Elections Watch II

Guyana Chronicle
March 25, 2001

Overseas observers endorse President's hopes from elections

INTERNATIONAL observers have endorsed the hopes of President Bharrat Jagdeo that the Monday elections which the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has won, can move the nation forward.

As it prepared to leave yesterday after the observing the elections, the count, tabulation of the results and others aspects, the Commonwealth mission said, "We believe that these elections provide a basis for Guyana to go forward."

In line with expectations from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led a mission, and other observer teams, the Commonwealth team noted that Guyana will only be able to move forward "if it can transcend its still largely ethnic politics and find a way to build inclusiveness and unity."

"That is the pre-eminent challenge before the people and institutions of this country", it said.

With tensions triggered by unrest from People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) supporters in some East Coast Demerara villages last week, President Jagdeo Friday night went on television urging Guyanese to lay to rest what had happened during the elections, to remain calm and begin a process of healing.

He also urged leaders of the main opposition, the PNC/R and the other political parties, to appeal to their supporters to let calm prevail in the country.

Police reported the East Coast and other parts of the country were calm yesterday following clashes Thursday with protesters who stoned police deployed to maintain order at Buxton and other East Coast villages.

Demonstrators also set fires, burning old tyres and other material, and damaged bridges along the recently-built highway on the old East Coast railway embankment.

Police were also deployed in the city yesterday when PNC/R supporters crowded outside the High Court building where Chief Justice Desiree Bernard was hearing a challenge by the PNC/R to the swearing-in of Mr Jagdeo who has been declared President under law by GECOM.

After the matter was adjourned to tomorrow, the PNC/R bands marched through Regent and other streets to the party headquarters in Sophia.

Stores that had been opened for business hurriedly closed doors at news that the crowd was moving around but police said there were no incidents and some firms soon reopened.

Condemnation also mounted from groups about the attack by PNC/R supporters on the party's member on GECOM, Mr Haslyn Parris, who was beaten and his car wrecked outside the PNC Congress Place headquarters Friday morning.

Parris was beaten after he had endorsed the results of the elections as the outcome was broadcast live on television.

The PNC/R has since condemned the "unwarranted" attack by "overzealous elements of a large and diverse crowd".

President Jagdeo and GECOM Chairman, Major General Joe Singh are among those that had condemned the assault on Parris.

President Jagdeo said the obligation of all the political parties now is to ensure that the country returns to normalcy and see it move forward.

"...it's time now to heal our nation. We have to move on. Our people are demanding that we move on...," he told reporters Friday night.

He urged supporters to call on the political parties they represent to make very positive statements about the need to maintain peace and calm at this time.

Acknowledging that this country's electoral process was not without difficulties, the President said he was however pleased that the international and local observers all endorsed the elections as reflecting the will of the people.

"We need to maintain calm at this time...it is time now for us to focus on working together to ensure the things that matter most to the citizens of the country, such as securing jobs for the youths, ensuring better education, health care and housing, and strengthening of the democracy."

"We can work together and deliver those things quickly if this period is put behind us in a way that the country can be proud of us," he added.

President Jagdeo reminded too of a promise he made during the elections campaign and of a vision in the party's manifesto of inclusivity.

"... there may be people who did not vote for the PPP/C, but my vision included all of them...," he reiterated, adding that his hope is for all Guyanese to work together.

The President's vision of inclusivity, he told reporters, does not relate only to the legislative arm of the government but will include other arms of the government and can see the PPP/C Government party comprising persons from outside the party.

"In many ways this was a good election. Since we made (an interim statement) we have seen more of the results process. It has been very slow. Together with the errors on the Voters' List that has detracted from otherwise praiseworthy arrangements", the Commonwealth team said.

The team hopes that better arrangements are put in place before the next elections, noting that there is a great deal of work to be done in the improvement process.

In its assessment, the Carter Center commended the Guyanese people for their conduct and participation in the elections.

"This has been a good election", President Carter said before leaving last week.

His delegation included his wife Rosalynn and former Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford.

In a statement, the Carter Center said while these elections are "an important and necessary element of Guyana's democratic process, they are not sufficient alone to solve the problems nor heal the wounds of Guyana's divided society."

"It is clear that Guyana's biggest challenge is to develop the kind of constitutional and electoral institutions and arrangements which will further political and ethnic reconciliation."

It urged Guyanese to recommit themselves to working and living together in peace and mutual respect, develop inclusive institutions of governance, and build a civil society that supports constructive political relations.

