Calls intensify for enquiry into demonstrations

Stabroek News
April 17, 2001

Calls have intensified for a public enquiry into last week's events, including the police handling of the protestors at the Office of the President and the fires that destroyed ten commercial buildings on Robb, Regent and Water streets.

The leadership of the Working People's Alliance called for such an enquiry last week and a source close the PNC REFORM yesterday supported the call for a public enquiry, adding that it should be conducted by a panel of persons who, in the public perception, were impartial and that the enquiry should be conducted in public and the whole process should be transparent.

Eusi Kwayana, one of the signatories to the WPA statement on the issue, told Stabroek News that while the various parties to the issue would be writing their account of the events, it was necessary for the public to know what had occurred.

The PNC source also told Stabroek News that while the enquiry would be welcomed it would be desirable that it be paralleled with serious negotiations on fundamental issues between the PPP/Civic and the PNC.

The source said that the enquiry would demonstrate clearly that the PNC had no hand in the fires and that it was the "hamfisted" approach of the police that caused the problems.

The source said that rather than being an agent for restoring calm and defusing tensions, the approach of the police only served to aggravate the situation and heightened the tension.

But the source cautioned that the public enquiry could not be the only mechanism for defusing the tension, stressing that side by side with the enquiry should be the negotiations on the issues already articulated in the broadcast to the nation by PNC leader Desmond Hoyte on March 30.

The source observed that the PPP/Civic track record, real or imagined, of partisanship and discrimination had made the aggrieved section of the community impatient with the present situation.

The source stressed the willingness to engage in these negotiations would indicate the PPP's desire to seriously tackle the fundamental issues facing the society and to initiate change.

Another set of measures, which would have to be put in place, according to the source, was the operationalisation of the reforms to the constitution already enacted and those agreed to but not yet enacted.

An example, the source said, was the Ethnic Relations Commission, explaining that not only must its members be appointed but that the institutional arrangement had to be put in place to make it effective.

The source said that important too would be the institutional strengthening of the parliament. The source said that the two sides needed to continue the discussion, which had started during the constitution reform process in which Drs Roger Luncheon and Rupert Roopnaraine had been involved.

Another issue that had to be addressed was the remuneration of the parliamentarians, if the parliamentary reforms were put in place. The source said that the creation of the four sectoral standing committees proposed in addition to the other committees would entail parliamentarians devoting a lot more time to the work of the National Assembly than they had in the past. And while membership of the committees should be based on the member's ability and capacity to make a contribution to the work of the committee to which he/she was to be appointed, they could face some difficult choices if their emoluments were not improved. Parliamentarians are currently paid $312,000 per annum/$26,000 a month in addition to their travel expenses to attend the sittings.