Sad `Turning Point'

Guyana Chronicle
Maarch 2, 2001

`TURNING Point' in the Tucville ward of Georgetown was a sad turning point Wednesday night in the campaign for the March 19 elections.

There were previous reports of stoning and attacks at other meetings by the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in the city but the difference at Tucville was that international observers were there and they issued a statement yesterday on what they witnessed.

There were allegations and cross-allegations from contesting parties in the previous incidents but the independent international observers have confirmed that violence took place at `Turning Point'.

The incident was also shown on television Wednesday night and many of those who saw what happened were appalled and deeply disturbed.

The stones hurled at the speakers on the PPP/C platform could have caused serious injuries if they had found their mark and the stoning, especially of Minister Gail Teixeira, must be deplored in the strongest terms.

Stoning speakers on a political platform does not win anybody votes but it could have serious repercussions, especially if people are seriously hurt.

These tactics are a throwback to an era Guyanese would want to forget, when certain political parties could not have dared enter certain parts of the country regarded as the `strongholds' of one party.

Democracy has been restored in this country and there can be no turning back now.

Political parties must be free to campaign where they please, unmolested and in peace.

The use of children in these disgraceful acts cannot be condoned and civil society has to find the voice to speak out for an adherence to good values for these elections.

"We strongly condemn any acts of violence and urge all parties to call on their supporters to act with restraint," the international observers said yesterday.

"There is no place for violence in a democratic election campaign. It is totally unacceptable that any party or its supporters should be confronted with violence or language that could inflame racial violence", they noted.

"Such actions are completely contrary to both the letter and spirit of international standards for democratic elections", the observers said.

Civil society, including the church, has to begin to speak out because Guyana cannot afford to let this campaign turn nasty.

Consolidating democracy was never going to be easy and eternal vigilance is necessary if the gains are to be preserved.

We welcome the news that the observer teams would soon be at full strength to keep a closer eye on the conduct and behaviour of political parties contesting the elections.

Their scrutiny is important and any group that deviates from acceptable norms of behaviour should be exposed and made to face the music.

Tearing down and defacing posters, heckling and threatening people of rival parties have to be stopped.

There is still time to pull back from the wrong turn Wednesday night at `Turning Point'.

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