The European Union long and short term elections observation missions also found Monday's polls generally peaceful, satisfactory and broadly meeting international benchmarks.

The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAS-EOM) also said the polls were "orderly, peaceful and largely incident-free thereby creating the conditions for the free expression of the will of the people."

"The shortcomings experienced should not detract from what was in the main a satisfactory process", it said.

The local Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) and others have also hailed the process.

GECOM will next weekend be publishing the full results of the voting at polling stations around the country.

PNC bid to block swearing in of President Jagdeo President already declared, court told - crowd disrupts court hearing

The declaration of the President was lawfully made and the instrument attested to in relation to deeming Mr Bharrat Jagdeo as President...in full consensus with all the members of the Commission. There was not a dissenting opinion.

-- Mr Bryn Pollard, legal adviser to GECOM

by George Barclay

THE People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) which has moved to the court to block the ceremonial swearing in of President Bharrat Jagdeo was yesterday told that Mr Jagdeo had already been deemed President and the swearing in is a mere formality.

Lawyers representing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Attorney General and President Jagdeo made the point yesterday as the hearing continued before Chief Justice Desiree Bernard.

This came after main lawyer, Mr Basil Williams for the applicant, PNC/R senior exeuctive Joseph Hamilton, continued to agitate for the swearing in ceremony to be called off.

He claimed set down procedures of the Election Act were not followed by those who counted the votes at GECOM and concluded that the PPP/C had won the March 19 elections.

The PNC legal challenge has postponed the inauguration of Mr Jagdeo as the new President, originally set for Friday afternoon.

Observing that the lawyers, representing GECOM, the Attorney General and President Jagdeo, who had taken a preliminary objection to have the motion dismissed at this stage, were not representing official respondents, the Chief Justice ordered that GECOM, the Attorney General and President Jagdeo be named respondents.

After Mr Bryn Pollard, legal adviser to the commission substantiated that the declaration of the President was lawfully made and the instrument attested to in relation to deeming Mr Jagdeo as President, the Chief Justice directed that GECOM files an affidavit in answer setting out details in relation to the declaration of results and the declaration of the President.

She also directed that the other respondents have the right to file or not to file affidavits.

The Chief Justice noted that the document relating to the declaration was a very important issue in the case and referred to her decision in the 1997 case of Aubrey Norton who had sought an order to prevent Mrs Janet Jagan from taking office as President after the December 15, 1997 elections.

The Chief Justice further observed that the remedies sought by Norton then are similar to the remedies being sought by Hamilton and declared that since her ruling has not been overturned by the Appellate Court, all she has to do is to look up her decision in that case.

She said that order was refused.

The Chief Justice noted too that in the Norton case she had examined all the legal authorities which have also been submitted in the present application.

At this stage, Williams for the applicant said the Norton ruling was appealed but pointed out that unfortunately, the appeal had not yet been heard.

Interrupting, Mr Ralph Ramkarran, S.C. told Mr Williams, "You all are responsible for the matter not being heard, because you have been objecting to the judges who were to hear the appeal, alleging apparent bias."

Further hearing was adjourned to Monday, when according to an undertaking given to the Court by Pollard, GECOM's affidavit in answer will be presented to the court.

On the resumption yesterday, Williams continued to address the court.

He was opposed to the line taken by the lawyers on the other side and said the practice was irregular since the applicant ought to have been granted an Order Nisi before the other side could intervene in relation to prerogative writs.

The Chief Justice pointed out that the lawyers on the other side had asked to intervene at that stage on the ground that they would like to make a preliminary objection, which they did.

Continuing, Williams claimed that the applicant was handicapped since the only affidavit before the court was his, leaving him to guess what was the case of the other side.

In the circumstances, he said that there was no legal impediment to the granting of the order sought.

The Chief Justice reminded Mr Williams that the swearing in was an outward formality of something that has already taken place.

Reacting to Mr Doodnauth Singh's submission that the applicant was seeking to vitiate the elections by way of prerogative writ, when other avenues are available to him by way of an election petition, Mr Williams explained, "Our motion does not seek to vitiate the election."

"It seeks to have a proper compliance of the section 84 in relation to the counting of votes."

At this stage the Chief Justice was forced to make a second complaint about noise from a crowd outside the court which was disturbing the proceedings.

"I do not know why the Police do not take steps to have proper security before the court starts."

As the chanting of songs outside continued, the Chief Justice adjourned the court for 15 minutes.

