Honouring The 21st August, 2012 Agreement Between The Government Of Guyana And The Regional Democratic Council, Region 103149 27 Jun, 2013
HONOURING THE 21ST AUGUST, 2012 AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF GUYANA AND THE REGIONAL DEMOCRATIC COUNCIL, REGION 10
Ms. Kissoon: Mr. Speaker, Hon. Members and visitors to this House, I rise, as a representative of region 10 and the mover of this motion, to speak to the August 21st, 2012 agreement signed between Regional Chairman Mr. Sharma Solomon, on behalf of the people of region 10, and the Hon. Mr. Samuel Hinds, in his capacity as Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government. I pause to make known on this date, June 27th, 2013, that this struggle, from day one, was led by our chairman, who never wavered or flinched in his belief and commitment, struggled that the people of Linden and Region 10 will be treated with respect and dignity. When some said we could not, the Regional Chairman reminded us that yes we can. I understand that some may have lost faith in the young and think that they are disengaged from the political process, but as another young person I assure that the young are not disengaged. We are tired and fed up of the zero-sum discriminatory and vindictive politics. The young desires a new political culture where respect for each other, regardless of our differences, will be maintained and we all will equally share in the resources of this country and making this land a place where we can all live in peace and harmony.
The Regional Chairman has asked that I express his personal gratitude and that of the people for the support received and asked that, in brotherly and sisterly love, they continue to stand with us until justice is restored because this is not only about justice for Region 10, but for all Guyana. In the words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
The August 21st, 2012 agreement was the result of the fearless struggle waged, and continued to be waged by the people, to ensure the respect for their right consistent with article 13 of the Guyana Constitution which expressly states:
“The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affects their well-being”.
As a teacher, by profession, words are an important tool in understanding the lesson in order to prepare it and impart knowledge. An opportunity is taken to share with this House the meaning of two key words in article 13. They are “principal” and “objective”. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the word “principal” means “first in order of importance” and the word “objective” means “a thing aimed at or sought, a goal”. If this is the law we are all governed by the failure of the Government and anyone to respect this important article in the Constitution is a signal to those who believe in the rule of the law to stand up and demand that the law be respected. The people of Region 10 did exactly that and initially sent messages to the Government that we demand the law be respected and it seek our involvement on the matter that will have direct and great economic impact on our lives. From day one we made it known that ours is a history where we have shouldered our responsibilities and played a major role in the nation’s development and that we desire to continue to do so.
We made it known that the history behind the electricity system in Linden, National Industrial & Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) relationship with Bosai and our proposed efforts for energy conservation which were ignored by this Government. All of which we desired, we examined and factored in to the management and decision-making process.
We also made it known that we are not disinclined to shoulder any financial responsibility but we can only do so when we have the capability to. We made it known that we are committed to examine all this factors in moving forward. Unfortunately, the Government ignored us and thought in national campaign to demonise us and project us as freeloaders and a burden to society would have allowed it to escape from its responsibility to the people under the law. The people remained steadfast and still. They resolve not to relent until they receive what is justly theirs.
The taxpayers own Guyana Chronicle. On July 3rd, 2012, in a poor attempt to divide the people into race camps, hating and distrusting each other, in an editorial titled, “Opposition rampage to sow discord” had this to say:
“Black youths are socialised by Opposition leaders to think that Indians robbed them to get rich so they automatically feel that they have to risk by force, even murder, anything Indians have. Hatred of Indians is engrained in to their psyche. Many Indian persons, who grew up in the arms of black people in the rural communities, have today become fearful any time a black youth gets close to them. But this did not deter us.”
But this did not deter us, instead it reinforced our resolve to stand together as one having learnt the lessons of history, namely the divide and conquer tactic and name calling to deflect attention from the real issue and denying the people what is rightly theirs.
We remember from our history the tactic to keep the races divided to the benefit of a few, the insults hurdled at our ancestors who were called ‘Nigger’ ‘Coolie’ ‘Buck’ ‘Portagee’ ‘Chine’ and so forth. We remember from world history Winnie Mandela, Angela Davis, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and revered Dr. Martin Luther King were labelled terrorists. Mahatma Ghandi was mocked for his physical stature and his mode of dressing and Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham were called evil by the colonial authority and their allies. We watched this country’s political history to play the races against each other and decided we want no part of it.
