Bharrat Jagdeo sworn in as Guyana's president

Stabroek News
April 1, 2001

Bharrat Jagdeo was yesterday sworn in as President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and in a speech long on themes of unity and reconciliation, he invited all citizens to come aboard a ship setting sail for progress and prosperity.

Jagdeo took the oath of office before Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cecil Kennard, in the Umana Yana on High Street Kingston and supporters of the PPP/Civic, members of the diplomatic corps and civil society. Stabroek News understands that invitations were sent out to the leaders of all political parties. PNC REFORM Leader Desmond Hoyte did not attend. Neither were there any representatives from GAP/WPA. TUF leader Manzoor Nadir was present.

Jagdeo, in his speech, urged that it was time for the country to move on after a tense election campaign. "Rather than becoming a divisive event, we can let these elections remind us of the necessity for our coming together for the common good of our country and people.

"I can assure Guyana that the hand I reach out will be friendly and brotherly, and in accepting it the PNC Leadership should have no fear that they are doing so as anything other than as equals.

"I will soon convene a national conference to discuss ways of taking the country forward." He said, "this platform will be constructed within the context of the National Development Strategy and the programmes advanced by the various political parties."

Jagdeo pledged to speed up constitutional reforms which would give more powers to parliament. "However inclusivity should not be restricted to the legislative arm of government. I hope that when I meet the leader of the opposition we will discuss this matter further. It is critical that we engage each other in dialogue. We should always reach out and talk to each other. In this way we would be really fulfilling the mandate of all Guyanese..."

He denied his party had ever deliberately marginalised persons because of their ethnicity but said he would work to remove the bitter perception that "party connection and consideration come first in all aspects of administering the country."

There was still so much to be done, Jagdeo declared after recounting the progress the government had already made; the fight to reduce poverty; education for all; affordable health care; jobs and opportunities for youths and improved salaries; care for the elderly; and encouragement of Guyana's uniquely diverse cultures.

In acknowledgement of alleged police brutality, he promised that more attention "must be paid to law and order. We have to work to improve the justice system so that all of our citizens feel that they are all equal before the law and that their rights are protected."

Internationally, Guyana must work to protect developing countries from the ravages of globalisation; "to strengthen ties with our neighbours and to continue to work for the peaceful resolution of our differences."

Jagdeo assured those with deep religious convictions that he would seek guidance and advice from religious leaders in the effort to break down barriers and create a more compassionate society.

He said he was aware "that the electoral process was not without its shortcomings. These affected all the contesting parties. But we are encouraged by the declaration of the independent local and overseas observers that the elections were fair and that the results are the free expression of the will of the people."

It was Jagdeo's fervent hope that the recent acts of disruption and violence would cease. "These prevent our children from going to school, disrupt our people's lives and stall the progress of our country. They do not solve anything."

Elections Commission Chairman, Major General (rtd) Joe Singh, read the declaration of the President. And in his welcome address, University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor, Dr James Rose, said the need had never been stronger for inter-party cooperation.