During the break, lawyers for Hamilton, including Miss Emily Dodson, Mr Roysdale Forde and Mr Shawn Allicock spoke to the crowd and the chanting stopped.

On the resumption the Chief Justice said, "We need to have on record some documentary evidence in the form of affidavits so that we may effectively deal with this question.

"I would particularly like the Elections Commission to be named as a respondent in respect to all the issues made against them."

The Chief Justice made it clear that the move by her does not mean that the preliminary objection will not be considered.

Mr Ashton Chase, S.C. submitted that the Court had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter involving the President, and declared that the Elections Commission must be complimented for leaning backwards.

He referred to the issue as time wasting exercise, adding, "I do not know why we should be wasting time on this."

At this stage the Chief Justice referred to the unrest which according to her becomes more apparent at each election.

She advised those present to find some way of healing the wounds that exist.

At the invitation of the judge, Mr Pollard explained that the declaration was done in accordance with Article 177.

It was made under the hand of the GECOM Chairman in full consensus with all the members of the Commission. There was not a dissenting opinion, he said.

Before adjourning, the Chief Justice ordered the applicant to serve copies of the summons and affidavit on the respondents.

Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, a member of the team of lawyers representing the Commission, the Attorney General and the President, said, "We have copies already, we can waive service."

Members of the international observer teams for the elections, diplomats and several government ministers were in court for yesterday's session.

PPP/C looks to swearing-in challenge case ending tomorrow

SENIOR Counsel Mr Ralph Ramkarran yesterday said the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) anticipates a favourable response tomorrow when Chief Justice Desiree Bernard is expected to listen to arguments and give her decision on whether President-elect Bharrat Jagdeo could go ahead and be lawfully sworn in as the new President.

Mr Jagdeo has been declared President and was scheduled to be sworn in Friday afternoon at a ceremony at the Umana Yanna in Georgetown but this was postponed after the PNC filed the court challenge to the declaration.

The PPP/C won the 2001 general and regional elections with 209,031 votes against 164,074 votes for the PNC/R.

"We hope and look forward that the arguments would be concluded (tomorrow) and a decision given (tomorrow) or as soon as possible thereafter," Ramkarran said.

He said the swearing in would be as soon as possible after the decision of the Chief Justice which he hopes will be favourable to their arguments.

"The President has undertaken, and I have undertaken on his behalf in court, to await the decision of the judge before any decision is taken to swear-in...Of course, all the time anticipating a favourable response in the decision," Ramkarran added.

He also noted that the Chief Justice has invited the legal advisor to the Elections Commission, Mr Bryn Pollard to file an affidavit setting out the circumstances relating to the signing of the declaration by the GECOM Chairman that Mr Bharrat Jagdeo has been elected President of Guyana.

Ramkarran said Pollard, while not directly referring to what Singh had said on television on Friday, still confirmed in every material particular what the GECOM Chairman had stated.

He said the declaration by Singh was signed at a lawfully constituted meeting of the Elections Commission in the presence of all the Commissioners.

"So I do not anticipate that the affidavit would be at variance with what Mr Pollard said and what Major General Joe Singh had said on Friday," Ramkarran added.

Tense situation responsible for staff shortage at Georgetown Hospital

by Amanda Wilson

PATIENTS, including children with fractured limbs, seeking medical attention at the Public Hospital Georgetown (PHG) were up to late yesterday afternoon still waiting to be seen by medical personnel.

The build-up was due to the absence of X-ray technicians, nurses and ward sisters. They did not report for duty yesterday.

Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Khan in an interview with the Chronicle at around 17:00 hrs, confirmed that there was a staff shortage yesterday.

He explained that some staffers who live along the East Coast Demerara have reported that they are afraid to travel to work because of the tense atmosphere.

Unrest spread from Buxton to several other East villages Thursday with news of the results of Monday's elections.

Protesters stoned police, blocked roads with old vehicles, including a huge shipping container and burning tyres, and damaged bridges along the road on the old railway embankment.

Other Georgetown Hospital staff who live on the West Coast and around the city did not show up for work either, the Chronicle learnt.

"We cannot force a person to come to work if they are afraid, even though it's affecting the hospital," Khan said. He added that he was trying to put emergency strategies in place at the city institution.

A hospital source said the few nurses who were on duty yesterday were under a lot of pressure, and if the situation continues, voluntary organisations may have to render assistance.

Throughout the day, Khan dealt with relatives of patients who were at the hospital.

More than 18 patients were at the Accident and Emergency Unity (A&E) at about 17:30 hrs.