As students of history, we learnt these lessons well, developed immunity and drew strength and will continue to draw strength from these stalwarts because the success of their struggles came largely in part because they refuse to relent in spite of the challenges that confronted them, and so we persevered; we held dozens of meetings, rallies and marches throughout the town and were given the support of colleagues outside the town who understood the just nature of our struggle. We regret we did not see Members from the opposite side of the House joining us, but we know that would have been standing up and admitting to an injustice perpetrated by their colleagues and that you may not have yet mustered such courage is understood. We think some of you, while not publically with us may have wept silently for us.
Mr. Speaker, our national poet, Martin Carter, reminded us, “The mouth is muzzled by the food it eats to live.” This hero was speaking to a frailty of human behaviour but this said hero also reminded us in the struggle of politics and community that, “All are involved and all are consumed.” And I say to the Members of the other side of the House that this is what we altogether must be fighting for. On 9th January, 2009 and 21st November, 2012, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic led protests in front of the United States Embassy in Kingston calling for the rights of the Palestinians to be respected. These are good moments for the people of Guyana being in solidarity with our fellow human beings fighting for their rights and I would like to think that when the Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House and President Ramotar were involved in these protests, they were not doing them because the majority of PPP supporters had a similar ethnicity with the people of Palestine. But because they recognised, like Martin Carter, that in the scheme of human relations, we are all involved and will all be consumed... I said all of that to say this: we cannot fight to represent the rights of persons in a different land when at home we cannot have ours respected and have to take to the streets with blood being shed and lives lost to ensure justice. As President Ramotar recently told the United States...to put their house in order before they look at us when the United States was reaching out to us in a similar fashion.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, be cautioned that the President’s name may not be used in a debate on a motion for or against. Go ahead. That one will stand but let us not invoke the President’s name in favour of your argument, one way or the other. Thank you.
Ms. Kissoon: ...out of us in similar fashion as the PPP did to the Palestinians. I say to the Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House to please be advised that Guyana has to first put our house in order before we can tell the Israelis and Palestinians what to do. The refusal of the Government to heed our various petitions caused us to plan a five-day protest from 18th July to 22nd July, 2012 with police permission. On 18th July, unarmed residents and supporters gathered for a legal and peaceful protest and were subjected to barbaric treatment by the Guyana Police Force, resulting in the deaths of our heroes, Mr. Allan Lewis and the youthful martyr Ron Somerset and Shemroy Bouyea, and injuries to scores including children and women. There was a Commission of Inquiry; the findings are public and ours is the expectation that the Executive would implement the recommendations for police reform for our blood must not be in vain and borrowing the expression from former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, “it is on your hands”.
It is most fortunate and a stain on this nation that it had to take the deaths and injuries of our loved ones before the Government could consider respecting our right to be treated as equals, a right guaranteed to us under the law and the right we will fight to maintain if it takes our last breath or last drop of blood. The people of Region 10 are in this for the long haul and while some use their dead for political prop to sow seeds of discord, the people of Linden and Region 10 will use theirs to fight for a better society for all and live up to the country’s creed of one people, one nation, one destiny.
The 21st August, 2012 agreement seeks to install a regional land selection committee, an economic committee to develop a regional economic plan, and a technical committee to comprehensively examine power generation in the Region and the return of the television dish and channel that belong to the Linden community. It is unfortunate that the committees which were established no longer function and the other one remains an unfruitful dream. This National Assembly must, therefore, resolve that the Government of Guyana immediately adheres to the commitments and obligations under the written agreement of 21st August, 2012, thereby ensuring that the benefits which were to accrue to the residents of Region 10 are realised and that the Government of Guyana be held solely accountable and responsible for all direct and indirect consequences flowing from its continued unwillingness to adhere to the letter and spirit of the written agreement of 21st August, 2012 parties.
