Government has engaged Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes on the July 8th incident involving her, her driver and two security guards in the parking lot of the Amazonia Mall at Providence, according to State Minister Joseph Harmon, who did not say what came out of the engagement.
Addressing the issue at a post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday, Harmon said that in instances where ministers are engaged in any matter, there are interviews and consultations done with them. “I can say for sure that this has been done,” he said, when asked whether government had spoken to the minister about the issue.
The altercation occurred when Broomes 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 about 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.
Concerns have been raised that Broomes abused her privilege as minister and possibly lied about the incident.
Observers have said that Broomes’ behaviour is in violation of the existing Code of Conduct for government officials.
Asked yesterday whether her behaviour is being examined against this code, Harmon said that while this is a matter that is going to be dealt with, based on what he has seen, “it might be well outside of the contemplation of that document.”
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, under whose signature the Code of Conduct was gazetted on June 12th, 2017, has also said that the code is not relevant in this situation as he understands that it deals with conduct in the context of transparency in declarations of assets.
Under what the Code describes as The Ten Principles of Public Life, it lists Accountability and states that “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.” The second of the Ten Principles of Public Life is identified as Dignity and the Code states, “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 and the Code stipulates that “A person in public life owes a duty to the public and shall consider themselves servants of the people.” The tenth Principle is Transparency and the code states “A person in public life exercises his or her public decisions and actions with full and frank disclosure and provides when demanded by the public an explanation for his or her actions and decisions.”
Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman had told Stabroek News last week Monday that the matter would have been the subject of a Cabinet discussion the following day. However, Harmon has disclosed that it was not. He, however, expected that it will be discussed at today’s meeting.