Prison unrest motion…says Govt’s rejection of motion questionableBy Samuel SukhnandanMembers of the Cabinet of the coalition Government have been described as “wimps” for rejecting in the National Assembly a motion submitted by the Opposition calling on the Administration to take collective responsibility for the 2017 Camp Street Prison fire and unrest, and to launch an investigation.People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill, in whose name this motion was submitted, told Guyana Times that the Government did not merely debate the motion, but attempted to do damage control against the very pointed arguments put forward by the Opposition.The lone speaker from the Government side of the house was Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who defended the Government’s handling of the situation. But Edghill maintained that Government members had already made a decision to vote against the motion even before they sought to analyse and respond to it.“If the Government (had) read and understood the motion, they would have realised that the motion had merit, in that it was calling for specific actions which any responsible Government would have taken,” the PPP MP said, while noting that many important points were made by his colleagues.He said the arguments presented by the Opposition were far stronger, and zeroed in on the crime and security situation in Guyana as well as the alleged mishandling of citizens’ security. “They (Opposition) provided a case that our country was worse off today, and that citizen and public security was a concern. What we saw was a knee-jerk reaction to this entire situation,” he posited.Edghill also observed that although it was clear that Minister Ramjattan had some “slippage”, he was nevertheless supported by his colleagues.He said, “It would appear that no one in Government could say to their colleagues their slip is showing. If there is a Cabinet of ministers where the Constitution speaks about collective responsibility, are you trying to tell me there is no one in the Cabinet who understand the views, feelings and frustration of the citizens?” he questioned.“Is it that no one can speak to the Cabinet about their shortcomings, or is there no environment created for such a collective responsibility? I am surprised that the PM can’t say to the Minister that there are problems. I am also surprised that none of his colleagues can point that out,” he further added.This, according to Edghill, is a clear indication that members of Cabinet lack the will and the guts to speak up and critique each other. And on this basis, the MP said he feels that members of Cabinet are “wimps” who cannot speak up for themselves or defend what is right.Another concern raised by the MP is that the Minister is still maintaining that Government will stick to its words: that a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) would be launched only upon the recapture of the two remaining prison escapees. Edghill said he finds no basis for this argument, as this CoI could have helped to highlight the issues that led to the prison break and unrest, and help to find a solution to the problem.Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, who moved a motion in the National Assembly on Wednesday last, claimed that the law enforcement officials were unprepared and ill-advised. “The issue is leadership and acting responsibly. You give leadership, and you didn’t on that day. None of you! And I am not going to blame the prison and army and Police. I am not!” she told the Government MPs in the House.Teixeira, a former Home Affairs Minister, said law enforcement officers are not to be blamed for this incident, since the buck stops at the Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan.The Opposition Chief Whip said that as head of the country’s security sector, Ramjattan had ignored numerous warnings and signs before the unrest, and had essentially failed to act to prevent the disaster from happening.“The situation was completely unavoidable…You (Ramjattan) sat on your laurels and did nothing!” she posited, noting that the matter could have been handled in a much safer and efficient manner.Teixeira contended that the Minister should have been made to resign since the first disaster at the Camp Street Prison in 2016. But even more so, preventative measures should have been put in place following the unrest that killed 17 prisoners at the same Camp Street penitentiary.The Opposition feels that this incident highlights the Government’s incompetence in handling matters of national security, and, as such, wants the administration to take full responsibility for the incident.The motion wanted the National Assembly to call on the Government to accept collective responsibility to the House for the repeated events at the prisons of Guyana.It also sought to have the Government declare what actions have been and are being taken to reduce the opportunities for such situations from recurring, and for the National Assembly to support the disciplined service in its efforts to ensure public safety, the protection of citizens, and the recapture of all the escapees.