Police action is part of plan to derail political talks - Clarke
PPP/C says PNC/R, GPSU bear responsibility for unrest

Stabroek News
April 10, 2001

Two opposition politicians yesterday voiced suspicions that the action of the police outside of the Office of the President yesterday was part of an orchestrated plan to sabotage the possibility of dialogue between President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC REFORM leader, Desmond Hoyte.

A third, Manzoor Nadir, saw the events yesterday including the huge fire as the beginning of a process which neither the PPP/Civic or the PNC/R could stop.

But the PPP/Civic in a statement last evening blamed the PNC/R and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) for instigating the acts of disruption and violence against the Guyanese society. The GPSU has denied the charges.

The PPP/C statement called on the Guyanese people "to support the law enforcement agencies so as to ensure that law and order prevail in our society."

Oscar Clarke, general secretary of the PNC/R told Stabroek News that it was his firm belief that the police's action outside the Office of the President during a protest against the reappointment of Dr Roger Luncheon as Head of the Presidential Secretariat was the direct result of political instructions which they carried out to the hilt.

He accused three prominent PPP members of forming the cabal from which the instructions to the police were issued. Clarke claimed that their action was an attempt to derail the possibility of dialogue between President Jagdeo and Hoyte.

In a television programme on NBTV Channel 9, Clarke asserted that their actions would not derail the structured negotiations that must take place between the two parties.

On the same programme he alleged that the police acted under the instructions of the Office of the President in arresting the leaders of the protest action.

Commissioner of Police, Laurie Lewis, dismissed this allegation telling Stabroek News that he had not been given any orders by the President to arrest the leaders of any political party.

Clarke asserted that the action of the police in arresting PNC Chairman, Robert Corbin and Chairman its REFORM component, Jerome Khan, sparked off the crowd at whom the police had fired pellets and teargas.

Clarke described the police's action in arresting Corbin and Khan as senseless. He said that their arrest left the protestors without any leadership and that it was the spark that set off the events throughout the day.

Clarke said that he agreed with businessman Peter Willems - who was attacked by a set of thugs in crowd - that the majority of the protestors were on the side of the law and order. He conceded that there was a section of the crowd whose objective was to get back at the police at whose hands some of them had suffered, and among whom was a criminal element. Clarke said these people could be found in all the parties and not only in the PNC/R.

Willems was attacked by protestors under the control of a man on a bicycle when he went to the aid of a policeman whose motorcycle was set on fire and who was being chased by the crowd.

He told Stabroek News that when he went to the policeman's assistance he was threatened by the man who controlled the thuggish element in the crowd, and when he remonstrated with him, he was set upon by six thugs who reacted to the command of the man.

Willems claimed that he was held down by the man at knifepoint while the thugs proceeded to break a number of bottles and stones on his head.

Willems was high in his praise of other sections of the crowd, whom he described as the Guyanese with whom he was accustomed to living, who assisted in tending his wounds and had offered to take him to the hospital for treatment.

Paul Hardy, the presidential candidate of the GAP/WPA described the events of yesterday based on the reports he had received as unfortunate. "Guyana has lost an excellent opportunity to get its act together."

Hardy, who had turned down an offer to join the PPP/Civic cabinet, said of the events outside the Office of the President during which Corbin and Khan were arrested, that his information was that the crowd had not posed a threat to anyone. He said too that he found it extremely difficult to believe the claim that the action by the police had been ordered by President Jagdeo. Hardy said that according to the information he received, the police had used excessive force.

Like Clarke, he felt that the action by the police was part of some conspiracy to derail the talks between President Jagdeo and Hoyte.

Hardy said that up to Sunday evening the prospects of those talks were good, given Hoyte's statement that the logic of the situation dictated that the two parties should sit down and talk.

Nadir like Clarke and Hardy was dismayed by the incidents of yesterday. He told Stabroek News that they had set in train events which neither party could stop.

Commenting on the fire which razed a number of businesses to the ground in Robb and Regent streets, Nadir said that a number of innocent people had been affected by the actions of the politically dissatisfied.

In its statement the PPP/Civic asserted that "the PNC and PSU must be held accountable for the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage caused by the fire and the harm inflicted on targeted citizens and the society as a whole stemming from today's indiscriminate violence and disruptions."

The statement recalled Hoyte's call for "slow fire" and the echoing of calls of "more fire" by the PNC leadership at Saturday evening's PNC REFORM rally.

About the impact of yesterday's incident on the prospects for the engagement between the President and Hoyte the statement said that the violent and organised disruptions "do not help to create an atmosphere for such meaningful engagements to take place."

"If the PNC is serious about a productive and genuine dialogue, as it claims, then it must end its futile campaign of disruption and violence."

In refuting the allegations, GPSU's general secretary, Randolph Kirton, stressed that it was the GPSU's call on civil society and the unions for support against the politicisation of the public service that resulted in the PNC/R backing its case.

Kirton recited a litany of issues, which he said showed that Dr Luncheon, as head of the Presidential Secretariat had breached the oath he took to discharge his duties impartially.

He recalled Dr Luncheon's usurpation of the functions of the Public Service Commission (PSC) by directing that M.R. Khan be promoted ahead of Jackie Hamer in the Foreign Ministry; his direction to the PSC to review the calculation of the superannuation to be paid to Alan Munroe, the regional chairman of Demerara/Mahaica, who up to the time of his retirement from the public service and while holding his present post was paid as a senior permanent secretary.