The police should not have been called in to Parliament

Dear Editor,

As I write this letter I am looking at photos of opposition members of parliament being removed from the chambers by police. I was hoping for a while that these were photoshopped, but that was not to be. These are not fake photos. These are real and true photographic images of what took place on Monday in the hallowed Chambers of the Guyana Parliament.

Shameful! What an image to emerge from our Parliament Chambers.  Member of Parliament Juan Edghilll was out of order. Parliamentarians the world over are often out of order. But to summon the police into the Chambers of Parliament was an unnecessary step and an overreaction. I have the greatest respect for the Speaker. He is my dear friend and one from whom I learnt a lot during my sojourn in the Foreign Ministry and at the United Nations. My impression of Dr Scotland was heightened many years ago when Gus Lee, then Chairman of the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) handed a button with Burnham’s photo requesting that Scotland wear it during the opening ceremony of a heads-of-mission meeting. He refused the button and we, the younger and junior members of the foreign service were impressed with his lack of cowardice.

On this occasion however I am ineluctably constrained to express my disappointment with the decision of the Speaker. I know it started with the opposition’s disruption of the President’s address to Parliament, continued with a carefully orchestrated breach of security with the entrance of Santa Claus, and now Bishop Edghill’s wanton disrespect for the ruling of the Speaker that he take his seat, as well as for the procedures governing the conduct of members of the honourable House. The Speaker’s patience must we wearing thin. But this could hardly be the justification for calling in the police. He could have simply adjourned the sitting. There must have been other mechanisms at his disposal for sanctioning Bishop Edghill, including suspension from future sittings.

The House is under the Speaker’s control. It seems that the Speaker followed the advice given in a recent newspaper interview by former Speaker Sase Narain who told one of the dailies that he would have called in the police if he were presiding when President Granger was interrupted  during his address to Parliament recently. I doubt whether President Granger would have sanctioned that. I don’t recall the police ever being summoned into the Chambers of Parliament even though it is alleged that Demond Hoyte once picked up an ash-tray stand when he confronted Mackie Hamid and Dr Jagan once upturned a table. Sase Narain  as a Speaker,  no way would he have called in the police without Burnham’s approval. And believe it or leave it, but I am sure neither Burnham nor Dr Jagan would ever have sanctioned the police being summoned to remove members of Parliament from the chambers.

The argument about this being different times in support of the Speaker’s decision does not hold water. If the argument about these being different times is to hold water it would be in support of the need to avoid the negative portrayal of Guyana’s international image in this age of social media…..Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We look here like a wild banana republic. Even in some of the wild banana republics the police aren’t called in. Instead there are parliamentary ‘bouncers’ dressed neatly in civilian attire that remove members. And in more civilized societies there is parliamentary privilege which provides against law enforcement removing and arresting members in the chamber, although there are mechanisms for sanctioning them when they abuse these privileges.

Any suggestion that Speaker Scotland resign or be removed as has been advanced on some Facebook posts is nothing but sheer nonsense. But he has got to meet with the leadership of the two sides, in camera, and work out a blueprint.

It’s time to get it right Guyana!

Yours faithfully,

Wesley Kirton

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