PNC/R commissioner Parris attacked at Congress Place

Stabroek News
March 24, 2001

PNC REFORM (PNC/R) representative on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Haslyn Parris was brutally attacked and his car badly damaged at the party's Congress Place headquarters yesterday.

Parris had just come out of the PNC/R headquarters when he was set upon by an angry mob in the compound. Persons accused him of selling out the party by agreeing to some decisions at GECOM concerning the elections. Parris suffered a swollen forehead and bruises about his body. His car was badly dented and the windscreen broken.

Incumbent President Bharrat Jagdeo and chairman of GECOM Joseph Singh have both condemned the attack.

"It's terrible that he should face such action because he did what's right," Jagdeo stated at a press conference and called on all decent-minded persons to condemn the incident.

Singh, in a statement made available only to the broadcast media yesterday afternoon said a response by Parris at a press conference yesterday morning reported by this newspaper in yesterday's edition, seemed to have triggered off a reaction by members of a party which he did not name.

The GECOM chairman said the Stabroek News report indicated that the commission had arrived at a consensus position on the results of the elections. He dismissed the report as inaccurate, stating that "all members of [the] commission were unanimous in accepting the presentation by the chief election officer on the finality and accuracy of the elections results."

Consensus, according to the Chambers Dictionary, means "agreement of various parts; agreement in opinion; unanimity ... unanimity means "agreement without anyone dissenting".

Parris was asked at the press conference yesterday morning if he was satisfied with the integrity of the vote counting process and if the results truly reflected the will of the people. Singh stated that Parris' answer was given in "clear, unambiguous and professional language."

Parris had said that the vote counting process was "transparent and clean" and this apparently had also riled the gathering at PNC/R headquarters.

Singh said the members of the commission were distraught and extremely concerned about what happened to Parris, who he described as an outstanding Guyanese. He said it was his duty to set the record straight for the benefit of those persons who are unfamiliar with the processes involved in the running of the elections.

"This is most unfortunate. And whoever put those persons to destroy the integrity and character of this son of the soil, I think, has done much damage to the image of themselves and the party they represent...," the GECOM chairman declared.

He stated that there was recourse to the law for persons who felt they had been wronged. The commission had no problem with anyone who was critical of the processes it used and the way they were managed, he said, but stressed that all should address this within the framework of the Constitution.

According to him, a Stabroek News article - which he did not identify - was "extremely misleading in identifying Mr Parris as in some way responsible for the vote [of the commission], which went against the use of the [national identification] ID card for voting on election day, that is the card held by persons who were not on the list" of electors. However, Stabroek News did not report in yesterday's edition or in any previous publication that Parris had voted against allowing this category of persons to vote on elections day. What it had said was that there was a 4 to 2 vote on the commission against allowing such persons to vote.

Singh pointed out that it was Parris who actually suggested that this category of persons be allowed to exercise their franchise. "It's a travesty for him to be identified as the individual who in some way was responsible for a decision being made not to allow those (ID) cards being used by persons not listed," the GECOM chairman stated.

He called on the citizens of Guyana to "vociferously" condemn the violence meted out to Parris. He urged that Parris and his family be given protection to prevent any further "vilification of his character."

Parris was with Singh at yesterday afternoon's media encounter along with fellow Commissioners, Lloyd Joseph, Moen McDoom, Robert Williams, Mahmood Shaw, Keshav Mangal and legal consultant to GECOM, Bryn Pollard.