance to parliament is an unlawful act.”
The Minister, as did some of his colleagues, said “People were suggesting that the protest was peaceful. Let us leave that to the commission of inquiry,” said Benn.
He did declare that the current blocking of the Bamia and Kara Kara bridges along with the roadway on Linden is unlawful and is only compounding the situation further.
Prior to the sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday, A Partnership for National Unity organized a rally which saw hundreds attending at the Square of the Revolution. The rally was one of a series of events hosted by APNU for what it called a National Day of Mourning.
After the rally, the crowd marched west along Brickdam to Parliament building where they awaited word on the fate of the Minister.
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