Healing - in the face of new provocations
No surprise in latest PNC election petition RICKEY SINGH COLUMN
Guyana Chronicle
May 13, 2001

ON THIS Mother's Day, there will be tears, sadness and grief in a number of homes in Guyana for loved ones either killed or seriously injured, robbed and humiliated in the wave of post-elections violence and destruction that followed the PNC/Reform's organised protests.

There will be grief, for instance, by the widows and children of fisherman Bemchand Barran and labourer Dhanpaul Jagdeo, executed on the East Coast, along with a Barran's 10-year-old son, Morvin.

There will also be grief today by the loved ones of Donna McKinnon, mysteriously killed during last month's rampage when the business community in Georgetown suffered the tragic consequences of political terrorism and criminality.

The post-election anti-Indian terrorism, made worse by the acts of criminals bent on exploiting an opposition party's political agenda, invites retaliation. But therein lies hate and destruction, and any new provocation must be resisted at all cost.

It is not expected that there will be any new political tension as a consequence of the PNC Reform-initiated election petition, filed in the High Court on Friday, that coincided with the fifth meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte in their ongoing "dialogue".

The petition, which will have no dramatic impact on the body politic, is to engage the attention of newly appointed Chief Justice, Carl Singh, would have come as a surprise only to those unfamiliar or unschooled in the politics of the PNC, a party that finds it extremely difficult to adjust to being in opposition after 28 years of stealing its way to power.

Petition Politics After all, the PNC's publicly announced "recognition" of the PPP/Civic Government, that followed the first joint Jagdeo-Hoyte meeting on April 24, had been offered "without prejudice to an election petition".

It would, of course, help to remind Guyanese, across the political/racial divide, of the PNC's petition that challenged the outcome of the 1997 elections and of its failure to dislodge the PPP/Civic from power ahead of the March 19 poll.

The incumbent PPP/Civic was returned for a third term with all observer missions unequivocally deeming the elections "free and fair".

And this time around, the PNC's 2001 election petition will have to contend with the unanimous verdict of the bi-partisan Elections Commission of the official results of the March 19 poll that gave the PPP/Civic its clear victory over a combined opposition of 10 parties.

Among the members of the Elections Commission who could be summoned to bear witness is the PNC/Reform's own Mr. Haslyn Parris.

He had received a beating and had his car seriously damaged right in the compound of Congress Place following his statement at a press conference that the election process was "transparent and clean".

Right now, however, while counter legal actions are expected to the PNC/Reform's petition, and considering the pressing need to diffuse tension in the society, this is not a time for retaliation and confrontation politics.

Healing Time It is a time for peace and national healing. Irrespective of ethnicity or political affiliation, the resolve of all Guyanese should be, let there be peace, and let it begin with me.

The Rice Producers Association (RPA) has called for today, Mother's Day, to be observed as a day of national mourning". Those who claim to be committed to peace and favour racial harmony and cooperation should have no hesitation in giving their own positive responses to this plea by the RPA.

As Eusi Kwayana observed at the start of his fast last week for peace and racial harmony, there is enough blame to go around.

President Bharrat Jagdeo has stood out as a shining example of leadership that will not bow to racial, communal pressures in the face of the cowardly attacks on Guyanese of Indian descent along Buxton and other East Coast villages.

Whatever the real or imagined internal party pressures PNC/Reform leader Hoyte, may also be contending with, it was encouraging that he and Jagdeo could have come up with the joint statement they issued last Tuesday when they urged all Guyanese to cooperate and "live in harmony" and help facilitate a return to "normalcy".

It was the sort of joint statement required of matured political leadership that until then was lacking - for reasons that need no repetition now.

But it nevertheless came against the background of the political terrrorism on the East Coast and more specifically the shocking, stomach-wrenching murder of a 10-year-old boy and his father, and that of another villager.

In the circumstances of post-election tragedies, it was the least the PNC/Reform leader could have done, along with the young President who had previously made even stronger appeals on his own to all sections of the Guyanese society.

The Police Doing it together was essential and timely. There has since been a lull in the political terrorism and robberies that have traumatised more than the people of the East Coast villages. It goes to show how much more could be done, together, by appropriate leadership examples, rather than bowing to political opportunists and extremist elements.

This, of course, does not mean that the police should not be actively pursuing those who have committed the various acts of murder, fire-bombing and hijacking incidents and vicious robberies.

So far, while it is appreciated that the security forces have been seriously extended in trying to maintain law and order - even in the face of political provocations from the advocates of "slow fire" and "more fire" - their success rate in apprehending and instituting charges against the instigators and perpetrators of the wave of violence has been shockingly low.

Except for the PNC/Reform, there has been widespread commendation for the efforts by the police in trying to maintain law and order in very trying circumstances, including having to face the blazing guns and missiles of the lawless.

But the Police Commissioner and his colleagues of all ranks would know how crucial it is for inspiring public confidence by being able to DELIVER on pledges to bring to justice those who have been causing so much mayhem since the March 19 elections.