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May 17, 2017

U.D.P.’s Disrupt Proceeding, Target Eamon Courtenay and Press

The Committee’s public hearings were briefly interrupted by an outburst from the public gallery. Its source has been identified as opponents of Senator Eamon Courtenay and supporters of the United Democratic Party, there for the specific purpose of continuing to call him out about his relationship with Lord Michael Ashcroft. The hecklers also turned on the media, with an intruder throwing a pen at one cameraman and another making threats. Courtenay says he is unmoved, but is this a sign of things to come? News Five’s Aaron Humes has more:

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

They had already been warned earlier, but after this outburst from the likes of United Democratic Party Chairman Alberto August; Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives, Brian “Yellow Man” Audinett; and Allan Kelly, among others, Chairman of the Senate Special Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, had no choice.

 

Aldo Salazar

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“We will suspend the sitting. We will suspend the sitting now, okay? We will suspend the sitting. We will come back when we get some order.”

 

Police were at the ready but the hecklers continued to shout even as the members of the Committee and witness Elvin Penner retired. The camera operator from PLUS TV was hit with a pen thrown by one of the hecklers, while Audinett and at least one other protestor got up to harass and threaten cameraman for Channel Seven News, Dennis Ellis, for turning his camera on him. But having made their point, the group momentarily left the premises. The hearing resumed shortly after, and the hecklers returned, staying mostly quiet up until the end of Elvin Penner’s testimony, when they repeatedly cheered his statements. But why were they there in the first place? Their target says he knows, and also knows who sent them.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“It is clear I believe to people who have seen this, that the United Democratic Party Government and certain Ministers and other officials in particular have things to hide, and I was one of the persons, including my other [fellow] Senators, who were asking pertinent and relevant questions and putting Mr. Penner on the hot-seat; and hence, they decided that they were going to distract and disrupt the proceedings today to get us away from that. The proceedings will not be terminated because these people are going to intend and behave like that; I will insist next week and in the future that the Chairman ensures that order prevails, and if people wish to behave like the way they behaved, then the rules of the National Assembly will have to be applied and they will be put out. This inquiry is important; the ramifications, legal and political, are very clear; and I have a duty, as a Member of the Senate Special Select Committee, to ask my questions; to ask my questions without any type of distraction or disturbance, and I will insist that my duty and my right to do that be respected.”

 

But did the Chairman handle the incident properly? He explains his actions, which Courtenay told us he supports to an extent.

 

Aldo Salazar

“I did speak with certain persons to ask that we need to have the Senate respected; you would have heard me, if you reviewed your tape, you would see that I said the same thing, that we need to respect the business of the Senate. But remember that we have to weigh the interest of the public as well. You would know that it was a particular request of the Opposition when this was done that these hearings should be in public, so we need to be very careful.  We need to weigh both sides, but we really need to proceed in an orderly and respectable fashion. So although we may not be able to complain much about intervention here and there, if there is really disruption, then we really need to address it.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I think that Senator Salazar didn’t want to bring down the heavy hand today. Last week he kicked out Mr. August, rightly so; Mr. August and his other cronies should have been kicked out today, but they thought that they were going to distract me. I had certain specific things that I wanted to ask Mr. Penner, Mr. Penner answered them; I don’t think he understands what he was doing to his own position but be that as it may. Insofar as the chairman is concerned, we are meeting in private, and I believe that the Chairman is going to ensure that order is kept and the proceedings will be allowed to continue.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Committee Chair Aldo Salazar asked the offended persons who were subject to attack to write to him officially to take action, as he did not see that incident when it happened. The PLUS TV cameraman, Cirilo Choco, indicated that he was prepared to make a police report for assault. As it relates to similar incidents, a regular Senate meeting was interrupted last year by Geovannie Brackett of COLA and Raymond Rivers among others; at that time the target was Senator Ashley Rocke. Brackett and Rivers were reportedly suspended from attending Senate meetings for a time as a result.

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