PNC/R leaders head protest march in city

Guyana Chronicle
March 29, 2001

Some persons in the crowd yesterday said they joined the procession because GECOM had not yet paid them for work done before and after the March 19 elections. LEADERS of the People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) yesterday headed a band of protestors through some city streets as many stores remained closed following unrest earlier in the week but police said there were no incidents.

Police last night said the city remained quiet and there were no clashes between PNC/R demonstrators outside the courts, unlike previous days when cops fired tear gas and pellets to disperse groups stoning them.

Yesterday was the first time PNC/R leaders appeared to lead the protestors and at the head of a band of some 250 was party Chairman, Mr Robert Corbin.

Chairman of the Reform section of the PNC/R, Mr Jerome Khan was also with him.

In a statement yesterday morning, the PNC/R called on Guyanese to support the march "against disenfranchisement, discrimination and police brutality and for equal opportunity".

It said the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must explain why some voters were disenfranchised on March 19.

Other parties, including the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said their supporters were also affected by problems which prevented some of them from voting and President Bharrat Jagdeo Friday said he expects the independent GECOM would provide some answers to the electorate.

In a lengthy statement recounting previous complaints, the PNC/R yesterday said GECOM must "provide a satisfactory explanation" and called for an immediate investigation.

The march started shortly before noon in front of the Magistrate's Court on Avenue of the Republic and Brickdam.

The group bearing placards with slogans such as `GECOM Tell Us Why We Could Not Vote' marched along Brickdam, Camp Street, North Road and Main Street.

They went to the junction at the corner of Lamaha and Main Street, before taking the same route back.

Police barricades were still up at that junction which leads to the GECOM Kingston headquarters.

Police ranks followed the crowd throughout the march which ended in the vicinity of the Supreme Court.

At this point, groups calmly stayed behind barricades erected by cops around the court.

Earlier in the week and during last week, cops were forced to use pellets to disperse crowds which had gathered along the same area.

This was after demonstrators threw stones at ranks and pitched barricades into nearby canals. Several persons were injured during these clashes.

Some persons in the crowd yesterday said they joined the procession because GECOM had not yet paid them for work done before and after the March 19 elections.

One woman said she was part of the national identification card distribution campaign and was promised a total of $30,000.

She added that she has two children to take care of and that GECOM had promised to pay them at the end of the elections.

Efforts to reach GECOM officials for comment proved futile.

During the latter part of yesterday afternoon, `squibs' (firecrackers) were set off into the air from among the group which had gathered along Avenue of the Republic.

At 17:00 hrs, most of the crowd had dispersed and cops removed barricades but remained on the scene.

Mini-buses were once again able to use the South and Kitty/Campbellville car park.

Business in the city yesterday crept back up although protestors were around.

Most of the stores at upper Regent Street, from Camp Street to New Garden Street, were open until about 16:30 hrs and people were seen shopping as usual.

Shortly before noon, as the protestors moved from outside the High Court and marched peacefully along Brickdam, Camp Street and into North Road, before reassembling on Avenue of the Republic, most of the business places along those streets were closed.

Even though the group did not march along Regent Street, business places at lower Regent Street and Robb Street were closed.

The atmosphere did not seem to be very tense and people were seen at several corners along Regent Street waiting to board buses plying the Kitty-Campbellville route.

The build-up of traffic at some points in the city was not unusual.