In a press statement issued today, Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicollete Henry, apologised for any inconvenience or distress caused as a result of the incident where the Peoples Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) were forced to walk out of the Independence Flag Raising Ceremony on the evening of May 25, due to what the party claimed was a deliberate attempt to disrespect its members.
On Wednesday, after accepting Government’s invitation to attend the historic flag raising ceremony to usher in Guyana’s 50th Independence, at D’urban Park on Homestretch Avenue, the Opposition PPP/C, left about 45 minutes after arriving.
The Opposition said it was assured that seating accommodations would be available for the 32 People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Members of Parliament (MPs) and their spouses. However, this was not the case when they arrived. They were seen waiting for a lengthy period to even enter the VIP stand, where the MPs and other VIP guests were supposed to be seated.
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jadgeo, was seen speaking to Attorney General, Basil Williams, and Minister Henry, about the concerns of the PPP/C MPs being seated.
The PPP/C MPs claimed that as they waited to be seated, scores of other persons, some casually dressed – some in short pants and t-shirts – at a formal event, were seen being seated in the VIP area. Those seated included Mr. C.N. Sharma and others.
The PPP/C MPs who arrived together for the flag raising ceremony, left together. Former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, was also among them.
However, Minister Henry’s recollection of the events which led to the walk-out is somewhat different.
Here is the full statement by Minister Nicolette Henry:
Flag Raising – Opposition Walk Out
Background – The Parliamentary Opposition was invited to all state events and confirmed their attendance to the Flag Raising ceremony. After accepting the invitation the opposition was briefed orally by Minister Henry on Tuesday 24 May, 2016 on the following:
- Time of Arrival – All members were requested to be seated by 9:45 pm
- Entrance to be used – North Western (Homestretch /Vlissengen Road)
- Seating Arrangements – Opposition Leader will be seated in Presidential Section with all other past Presidents and Prime Ministers. All other PPP members will be seated in the other VIP section.
- Was the President Speaking?
Response – No
- Who will be speaking?
Response – No keynote speakers, the announcement for National awards will be done by Col. Abraham.
- Where will the Opposition Leader be seated?
Response – In the Presidential Section.
- How many persons could be admitted with a ticket?
Response – Maximum of two.
- Opposition Leader could not find his invitation.
Response – The Opposition Leader will be admitted without his invitation. All protocols and courtesies befitting his office will be extended.
What Happened on the night of May 25.
- Time of Arrival – 9. 55
- Entrance Used – The Opposition approached the South Western entrance (Hadfield Street)
Had it not been for the police insistence on using the North Western entrance this would have resulted in the Opposition and President arriving on the tarmac at the same time?
- Seating Arrangements – a. The following persons proceeded to the Presidential Section:
Hon. Bharrat Jagdeo, MP·
Mr. Irfaan Ali, MP·
Mr. Anil Nandlall, MP·
Juan Edghill,, MP·
Mr. Clement Rohee,MP·
- The remaining members remained standing in the passage as Ms. Manickchand indicated they will only sit when they can be assigned seats together. (This was told to the usher)