This motion is brought today to present this House an opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Guyana that when called upon we can together obey the laws of the land, respect the rights of the people and honour agreements we made on behalf of the people. This would be our opportunity to demonstrate to the people the advice the Government gave to the USA, that is, we can get our house in order before we tell others like Palestine and Israel how to fix theirs.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
Ms. Kissoon (replying): Let me start by setting the records straight. First, that at no time, and I repeat, at no time, have I ever, as was reported, cursed the Hon. Prime Minister.
Secondly, again for the records, I wish it be known that meetings between the representatives of the Government and the representatives of the people of Region 10 were postponed on several occasions by the Government side also. Hon. Member Ms. Teixeira, I would have missed one or two meetings and I asked for copies of the Minutes for clarity sake.
Thirdly, Ms. Shadick reference to then licence application is fraud. Since the agreement was signed and came into force a new set of draconian conditions imposed by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority, which Ms. Shadick heads, have constrained the regional representatives from completing its side of arrangement in a timely fashion.
Fourthly, I would like to recommend that Members on the Government benches must find the time to listen to what we, on this side of the House, have to say on important matters. If they had they would have understood that there was no racial intent in the following statement. I quote:
“…and I would like to think that when the Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House and President Ramotar were involved in those protests they were not doing them because of the majority, they were not doing them because the majority of PPP/C supporters have a similar ethnicity with the people of Palestine but because they recognised, like Martin Carter, that in the scheme of human relations that we are all involved and all will be consumed.”
Tonight, let it be known that I shall not be sidetracked or distracted by the antics of those who are steeped in the old and divisive politics, for this is not what the people of Linden and Region 10 sent me here to participate in. The issue before this House is a motion that speaks to four items:
• the installing a regional land selection committee;
• an Economic Committee to develop regional economic plan;
• a technical committee to comprehensively examine our generation in the region; and
• the return of the television dish and channel that belong to the Linden community.
Let it also be known that it was the person who was nominated, or brought forward, by the Government side, Mr. Narvon Persaud, who resigned from the technical committee because he realised that he could not have been opened in those discussions.
The first resolve clause states:
“That this National Assembly calls on the Government of Guyana to immediately adhere to its commitments and obligations under the written agreement of 21st August, 2012 thereby ensuring that the benefits which were to accrue to the residents of Region 10 are realized;”
We all recognise the rights of the executive and the representatives of the people of Region 10 to negotiate a resolution to the crisis. The constitutional rights of the citizens of Region 10 must be honoured to the letter both groups have assented to. Tonight, this House is asked to join us in taking it forward in the form of its adoption and participate in activities to ensure that this agreement is implemented.
The citizens of this country, more than 50 % are under 35 years of age, have been calling for the old destructive thinking and behaviours to give way to new progressive thinking and constructive behaviours grounded in rights and the rule of law. This motion is not one that sets out to divide this House. It is one that has been agreed upon but sets out to give an opportunity, to this House, for its involvement in making sure that every element is honoured and, more so, can be replicated in other parts of this society. This act is about governance by the people for the people and on behalf of the people which our Constitution speaks to. Let me reiterate article 13:
“The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
Tonight, let history records that we, the representatives of the people, are together in upholding the constitution and respecting the rights of every citizen. I would like to again posit the words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I would be failing in my duty if I fail to reiterate that... [Mr. Neendkumar: [Inaudible]] Neil, you are a result of automatic promotion.
Mr. Speaker: It is the Hon. Member Neendkumar. It is not Neil.
Ms. Kissoon: Hon. Member Neendkumar, you are a result of automatic promotion, no child left behind.
I would be failing my duty if I fail to reiterate that it was no less of a person than the man who is today the Head of State on January 9th,2009 led the PPP/C protest in front of the United States of America Embassy, in Kingston, calling for the rights of the Palestinians to be respected. That is why it is important that the party, which leads the Government of Guyana, respects the rights of the citizens of Region 10 and upholds the agreement that was reached between the Government of Guyana and the people of Region 10.
In closing, I would like to call on this honourable House to support, in its entirety, this motion which stands in my name. I thank you. [Applause]
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