Ramjattan yields to Benn’s request to disavow burning of schools

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January 2023, 21:23 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan

Leader of the opposition Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan on Thursday took up Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn’s call on the floor of the National Assembly to deny any responsibility for the burning of schools in Guyana.

“I disavow all violence and destruction of schools. You could write it for me and I will certainly deliver it,” Mr Ramjattan said. House Speaker Manzoor Nadir said that statement would be included in the parliamentary records.

After the AFC Leader did so, the Home Affairs Minister said, “I want to thank the Honourable Member Khemraj Ramjattan for his specific statement which is now in the Hansard and I want him to make sure that he maintains that posture and that attitude and that he spreads the message with those whom his organisation relates,” said Mr Benn.

Later on his presentation, the Home Affairs Minister described Mr Ramjattan, his immediate predecessor following the 2020 general and regional elections, that “he is even more Honourable today.”

Mr Benn sought to link destruction by fire of a number of schools to alleged calls by an opposition activist in New Jersey, United States for Georgetown to burn should the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) remains in power.  “They made presentations when it was said Georgetown must burn down if PPP (People’s Progressive Party) does not come out of office. He said a number of opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change members were on the stage of that unnamed person who lives in New Jersey.

Against that background, the Home Affairs Minister challenged Mr Ramjattan to dissociate himself from the destruction of schools and other public properties.

“I want the Honourable Member Ramjattan disavow those remarks, separate himself and his organisation from… You must stand up and say it here in this House because if schools are burnt, if public property is burnt down, whose taxes, whose money, whose effort over the years, whose children are inconvenienced? It is all of ours,” he said.

The Mabaruma Secondary School and the Christ Church Secondary School were destroyed by fires that were deliberately set, investigators had said.

Except for Mr Ramjattan, the other parliamentarians of the APNU+AFC walked out of the National Assembly and stayed away from much of the afternoon’s session of the budget debate.

Mr Benn sought to link deviant behaviour and the failure of many persons to develop themselves to the posture of the political opposition. “We identify again that the problems, subconsciously engendered in some people’s minds in respect to lawless behaviour, not pursuing ambitious self-development has to do with political messaging of a negative kind,” he said. He referred to recent incidents at a city secondary school and at Mocha during the demolition of residents’ houses where persons were allegedly armed with cutlasses as bad examples to the wider society.

The Home Affairs Minister restated that there has been a 20 percent reduction in serious crimes, and credited the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit with the seizure of a large quantity of drugs in 2022.  He also announced that more “assets” would be purchased for the Guyana Fire Service this year.

The Alliance For Change in December 2022 ended its seven-year long political marriage with APNU but they remain a coalition in the National Assembly, having contested the 2020 polls as one.