Never entered mandir with shoes on or kicked down ornaments, I was pursuing noise nuisance complaint

Dear Editor,

In an exclusive interview with HGP Nightly News on Thursday, November 9, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally “fired back” at the Leader of the Opposition, calling him a “lawless leader” and a “reckless leader”, for saying that the PPP do not respect the Head of State. At a Press Conference the previous day, Dr. Jagdeo said, “We do respect the institution of the Office of the Presidency, but not the person who holds that office now.”

And then, in an effort to illustrate that the “PPP relies on politics for its relevance”, Minister Ally said, “And I’ll give you an example of what the PPP did only recently. Because a group of people in Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice decided that they were going to join the PNC, you know what one of their MPs did? Mr. Harry Gill went into this mandir with his shoes on, kicked down the ornaments that were in this mandir, and told the people who were worshipping, that he will shut them down.”

Perhaps Minister Ally has not forgotten that in a previous letter on Social Cohesion, I had written, “The Ministry (or Department) of Social Cohesion is headed by the wrong person. Minister Amna Ally is too controversial, combative, arrogant and divisive to head that Ministry. Everyone knows that, including some of her own colleagues in Government, but they dare not say it publicly.”

I guess this is payback for my frank and honest opinion. She was replaced shortly thereafter as Minister of Social Cohesion by Dr. George Norton.

Minister Amna Ally must arm herself with the facts before putting her mouth in gear. As a Member of Parliament and also a Justice of the Peace, I make myself available to listen to people’s problems, and to help everyone in need of my services, including many known PNC/APNU supporters from Ithaca. I do not discriminate. So if anyone is dumb enough to want to join the PNC, that’s their Constitutional right and the choice they would have to live with. But this was never the reason for my visit to a bottom-house Puja church.

Over the past months, I had received numerous complaints from residents of  Bath Settlement, that the loud beating of tassa drums emanating from a Puja church in the community was unbearable, preventing school children from studying, and senior citizens from resting. I was reluctant to pursue this at first because of the religious nature of the complaint. But as more and more persons registered their outrage, I held a meeting with some of the residents with the intention of finding a way to resolve this crisis. During the meeting, I was told that this noise pollution has been ongoing for some time, but it has gotten worse over the past two years. Several complaints were made to the Fort Wellington Police Station to no avail. The police referred the complainants to the local NDC. Several more complaints were made to the Bath/Woodley Park NDC, and this was followed up on April 4, 2017 with a Petition signed by 63 persons that are affected by the loud beating of Puja drums in a residential community on a regular basis. I then called the NDC Chairman to get a brief on the issue. He told me he had spoken to Mr Budhram Parmaul aka Anil, the owner of the Puja church, on several occasions and expressed the concerns of the affected residents. He reported that Mr Parmaul was often uncooperative, arrogant, and determined that no one should tell him how loud to beat his drums. I was also informed that Mr. Parmaul had applied to the NDC for permission to build his Puja church sometime ago, but his plans were rejected because he lives in a residential area, too close to other homes. Despite being denied permission, Parmaul proceeded to build his church in violation of the laws and regulations of the Bath/Woodley Park NDC.

I then called Mr. Parmaul on the phone, and pleaded with him to lower the decibels of his tassa drums, but he questioned why him? Why not the other mandir that is close-by? For one who is supposed to be a religious person, his demeanour was one of defiance, with total disregard for the quality of life crisis he was creating. In the end, however, he promised not to beat the tassa drums so loudly, and invited me over to listen for myself.

That very Sunday, as I was driving to Dundee, Mahaicony to attend a friend’s birthday party, I received another complaint from a resident, and decided to pass by the church.

I always drive with my windows up for two reasons: To keep in the cold air from the air-conditioner, and to keep out the noise from the outside. But the moment I turned off the main public road into Bath Settlement, I could hear the drums. And the closer I got, the more unbearable the noise became. I then understood very clearly, what these people were living with for so long.

This bottom-house Puja church is not a mandir as Minister Ally claims. It is a small structure built below the left side of a small house where Mr Parmaul lives. The rest of the bottom-house is a yard, big enough for my Toyota Tundra to drive through the gate and park-up had I lived there instead.

On the bridge, I saw a sign asking for shoes to be taken off before entering. I did not comply for I had no intention of going inside the yard. I stood by the gate and because of the loud drumming, beckoned to a small group of about 6 persons sitting on benches to get their attention. Three came over, and I asked for Anil (Mr. Parmaul). I explained that the noise level was a violation of our Environmental Protection Regulations and pleaded with them to have more consideration for his neighbours. One shouted out angrily that this is the reason the PPP was “kicked out of office.” To which I replied, “Even if you’re PPP supporters, we cannot condone lawlessness.” By then, Anil came out arrogantly demanding that I take off my shoes although I had moved unto the bridge and was about to leave. He bluntly refused to lower the decibels on the tassa drums as he had promised during our phone discussion. To alleviate his concern, I assured him that I was not there to shut him down, but only wanted him to lower the noise level in consideration of his neighbours. He said there was nothing I could do about it, and dared me to report him to the police.

I then drove to the Fort Wellington Police Station and asked the police office on duty at the front desk to send a patrol to observe the noise pollution. I was very specific that he should instruct the patrol not to shut them down, but instead advise Mr. Parmaul (Anil) that this is a quality of life issue that requires consideration for others in the community. This information can easily be verified with a phone call to the front desk officer that was on duty at the Fort Wellington Police Station at 1;45 pm on Sunday, October 29, 2017.

Two days later, I received a call from a freelance reporter, Mr Clifford Stanley, advising me of the allegations made against me, and asked for a response.

I have the greatest of respect for any reporter who would seek to verify the authenticity of a story before publishing same. That’s professional journalistic practice. But somehow, Minister Amna Ally parroted some of the same allegations in her exclusive interview with HGP Nightly News. I’m guessing Mr. Parmaul went to see her too.

These are the facts: I never entered a mandir with my shoes on, I stood near to a gate leading into an open yard; I never threatened or hit anyone. And from where I was standing by the gate, I could not see any ornaments, much less to “kick them down.” The reason I visited the location had nothing to do with these people wanting to join the PNC, I just wanted them observe the peace and tranquility of a residential neighbourhood.

Questions must be asked, why is it that no one took photos or videos of me hitting a woman and kicking down statues or ornaments, or even walking around the “mandir” with my shoes on? And if this really happened, why wasn’t such serious allegations being made against a Member of Parliament reported to the nearby Fort Wellington Police Station instead of a free-lance reporter. The simple answer is that Mr Budhram Parmaul aka Anil, is prepared to lie through his teeth to slander my impeccable character with the hope of preventing more investigations into his bottom-house Puja church.

Minister Ally could have called me for an explanation, or check to see if a police report was made against me before going on national television to slander my character.

A defamation lawsuit can be costly but can be avoided. I simply ask that Minister Amna Ally issue a public apology to me on the HGP Nightly News, in lieu of which, I will seek my lawyer’s advice on the way forward.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Gill

PPP /C Member of Parliament 

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