Many complained that they were at the unit since 10:00 hrs yesterday.

They were frustrated and worried because they cannot afford to pay for treatment at private hospitals.

One woman was comforting a 10-year-old child who had a fractured hand. She told this newspaper that her son was in severe pain.

The mother explained that she has no money to take him to a private institution.

Fractured joints cannot be put in cast unless they are x-rayed in order to determine the extent of the injury.

Sources yesterday evening said the Davis Memorial Hospital and the St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital had their full complement of staffers.

Dismal day for business in city yesterday

by Abigail Kippins

IT WAS another dismal day for business in and around the city yesterday as both shoppers and vendors stayed away from the traditional Saturday shopping, following the unrest on the East Coast Demerara last week.

Many say they are still afraid to leave their homes after the flare-ups at the villages Thursday following preliminary results giving the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) victory at Monday's general and regional elections.

The trouble began at Buxton - about 12 miles up the East Coast - after an incident between residents and GECOM officials and unrest quickly spread to other villages.

Protesters blocked roads, burnt tyres and logs and stoned police deployed to restore order. To quell the growing unrest, Police used tear gas. Shots were fired and initial reports were that seven were wounded.

Reports are that more injured persons were carried to the hospital Friday. Yesterday, debris remained on the roadside at areas including Buxton, Melanie Damishana, Nabaclis, Golden Grove and Anns Grove.

Motor vehicle operators complained yesterday that they could not use the recently built road along the old railway embankment which remained blocked, particularly in the Buxton/Friendship area.

Several bridges along the railway embankment were wrecked and metal sheets from which the bridges were constructed, were removed and thrown in nearby trenches.

Another fall-out from the disturbances was the damage done to cable at Anns Grove which affected telephone service on the upper East Coast all day Friday.

Service was restored yesterday to some villages. (See other story on page 13)

Many refused to leave their homes, fearing they will be caught up in the unrest, and may not be able to get back.

Yesterday, the mini-bus parks were devoid of the usual heavy Saturday traffic and drivers said the level of passengers had dropped way below normal.

Some said the people have made it quite clear that they had to walk for miles to get home on Thursday and will be staying at home until things are back to normal.

Most stores in the city remained closed and barricaded yesterday, and those which had opened did not do brisk business because people were not shopping.

Markets in and out of the city were unusually sluggish and even the gates of Bourda Market were secured for some time yesterday.

Some vendors at this market said many others had packed up and left because business was bad. Others reportedly started packing up when supporters of the People's National Congress REFORM (PNC/R), who had gathered at the Supreme Court during the hearing of the party's court challenge to the swearing in of President Bharrat Jagdeo, marched through the city on their way to the PNC/R Congress Place headquarters in Sophia, Georgetown.

There were no reports of violence and police said the East Coast remained calm.

Over at the Kitty Market, vendors were disappointed that they had turned up to sell yesterday but found there were few shoppers.

They said yesterday's market day was far from the usual and that even some vendors did not turn up for business.

Others packed up and left as sales were slow.

While business at the Stabroek Market also suffered, vendors operating outside said they have been doing fairly well. There was a lot of activity in the area, but not the usual Saturday hustle and bustle.

Markets on the East Coast did not fare as well as the Stabroek Market. Only the Mon Repos market went on as usual.

Annandale market was empty before noon although the market usually continues until the afternoon.

Shoppers reportedly hurried home having completed their shopping and business people who usually continued their business at the Mon Repos Market, also went home.

There were only a few vendors at the usually busy Golden Grove Market.

Guyanese have duty to promote peace, prevent racial harassment - GHRA

EVERY Guyanese should consider it a special duty to promote peace and prevent racial harassment, the Guyana Human Rights Association said yesterday.

The association said so in a statement in which it also spoke out against the disturbances on the East Coast Demerara and election related violence targeting Afro-Guyanese believed to be responsible in some way for the PPP election victory.

PPP/Civic Parliamentarian Odinga Lumumba, PNC/Reform Elections Commissioner, Haslyn Parris and GAP-WPA Party Agent Desmond Trotman were the "most notable Afro-Guyanese casualties of the violence.

Allegations have also been made by the PPP/C of attacks on three of its polling station agents of Afro-Guyanese descent in Georgetown. According to the GHRA, workers from the Elections commission have also been singled out for attack.

Rumours and agitators played decisive roles with respect to the East Coast community disturbances, and from what the GHRA has been able to ascertain, rumours from outside the village of Buxton about elections results fuelled initial reactions there. The commotion escalated into more serious acts of violence and vandalism when the police intervened in a manner some reports suggest was over-reactive.

