Gov’t mum on Broomes incident despite Code of Conduct
Aside from a comment by one minister, the government has remained silent on a July 8th incident involving Minister in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes despite the fact that it should be applying its much vaunted Code of Conduct for officials in public life.
Despite concerns that Broomes abused her privilege as minister in the parking lot of the Amazonia Mall at Providence and possibly lied about the incident, the government has not said whether it has spoken to her about the incident and is scrutinizing her behaviour in relation to the Code.
President David Granger has been silent on the matter and so too has been Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo under whose signature the Code of Conduct was gazetted on June 12th, 2017 – more than two years after the government entered office.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon when asked about the Broomes incident had said on July 12 at parliament that the matter was still being investigated by the police and that he wished not to share his view.
However, observers note that the police investigation was a matter separate from the Code of Conduct and that from the outset the government should have conducted its own examination of the matter.
There are several parts of the Code of Conduct which would warrant accountability on the part of the government and Broomes.
Under what the Code describes as The Ten Principles of Public Life it lists Accountability and defines it as “A person in public life shall be accountable to the public for his or her decisions and actions and shall submit himself or herself to scrutiny and criticism”.
Both the government and Broomes have failed to address this matter. Despite widespread public criticisms of her actions based on surveillance footage of a part of the incident at the Mall, Broomes has refused to address public concerns. In Parliament on June 12 when she was questioned by reporters, Broomes smirked and said “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and simply proceeded to parliament chambers. She has therefore not accounted to the public for her behaviour and neither has the government sought this accountability from her.
The second of the Ten Principles of Public Life is Dignity and this is defined by the Code as “A person in public life shall, in the execution of his or her official functions, conduct themselves in a manner which engenders the respect of their peers and the public”.
In the incident in question, Broomes was using a government vehicle and in her one encounter with the state-owned media said she identified herself as a minister during the incident. She therefore provided official cover to her presence at the Mall.
The fourth of the Ten Principles of Public Life is Duty which the Code defines as “A person in public life owes a duty to the public and shall consider themselves servants of the people”. Broomes’ silence and unaccountability would put her in breach of this principle particularly as her complaint again two guards at the Mall led them to be detained by the police for 16 hours when they may have simply been discharging their duties.
Even more importantly, the 10th of the Ten Principles of Public Life is Transparency which the Code defines as “A person in public life shall exercise his or her public decisions and actions with full and frank disclosure and shall provide when demanded by the public an explanation for his or her actions and decisions”.
In this instance, Broomes made a complaint to the police about the incident at the Mall but has not provided the public with an explanation for her actions or answered questions that have arisen from her actions.
Issues like this
Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence when asked to comment on the matter at Parliament on July 12 said. “We didn’t come into government for issues like this; we came in to make changes”.
Prior to this comment, Lawrence had posted on her Facebook page about her encounter with one of the two guards, Josh Ramroop, who said he was wrongfully arrested and detained for 16 hours. “From the bottom of my heart I apologised to him and said I was sorry. Humility and wisdom are character traits we must always ask of our Creator,” she wrote.
She noted that she was approached by Ramroop after she visited the New Thriving Restaurant at the mall. “When the young man came to me and explained the situation and I saw the video footage, I think it was appropriate to apologise to him,” she said.
When asked if she felt Broomes should apologise, Lawrence responded, “Minister Broomes will make her own decision.”
Video footage of the encounter showed Broomes’ vehicle turning into the parking lot and stopping just a few feet away from the entrance to the Massy Supermarket. A man, who appeared to be the driver of the vehicle, exited, and removed what appeared to be a no parking sign before venturing back into the vehicle. This caught the attention of the two guards, who were seen standing a short distance away.
One of the guards, who was armed with what appeared to be a high-powered rifle, ventured over to the vehicle and proceeded to return the sign to the space it had been moved from. As a result, the driver of the vehicle exited and had an exchange with the guard.
Not long after, a woman, believed to be Broomes, exited the back of the vehicle and proceeded to push two of the no parking signs to the ground before engaging in a confrontation with the guard, who stood in front of the vehicle while the driver attempted to proceed as the signs had been removed.
Ramroop, in an interview with this newspaper, said that neither he nor his colleague pulled a gun on Broomes and her driver as was claimed to police. He stated that as a part of their duties, they objected to an area in which the heavily-tinted vehicle was about to park. “But where they were going was out of bounds. We don’t let anyone park behind there when it’s dark because there is no real surveillance down there,” he explained.
He said when they told the driver he could not proceed to park in the area, the driver “started to buse and cuss.” “He was being really arrogant and aggressive,” Ramroop added. Not long after, he said, a woman exited the vehicle and “joined in.” He said she grabbed one of the signs and threw it on the ground and indicated to her driver to proceed as the guard tried to receive it.
At no point, he said, did the minister identify herself to them.
The two guards are employed by KGM Security Services, the firm that provides security for the property. The company has said it stands by the men.
It is unclear whether the police have interrogated Broomes’ driver over the incident.
Crime Chief Paul Williams also landed himself in hot water over comments he made to the Guyana Chronicle, in which he criticised the actions of the guards.
In the report, he was reported as saying that the security guards should have used their judgement to determine the class of person that was venturing on to the premises. “…from the time you see a vehicle of a certain standard, it is supposed to arouse your attention and alertness,” he noted, before adding that as soon as the minister identified herself they should have apologised and tried explaining their position in a different tone.
The Guyana Association of Private Security Organizations (GAPSO), in a press statement yesterday, called Williams’ statements “unfortunate.”
GAPSO expressed its incredulity that Williams would call on the guards to apologise after the minister’s driver attempted to breach a secure area of a facility, without seeking permission, and the minister herself tossed several signs on the ground, which constitutes damage of property. As a result, it called on Commissioner of Police (Ag) David Ramnarine “to explain to the public if the reckless comments made by Mr Williams represents the position of the Guyana Police Force.”
Further, the statement from the association called for Broomes to explain her actions, while noting that she must be held accountable if she fails to do so.