The July 8th incident involving Minister in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes, her driver and two security guards will be discussed at today’s cabinet sitting following which government coalition partner, Alliance for Change (AFC) will be able to give an official statement, the party’s leader Raphael Trotman said yesterday.
Speaking to Stabroek News outside Parliament Chambers, Trotman who is also the Natural Resources Minister said that last Tuesday the President at cabinet raised the matter and said that they should all await the report. “Now that the report is out it is going to be a matter of discussion no doubt tomorrow at cabinet and then I believe we’ll have a further statement”, he said.
Police said on Friday that following legal advice no charges will be laid against any of the parties involved in the matter. Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Police Force Jairam Ramlakhan, said in a press statement that the case file was returned to the police with recommendations that no charges are to be laid based on all statements and video footage related to the incident.
Trotman informed that he has spoken to Minister Broomes on the matter and knows that she is “very contrite about all that has happened”.
Being a government minister and the matter having been raised at cabinet, he said that he has no doubt that it will be a matter of discussion today.
The altercation occurred when Broomes had visited the Amazonia Mall at Providence to purchase food from the New Thriving Chinese Restaurant.
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. Questions have been raised as to why Broomes’ driver was not detained by the police.
The police had said in its first statement on the incident that a “thorough investigation” was launched following allegations of abuse and threats against a minister and her driver. It did not name Broomes. “Initial enquiries reveal that both parties seemed to have been very aggressive,” the statement had said.
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, 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.
One of the guards, Josh 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.
Concerns have been raised that Broomes abused her privilege as minister and possibly lied about the incident. Aside from a comment by one minister, the government has not said whether it has spoken to her about the incident and is scrutinizing her behaviour in relation to the Code of Conduct for senior government officials.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, under whose signature the Code of Conduct was gazetted on June 12th, 2017 was approached by this newspaper at Parliament on July 19, to ascertain whether it was being applied in this instance but the Prime Minister indicated that his understanding of the code is that is deals with conduct in the context of transparency in declarations of assets. However, the code doesn’t only deal with transparency in relation to assets.
There are several parts of the Code of Conduct which would warrant accountability on the part of the government and Broomes.
Under what the Code describes as The Ten Principles of Public Life it lists Accountability and defines it as “A person in public life shall be accountable to the public for his or her decisions and actions and shall submit himself or herself to scrutiny and criticism” while the second of the Ten Principles of Public Life is identified as Dignity which is defined by the Code as “A person in public life shall, in the execution of his or her official functions, conduct themselves in a manner which engenders the respect of their peers and the public”.
Additionally the fourth of the Ten Principles of Public Life is Duty which the Code defines as “A person in public life owes a duty to the public and shall consider themselves servants of the people” and the 10th of the Ten Principles of Public Life is Transparency which the Code defines as “A person in public life exercise[ing] his or her public decisions and actions with full and frank disclosure and provid[ing] when demanded by the public an explanation for his or her actions and decisions”.
On July 12th at Parliament, Broomes remained silent when questioned by the media on the clash in the parking lot of the mall.
As she made her way to the parliamentary chamber for the sitting of the National Assembly, Broomes was faced with questions by the media on the events that transpired 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.