"All the incidents were fuelled by baseless rumours," the GHRA charged, adding that young people were encouraged by instigators to set fires and break bottles.

"The fact must not be overlooked that the majority of villagers resisted attempts to be drawn into violent conflict and, in a number of cases, protected Indo-Guyanese who found themselves caught up in the melee. A strategy is urgently needed to help villagers on the ground resist the destabilising influence of rumours," the GHRA said.

"Outside elements first instigated locals to break bottles, burn tyres and block highways. It was also rumoured that Buxton people were marching to beat up Plaisance people who voted for the PPP. Similar rumours of `people coming from Buxton' also circulated in Beterverwagting.

"Church services on Friday evening were affected in a number of coastal villages due to fears of violence. Ordinary citizens were generally indignant at their villages being targeted for political violence by outside elements. These villages, both Indo- and Afro-, have to contend with rising levels of unemployed drop-outs involved with drugs and alcohol who are especially vulnerable to outside provocation," GHRA noted.

However, the organisation pointed out, the maturity of most resident foiled any attempts to instigate racial violence.

"Afro residents of Plaisance restrained others from doing violence to a group of indo-Guyanese construction workers on a school site and from destroying a vehicle owned by an Indo-Guyanese," the organisation said.

The Human Rights body charged that the rumours will continue to be virulent as long as "some private media are allowed to persist in sowing fear and hatred and State media information is not to be trusted".

"Like motor vehicles or prescription drugs, for example, the media is a positive force when it operated within the law. Without legal safeguards and restrictions, it becomes a deadly weapon.

And the organisation said that while it is heartening that so many East Coast villagers resisted the trouble-makers, they must be supported and strengthened by those in authority.

"For example, the police must learn to distinguish between trouble-makers and residents in their own yards; at the same time, people cannot expect to rush to every scene and not risk being caught up in the action. Religious and other community organisations should become networks to share accurate information in order to put a stop to rumours.

"Teachers and those in a position to influence young people must find ways of helping them resist manipulation. Finally, every Guyanese should consider it a special duty to promote peace and prevent racial harassment," the release said.

Look ahead, work for Guyana's development
- PPP/C Berbice branch urges Guyanese

GUYANESE have been urged to regroup and pursue peace, love and harmony in an effort to build a nation they can be proud of.

A release from Freedom House New Amsterdam Branch, Berbice, of the PPP/Civic said that now the campaigning is over, it is time to look ahead and work for, and support the development of the country.

"Now that the campaigning is over, we need to pursue peace and harmony ... prerequisites for socio-economic upliftment," the statement said. It urged Guyanese to be patient and tolerant during the process of development.

The release also express gratitude to the electorate of Region Six, (East Berbice/Corentyne) for the confidence they reposed in the party in their overwhelming support at Monday's poll.

"You have once again given us the mandate to continue in the developmental programme we began eight years ago," the release said, while giving special thanks to polling staff, the commander and ranks of `B' Division and the residents of Region Six for a successful polling day.

BCCDA sympathises with Parris, concerned over other developments

PRESIDENT of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association, Mr. Ramdial Bhookmohan said his organisation has condemned the wanton attack on Mr. Haslyn Parris, a member of the Elections Commission (GECOM), and a prominent Guyanese.

Parris was set upon by certain elements of society for agreeing that Monday's Poll was transparent in all respect.

"The Berbice Chamber wishes to express its sympathy with Mr. Parris and his family over the incident and wish his a speedy physical and mental recovery", the release from BCCDA said.'

Bhookmohan said since making his acquaintance with Parris on the Constitutional Reform Committee, he had found him to be honest and professional in his duty and hoped that those culpable would be brought to justice.

"The Chamber too is very concerned over recent developments in the country which is causing much apprehension, and which can take a great toll on our human and other resources,", the BCCDA said.

Extending congratulations to President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/Civic on victory at the polls, Bhookmohan also called on all sections of the society and the church to raise their voices against these occurrences.

"This is a time for all Guyanese to close ranks, and march together to build this young nation," Bhookmohan said.

He also lauded the quiet and peaceful environment in Berbice, Essequibo, Linden and other places.

NFA condemns attack on Parris

THE National Front Alliance (NFA), one of the smaller parties that contested Monday's general and regional elections, has condemned Friday's violent attack on Guyana Elections Commissioner, Mr. Haslyn Parris.

