Govt slammed for failure to protect whistleblowers

first_imgThe coalition Government sought the passage of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2017 in the National Assembly on Thursday, but was confronted head on with its treatment of a whistleblower last year, who was transferred after revealing the alleged drug abuse of a coalition councillor.When granted the floor, Opposition Parliamentarian Harry Gill made specific references to the incident involving a Berbice nurse who had blown the whistle onSpeaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton ScotlandCouncillor Carol Joseph. In the wake of her disclosure, the nurse reportedly was subsequently transferred.“This bill could have easily been named after a young APNU/AFC supporter whose whole family voted last elections for change,” Gill said. “This is a story of a whistleblower who was suspended, harassed, intimidated, victimized, and transferred against her will; and made to suffer intrigue against her in terms of life and professional career,” he said.“Her only crime was that she saw an injustice, the abuse of a dangerous drug by an addicted public official, and, out of concern and the public interest, thought she was doing the patriotic thing by reporting the abuse to the relevant authority,” Gill explained.He pointed out that this all falls under the definition of detrimental action, and is prohibited by the bill under clause 21. He acknowledged that while the Bill was notOpposition MP Harry Gilloperationalised as yet, this should not prevent the ministry from investigating the matter.But the parliamentarian noted that despite the matter having been continuously ventilated in the public domain and a probe of the doctors involved having been done by the Medical Council, the Public Health Ministry has failed to launch an official investigation into the issue.The parliamentary Opposition’s continued references to the incident, and reports that complaints were made to the Public Health Ministry but nothing was done, prompted the relevant Minister, Volda Lawrence, to interject under Standing Order 40. She denied knowledge of any reports reaching her.Lawrence demanded that Gill withdraw his reference to her failure to act on the allegations, a moved backed up by Speaker of the National Assembly. In spite of the Opposition side objecting to the request, Gill was forced to withdraw his statement.VictimisationSherlyn Marks, the nurse in question, was initially attached to a West Coast Berbice hospital. She was transferred with immediate effect during the last week in April last year after she had made complaints against former APNU/AFC Councillor Carol Joseph. She claimed that the former councillor had been going to the hospital for an excessive daily dose of the painkiller pethidine.  The nurse has accused the regional administration of targeting her.Nurse Marks, who said she filed complaints twice last year, claimed she refused to administer the 100 ml dose to Joseph, who would turn up daily to receive it. She said she received a letter of transfer from the Regional Office after being scolded for going to the media with her complaints. Some two days later, Joseph reportedly resigned from her post and the party.Persons and organisations, including the Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated, have been critical of the incident and the potential repercussions for transparency and accountability. TIGI had referred to the case by noting that Marks was bludgeoned into oblivion; or worse, “for exposing the abuse of power.”TIGI had also noted that the failure to act by the administration in the region was amplified and encouraged by the absence of a functional Integrity Commission to which Marks could have complained.The first bit of retaliation was the transferring of Marks to another facility without her having requested it, the TIGI pointed out. It added that Marks’s move to address the matter publicly after two attempts to urge the responsible officers to act appears to have embarrassed people of power who had condoned Joseph’s actions.Calling the transfer a pathetic response, TIGI had noted that the transfer was done without consideration of any hardships or other changes in Marks’s circumstances. The group noted that the nurse was therefore treated like an expendable pawn for going public.TIGI had affirmed that it does not support breaking the law, but had added that when abuse of power is done with impunity while persons making disclosures are made to feel the consequence, it is mere lip service for those in authority to proclaim support for whistle-blowers.last_img read more

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