There was a breach of protocol – Rohee

… “it clearly was a case of ineptitude, incompetence or inexperience”

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) remains steadfast in its claims that the apology and explanation offered

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee
PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee
Disappointed PPP members leaving D'Urban Park on the eve of Independence Day
Disappointed PPP members leaving D’Urban Park on the eve of Independence Day

by Minister within the Education Ministry, Nicolette Henry about the poor seating arrangements in the VIP section during the flag-raising ceremony for the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary were inaccurate.

The Party is also adamant that the treatment meted out to its members, who all hold constitutional posts, was a breach of protocol and swore that had the PPP/C been in Government, the Opposition would not have faced such humiliation.

PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee told a news conference on Monday that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government is seeking to paint a picture that the Opposition was uncooperative; however, this was not the case.

He gave a detailed explanation of what transpired on the evening of May 25, at D’Urban Park, stating that all the instructions and directions that were decided upon in Parliament were adhered to. However, things obviously took a wrong turn.

“We are saying that there was a breach of the protocols and the arrangements of the promises that were made to us,” the Party’s General Secretary stated, continuing, “It would not have happened if we were in Government with the then Opposition. It clearly was a case of ineptitude, incompetence or inexperience, or it was designed like that,” he posited.

He said Members of Parliament were told in Parliament that there were seats allocated to the 32 Opposition MPs, and they all left the Office of the Leader of the Opposition that evening, with the understanding that seats would have been available for them. According to Rohee, the planning and execution of the event were chaotic and this has been the views expressed by a number of persons.

“A number of commentators have all criticised the event and the action and the disrespect,” he told Journalists.

He maintained that the Leader of the Opposition is holding constitutional office, and so are the MPs. “They are not stray dogs,” he said.

“When we go to Parliament, the Speaker expects us to act in a particular way. So how come it is good for one location and bad for another location?” he questioned.

Rohee explained that the claim that there was a clash in arrivals was untrue as MPs were already present, long before the arrival of both the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and President David Granger.

“We went there before the Prime Minister and the President. We went there before people start pouring in the place. We went there before Ministers arrived,” the General Secretary said.

On the night of the incident, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo expressed disappointment that his Party was left embarrassed when members turned up at the D’Urban Park arena to be part of the activities, but could not because most of the MPs were left standing without any seats.

He said an effort was made to correct the situation, but after some 30 minutes standing, nothing was done. They all dubbed the situation disrespectful, and the group, led by Jagdeo, walked out of the event.

But on Friday, Minister Henry, who had responsibility for the staging of the event, said the parliamentary Opposition was invited to all State events and confirmed its attendance to the flag-raising ceremony.

She said after accepting the invitation, the Opposition was briefed by her on Tuesday, May 24, on the time of arrival, entrance to be used and seating arrangements. Based on the arrangement, the Opposition Leader was expected to be seated in the Presidential Section with all other past Presidents and Prime Ministers. All other PPP members were to be seated in the other VIP section.

According to Henry, the Opposition Leader did arrive, but not at the time he was expected to. Explaining the details of what transpired on Wednesday evening, Minister Henry said Jagdeo arrived at 21:55h and approached the south-western entrance (Hadfield Street).

She said had it not been for the Police’s insistence that the group use the north-western entrance, the Opposition and President David Granger would have arrived on the tarmac at the same time.

According to her, the other members remained standing in the passageway and had indicated that they would only sit when they could be assigned seats together. However, according to her, this was not told to the usher.

But, the Minister’s account is being disputed.

Several independent commentators have all deemed the flag-raising ceremony “chaotic” as they revealed that ushers in the VIP section were running all over the place as confusion abound as to whom should be seated where.

There were also claims that a number of unauthorised person were seated in the VIP box, one of the fact which may have been responsible for the lack of adequate seating for the opposition MPs.