Parris, a People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) member on the independent Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), was reportedly attacked by a crowd as he was leaving the PNC/R Congress Place headquarters in Georgetown.

A party statement said during the election season, supporters of political parties were led to believe that the only consideration was total victory.

"No one prepared them for the alternative. In such a situation, one tends to consume the very author of its creation", the statement said.

It added that the authors of "this tragedy" owe Parris and the nation an apology and that now is the time for true leadership to emerge and lead the society back to peace and harmony.

Attack on Parris unwarranted - PNC/R

THE People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) has condemned the unwarranted attack Friday on Mr. Haslyn Parris, one of its members and a Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Parris suffered injuries and extensive damage was done to his car.

The GECOM member was attacked as he was leaving Congress Place, the PNC/REFORM Sophia headquarters.

"This attack by overzealous elements of a large and diverse crowd of concerned Guyanese, many of whom were disenfranchised, and he left Congress Place today, allegedly because of a misunderstanding of remarks made by him, cannot be condoned," the PNC/R said in a statement.

The party said it values highly the contributions made by Parris and the other Commissioners who made continuous representation on issues of concern to the PNC/R and its supporters.

"We regret the incident and urge all Guyanese to refrain from any acts of violent towards each other," the statement said.

The PNC/R said it has already expressed its deep concern over incidents of violence which have occurred since the conclusion of the 2001 General and Regional Elections.

The party has again appealled to all citizens to remain clam.

Upper East Coast telephone service restored

TELEPHONE service has been restored to upper East Coast of Demerara, where a fibre optic cable was damaged, Friday morning.

Checks by the Chronicle at several areas verified that telephones were in working order.

Up to yesterday afternoon, service was not restored to West Coast Berbice, an official from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) said.

Technicians were working feverishly to replace the damaged cable, but it is not known when work will be completed.

The damaged cable disrupted cellular and international service, through the Americas 11 cable to customers on the upper East Coast and West Coast Berbice areas.

The company's technicians were unable to replace the damaged cable Friday, because gun shots were allegedly fired at them.

A press release issued by the company said the technicians would not return to the area only when their protection and safety were guaranteed.

When contacted, Police Commissioner, Laurie Lewis said he was unaware of any reports of gun shots being fired and will investigate the matter.

Two beaten in elections attack

TWO residents from Sophia, Greater Georgetown have reported they were beaten and intimidated by fellow residents of the area and other angry persons from Congress Place, the headquarters of the People's National Congress (PNC) on Friday morning after they were accused of stealing ballot boxes.

Franklin Thomas, 49, and Oswald Fraser, 51, both from Parkinson, South Sophia, said they are not supporters of the PNC/R and were beaten and intimidated by other residents who are supporters of the PNC/R who accused them of stealing ballot boxes.

The incident occurred around 9:15 hrs Friday when an angry mob of about 50 stormed Fraser's home and demanded that he produce the ballot boxes they claim he had hidden in his house.

Thomas, Fraser's son-in-law, who was also at Fraser's house when the group arrived, said they were beaten with sticks and pieces of wood.

When Fraser denied he had any ballot box, they were beaten by the group and taken to Congress Place where they said they were again beaten.

Fraser is also the driver of Minister of Trade, Tourism and Industry, Mr Geoffrey DaSilva. He was cut over his left eye and suffered bruises and other injuries about his body.

Thomas suffered injuries about the body which included a large open cut on the right index finger, three cuts on the head, swollen right arm which is `black and blue' and back pain.

Recounting their story yesterday to members of the media at the Freedom House headquarters of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), the two men claimed that when they returned to their home in Sophia, after being held `captive' in Congress Place, Fraser discovered his house ransacked and money and other articles stolen.

"It's a terrible situation," Thomas remarked. "These people just fabricate their story...the idea is they want to kill us," he added.

Fraser also said three fire bombs were thrown inside his yard and house on Friday night which caused further damage to his property.

PNC/R accuses police of undermining its efforts for calm

THE People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) yesterday accused the Police Force of deliberately undermining its efforts for Guyanese to remain calm.

In a statement, the party said it "will not condone violence but will strenuously defend the constitutional right of all citizens to peacefully protest and to register their dissatisfaction."

It claimed the police were also using excessive force and violence.

The PNC/R accused the police of "overreaction" in dealing with the incident at Buxton Thursday when protesters set tyres and garbage on fire and blocked roads and damaged bridges.

It also claimed that "certain leaders of the PNC Reform...have been placed on a special arrest list", as part of a plan.