Parties in last major rallies for votes

by Mark Ramotar and Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2001

THE two major parties in tomorrow's elections flexed their electoral muscles with mass rallies yesterday and into the night, both predicting victory at the polls to be observed by some 1,200 local and international monitors.

A tracking poll projected a straight victory for the incumbent People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and its presidential candidate Bharrat Jagdeo.

But at a rally running late into last night at the 1763 Monument Square in Georgetown, the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) dismissed the poll projections as "a mere distraction."

Speakers at both rallies urged supporters to turn out to vote solidly.

There were no reported incidents as the more than one month campaign ran into its final stages.

There were isolated incidents this month, particularly against PPP/C political meetings in parts of Georgetown and police last week arrested protesters who tried to demonstrate outside the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) offices in Georgetown.

Police clashed briefly with protesters who burnt tyres, set garbage and two utility poles on fire near the central Brickdam Police Station in the city Tuesday night.

About two dozen protesters were charged following those incidents but calm prevailed as the campaign moved into its closing stages.

For their `Pre-Victory' rally, PPP/C supporters and members turned out at Good Hope yesterday afternoon in a massive show of solidarity and support.

Good Hope was also the final PPP/C rally venue for the December 15, 1997 elections campaign.

People from all walks of life, creed, colour, young and old and not so young and old, streamed in from all directions amid a kaleidoscope of colours, including the red, black and orange of the PPP/C flag.

Huge crowds thronged the East Coast main road, blocking traffic and tens of thousands cluttered the open space in front and around the stage where the speakers made their presentations.

They carried placards, waved the party flag, while others sported specially designed t-shirts bearing the portrait of their popular Presidential candidate Mr Bharrat Jagdeo and Prime Ministerial candidate Mr Sam Hinds.

And each time the enthusiastic thousands cheered in agreement with statements from the platform, they jumped and flounced triumphantly to the music played on huge sound systems.

The Originals Band provided live entertainment to the appreciative crowd which braved the slightly inclement weather, before the start of presentations by the PPP/C executives.

President Jagdeo arrived at about 5:00 hrs to a tumultuous welcome with many intercepting him for handshakes as he was on his way to the stage.

The PPP/C's executives, including Mr Jagdeo and Mr Hinds; former President Ms Janet Jagan; Mr Donald Ramotar; Mr Ralph Ramkarran; Mr Navin Chandarpal; Mr Clinton Colymore; Dr Henry Jeffrey; Dr Frank Anthony, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and many others were garlanded by a bevy of beauties.

The rally, which lasted more than three hours, was preceded by rich cultural entertainment including frequent playing of the popular campaign theme song `Love and Unity, One Big Family - Togetherness'.

And as they played the chorus, "The fussin' and the fighting and the war must done...", people of different ethnic origins hugged each other and gyrated, those on the platform joining them.

Master of Ceremonies, Mr Navin Chandarpal said, "this is the most massive political rally ever in Guyana".

"Tonight I smell victory in the air," General Secretary Ramotar proclaimed and the crowd roared.

"I am certain that as the sun would rise tomorrow, so will be the victory (tomorrow)," he added.

Mr Jagdeo assured every Guyanese that Guyana, under the PPP/C in a third term in office, would have an extremely bright and wonderful future.

He projected the victory to be greater than those the PPP/C had in 1992 and 1997.

"...everyone knows that we will win the elections except Mr Desmond Hoyte," he said.

The PNC/R rally, billed to start at 18:30 hrs start, was late in getting into stride and leader Mr Hoyte had not spoken at press time.

PNC/R supporters also braved the inclement weather and turned out in their thousands for the rally.

The enthusiastic gathering began converging at the square for hours before the scheduled start of the rally, chanting slogans and displaying confidence of securing victory at the polls tomorrow.

They hoisted posters, waved palm fronds high above their heads, singing with the band: "Follow de Leader - Desmond Hoyte." (The palm tree is the symbol of the party.)

And opening their presentations on a note of confidence that the PNC/R will win tomorrow's elections, Mr. Jerome Khan declared: "We are now two days away from victory."

"We will win; you will win. But that victory can only be assured if you turn out on Monday morning - very, very early, line up and make sure that you vote."

He urged supporters to ensure they place their X in the centre of the box, next to the Palm tree, and not to let the mark touch the lines.

Khan congratulated the rank and file in the party for their vigilance, and made special mention of Mr. Joseph Hamilton of the executive, stating that their hard work had led the party to remove 92,000 votes from the National Register of Registrants.

"Tonight is the final rally, at the end of a long campaign, and this rally is about you", he said.

He affirmed that the PNC/R is the people's main messengers, assuring: "Whatever message you give us; in whatever way you want us to serve you, we will have been very loyal."

And alluding to the adage that loyalty is sometimes defined as passion without reason, he said: "But while we are a passionate people, and loyal, we are not unreasonable. We have been very fair to everyone, and we are not going to be bullied by anyone who is going to deny us victory."

Khan called on supporters not to get distracted by people who claim to be able to predict the results of the elections, or let their blood pressure go up over a report of the poll published by the Stabroek News newspaper yesterday.

He said it was a mere distraction.

"Stabroek News knows otherwise, and the results of the election as they represented, will be in favour of the People's National Congress REFORM," he declared.

The poll published in the Stabroek News gives the PPP/C 53% of the vote and the PNC/R a little over 37 per cent.

Khan expressed confidence that the PNC REFORM was the most competent and political party, adding that they have the most trusted and respected political leader to lead Guyana into the 21st century.

The first of eight speakers scheduled to address the gathering was member of the REFORM, Mr. Peter Ramsaroop who asserted: "The seriousness of this election is the fact that we are in critical times...It is time we put bold leadership back in Government."

Ramsaroop concluded: "It is time we renew Guyana's national strength and purpose in this hemisphere...and as we move into March 19, the critical vote is not only for us, but for our children,"

Mr Hoyte was scheduled to be the last of the eight speakers.

Other speakers listed were Ms. Volda Lawrence, Mr Vincent Alexander; Mr Winston Murray; Mr Stanley Ming and Ms Deobrah Backer.

Cultural presentations were by the Mighty Rebel, the Yoruba Singers, Basil Bradshaw and others.