‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’

-Broomes mum on parking lot clash

Simona Broomes

Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes yesterday remained silent on the clash between her, her driver and two security guards in the parking lot of the Amazonia Mall at Providence, East Bank Demerara, for which she has faced mounting criticism for her actions, including misrepresenting the encounter.

As she made her way to the parliamentary chamber for yesterday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Broomes was faced with questions by the media on the events that transpired on Sunday night and whether she would issue an apology for her actions.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Broomes said as she casually walked to the chambers. The minister maintained the response as reporters continued to question her.

Broomes had claimed that she and her driver were verbally abused and threatened by the two security guards but surveillance footage of the confrontation showed otherwise. Nevertheless, based on her initial complaint, the two guards were detained by police for 16 hours before they were released on their own recognisance.

Senior Ministers of Government were also approached for comment on Broomes’ actions as they arrived for the sitting yesterday. Government Chief Whip and Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally and Minister of State Joseph Harmon both indicated to the media that they were in no position to comment on the matter.

Ally said, “I know not what took place and I will not comment on that….” She did, however, add, “All and sundry must observe the rule of law, whether you are a minister, you are an ordinary person; that is what is expected.”

Harmon, when questioned, said that the matter was still being investigated by the police and that he wished not to share his view.

‘We didn’t come into gov’t for this’

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence did not mince words when asked to comment. “We didn’t come into government for issues like this; we came in to make changes,” Lawrence said.

On Tuesday night, Lawrence posted on her Facebook page about her encounter with one of the two guards, Josh Ramroop, who said he was wrongfully arrested and detained for 16 hours. “From the bottom of my heart I apologised to him and said I was sorry. Humility and wisdom are character traits we must always ask of our Creator,” she wrote.

On the corridors of the Public Buildings yesterday, she noted that she was approached by Ramroop after she visited the New Thriving Restaurant at the mall on Tuesday. “When the young man came to me and explained the situation and I saw the video footage, I think it was appropriate to apologise to him,” she said, while making it clear that there was no link between her actions and her campaign for Chairmanship of the PNCR.

When asked if she felt Broomes should apologise, Lawrence responded, “Minister Broomes will make her own decision.”

Video footage of the encounter showed Broomes’ vehicle turning into the parking lot and stopping just a few feet away from the entrance to the Massy Supermarket. A man, who appeared to be the driver of the vehicle, exited, and removed what appeared to be a no parking sign before venturing back into the vehicle. This caught the attention of the two guards, who were seen standing a short distance away.

One of the guards, who was armed with what appeared to be a high-powered rifle, ventured over to the vehicle and proceeded to return the sign to the space it had been moved from. As a result, the driver of the vehicle exited and had an exchange with the guard.

Not long after, a woman, believed to be Broomes, exited the back of the vehicle and proceeded to push two of the no parking signs to the ground before engaging in a confrontation with the guard, who stood in front of the vehicle while the driver attempted to proceed as the signs had been removed.

Ramroop, in an interview with this newspaper, said that neither he nor his colleague pulled a gun on Broomes and her driver as was claimed to police. He stated that as a part of their duties, they objected to an area in which the heavily-tinted vehicle was about to park. “But where they were going was out of bounds. We don’t let anyone park behind there when it’s dark because there is no real surveillance down there,” he explained.

He said when they told the driver he could not proceed to park in the area, the driver “started to buse and cuss.” “He was being really arrogant and aggressive,” Ramroop added. Not long after, he said, a woman exited the vehicle and “joined in.” He said she grabbed one of the signs and threw it on the ground and indicated to her driver to proceed as the guard tried to receive it.

At no point, he said, did the minister identify herself to them.

The two guards are employed by KGM Security Services, the firm that provides security for the property. The company has said it stands by the men.

‘Reckless’

Meanwhile, Crime Chief Paul Williams also landed himself in hot water over comments he made to the Guyana Chronicle, in which he criticised the actions of the guards.

In the report, he was reported as saying that the security guards should have used their judgement to determine the class of person that was venturing on to the premises. “…from the time you see a vehicle of a certain standard, it is supposed to arouse your attention and alertness,” he noted, before adding that as soon as the minister identified herself they should have apologised and tried explaining their position in a different tone.

The Guyana Association of Private Security Organizations (GAPSO), in a press statement yesterday, called Williams’ statements “unfortunate.”

GAPSO expressed its incredulity that Williams would call on the guards to apologise after the minister’s driver attempted to breach a secure area of a facility, without seeking permission, and the minister herself tossed several signs on the ground, which constitutes damage of property. As a result, it called on Commissioner of Police (Ag) David Ramnarine “to explain to the public if the reckless comments made by Mr Williams represents the position of the Guyana Police Force.”

Further, the statement from the association called for Broomes to explain her actions, while noting that she must be held accountable if she fails to do so.

“The Guyana Association of Private Security Organizations is urging all Security Officers to not allow agitators to seize this moment to advance their often self-serving beliefs of what is erroneous. Do not allow them to bemoan the lack of trust in the private security industry. Do not allow them to beat down the hard working men and women who are security officers,” it added.

Numerous efforts made to contact Williams proved futile yesterday.

Observers have noted that his comments are prejudicial to the investigation that the police are supposed to be conducting.