Mistreatment of Opposition at flag raising ceremony
– MPs vent on social media
Almost 24 hours after they were left to stand embarrassingly at the flag-raising ceremony to mark Guyana’s
50th Independence anniversary Wednesday night, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are yet to receive an explanation from the Minister responsible for staging the event, Nicolette Henry.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, when contacted on Thursday, said his party has received no response from Henry or any other government official on the issue.
Wednesday night opposition MPs walked out of D’Urban Park after they turned up and found that the promised seating arrangements were not available.
Jagdeo told Guyana Times his Party had signalled its intention of attending the event, since it wanted to participate in the activities to mark the country’s significant milestone. He said contact was also made with Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry, who had responsibility for the event, concerning the seating arrangement. He said assurance was given that this was taken care of. In fact, he said she related that there were some 1000 VIP seats.
Jagdeo said while himself and a few other senior members of the Party were seated, the majority of party members were left standing, while other persons, many of whom were dressed inappropriately, passed by and were allowed seats. He said he asked Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams to address the matter and warned that if it was not, then he would be left with no choice but to leave in solidarity with his colleagues who were left unseated. The group left some 45 minutes after arriving
Meanwhile, several MPs took to social media to vent over the situation.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said, “they may deny us seats at the Flag Raising Ceremony. They may refuse to recognize but cannot deny the role which Cheddie Jagan and many other leaders of PPP played in the struggle for Independence from 1943-1966. Not only did we play a leading part in that struggle, but the 23 years (out of 50), after independence, that is from 1992-2015, that we governed this country were the best period of our country’s developmental trajectory. It’s too much to recite here but even detractors, if they want to be credible, will agree.
Member of Parliament Priya Manickchand said, “unfortunately, when we got to the event, happy to be there with feelings of deep patriotic pride, the Govt provided no seats for the opposition MPs except for five seats given to the Leader of the Opposition, Sam Hinds and three other MPs. While the rest of us were standing there in the passageway for no less than 25 minutes.”
The MP went on to say that, “this shameless and infantile” behaviour was designed to embarrass the Opposition and is unacceptable as it is petty, disrespectful and destructive. “Hey, Executive. You can’t stop us. We are elected office holders. We represent hundreds of thousands of persons. We celebrate Guyana’s Independence,” Manickchand added.
Also venting disappointment was former Housing Minister and now shadow Finance Minister Irfaan Ali: “The talk of unity and coming together was all fluff. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the Government to stoop to this level of disregard and disrespect for the opposition. Despite assuring the opposition that accommodation would be made for Opposition MPs this was not the case. On arrival at the Jubilee Park we were shocked to learn that neither seats nor accommodation was made for us. After standing for almost 30 minutes waiting to be seated whilst numerous persons were seated, the humiliation was enough and as a team we left… The former Presidents and General Secretary left with the MPs in solidarity. This is the unity the President alluded to” Meanwhile, former President Donald Ramotar who also attended the flag raising ceremony and was seated said that he also walked out of the proceedings in support of his colleagues when he heard about the incident, .
Efforts to contact Minister Henry on the issue proved futile.