U.S. Congress leader deplores Guyana violence

Guyana Chronicle
July 17, 1998

A LEADING United States Congressman has deplored the recent anti-government violence in Georgetown which he said threatened democracy here.

Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Elton Gallegly, in a speech in the House of Representatives in Washington Wednesday, said People's National Congress (PNC) leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte "should accept his electoral defeat, publicly call for an end to the mob violence and assume the role of opposition leader in the halls of the political arena rather than in the streets."

He said the PNC Members of Parliament who had refused to take their seats "should assume their democratic responsibilities and make their case through the legislative process."

The PNC Wednesday ended an almost five-month boycott of Parliament with Hoyte and other members taking their seats in the National Assembly.

Gallegly noted that the December 15 elections, observed by representatives of the international community, including Americans, were judged to be free and fair.

The recount of the ballots by an audit team from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) varied only slightly from the original results, he pointed out, adding: "Thus, the election of President (Janet) Jagan was determined to be fair."

He recalled that the House International Relations Committee, recognising "the extremely important process of democracy in Guyana, as demonstrated by the election", had marked-up and adopted a resolution introduced by Congressman, Mr. Donald Payne, a senior member of the Black Caucus in Congress.

"This resolution congratulated the people of Guyana for their strong expression of support for democracy, expressed support for the CARICOM audit, called on both the PPP and the... (PNC) to abide by the outcome of the audit and to commit to peace and stability in the post-election period.

"Subsequently, the House overwhelmingly passed this resolution", Gallegly noted.

He said Guyana was "in the midst of a civil disobedience campaign led by the supporters of the opposition PNC".

He noted that despite the fact that Hoyte said he accepted the results of the audit, he has stated that acceptance did not mean that the PNC accepted Mrs. Jagan as President.

"Fair enough. But ever since, Mr. Hoyte and his followers have been engaged in a systematic anti-government movement which has employed violent mob protests, arson and physical assaults on representatives of the government, the PPP, and even the press to vent their frustration at their electoral loss.

"Unfortunately, these actions are close to constituting a direct threat to democracy in Guyana", Gallegly said.

He called on the "feuding parties" in Guyana "to stop the violence, accusations and name-calling and...begin a period of reconciliation for the stability of the nation and the good of the people."

He said President Jagan should appoint, in consultation with the opposition, the broad-based Constitution Reform Commission called for in the Herdmanston `peace' Accord she and Hoyte signed in January, to make recommendations to the National Assembly for action.

Leaders of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the PNC should appoint a "joint committee of their own to establish a dialogue on the major issues the country needs to address with respect to political and economic reform and then to work with each other through the legislative process to enact the necessary changes", he suggested.

Gallegly said democracy in Guyana must prevail and grow stronger.

"In any truly democratic society, there are those who win elections and those who lose and the losers must peacefully respect the wishes of the electorate, however distasteful, and take up their role of the opposition in a statesman-like manner and work with the government to promote a more stable, strong and prosperous nation for all the people."

"Reconciliation must happen now so that Guyana can move forward in the true sense of a free and democratic nation", Gallegly said.