In all three sessions so far, host of the meetings, Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas has had to use his authority to ask members of the large security detail present, to remove persons from the meeting hall, or to apply other sanctions, to control the banter between opposing sides.
However, the most significant incident was Thursday night’s (1st November, 2012), debacle in Cayon, when Douglas told police officers to remove the Parliamentary Representative of the district, Mr. Eugene Hamilton from the meeting, following a dispute that erupted when Hamilton tried to make a presentation.
As the meeting entered the question and answer phase, a young woman from the district, who at the time was called on to speak, stated that she preferred to defer to her parliamentary representative (Hamilton) to give him priority to address the gathering of over 200 persons.
As the mike was passed to Hamilton and as he tried to ask his question, a group of persons in the meeting, sitting up front, began booing the MP, as Douglas requested that they calm themselves and allow the representative to ask his question.
Hamilton began, “I believe that as the parliamentary representative for this constituency, I deserve more than a question, because honourable Prime minister…”
It was at this point that the Prime Minister objected to Hamilton’s request, stating, “Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Hamilton…you are going to abide by the rules that I have established for this meeting. You will ask your question.” In other words, it appeared that while he was being allowed to ask one question, they did not want him to make a statement; though many persons thereafter, including Cedric Jeffers, who was defeated by Hamilton for the same Cayon seat, was given well over 10 minutes to speak unhindered.
The crowd got even more unruly, with supporters of both the ruling Labour Party and the opposition People’s Action Movement, PAM, going at each other with verbal abuse.
Hamilton tried to speak again and he stated, “…town hall meetings were held in Lodge and in Half Way Tree, and the parliamentary representatives got an opportunity to speak.”
More jeers and boos from obvious Labour supporters and words of defense from PAM supporters followed. Douglas again intervened, admonishing, “Mr. Hamilton, you are asking a question and I give you one more minute to ask your question. One minute to ask your question.”
But Hamilton, obviously frustrated and angry at what was transpiring blurted out, “If I can’t ask my question this meeting will end!” More confusion, more cross-room jeers and boos from rivaling supporters.
The parliamentarian was perhaps mindful of the physical injury he suffered during the 2010 election campaign when, allegedly, supporters of the Labour party threw stones at a PAM meeting causing severe injury to his face. He was required to seek medical treatment overseas for his injuries.Next, Prime Minister Douglas ordered the security to take the mike from Hamilton. This request went on for a short while, when finally, Hamilton left the meeting carrying the mike, saying afterwards that he preferred to hold on to it, out of fear that had he immediately relinquished it, someone may have used it as a weapon to throw at him.
At this point the meeting went into disorder but eventually resumed without Hamilton.
On Friday afternoon Hamilton called local radio to explain what he wanted to say at the meeting. He said, since the National Bank was allowed to form the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, SIDF, the hundreds of millions now owned by that corporation should be used by the government or the bank to help reduce the National Debt. He said that it is estimated that since the Fund was established it has raked in over 600 million dollars and this facility is therefore adequately placed to lead the effort to reduce or eliminate the debt owed to the National Bank, making it unnecessary to swap 1,200 acres of former sugar lands to the bank after the government failed to meet its financial obligations to the institution, which it owed 900 million dollars.
He also admitted that he really had no intention, nor did he go there with such, to stop or interrupt the meeting, nor did he have the ability to do so. What he also admitted though was that he became so frustrated over what was happening and was therefore forced to react the way he did.
Hamilton also revealed that the woman, who passed the mike to him at the meeting, has a family home in lower Cayon and sometime after the meeting, someone tried to set fire to their residence. He said he was surprised that people would go to that length or such extreme measures.