Jagdeo supports public enquiry
Wants it to cover March 19 onwards

Stabroek News
April 30, 2001

President Bharrat Jagdeo would welcome a public enquiry into the events of April 9 - when fire roared through a section of the business district - but would also like the events on elections night to be covered, he told Stabroek News.

President Jagdeo was responding to a request for his views on recent calls for a public enquiry into the events of April 9, which also included the picketing exercise at the Office of the President during which protesters were attacked by police and two top PNC/R officials were detained. It is also envisaged that an enquiry would cover the fires and attempted fires several days later and disturbances on the East and West Coast Demerara.

On elections night, several polling stations in southern Georgetown and other parts of the country were besieged by persons demanding to vote, some voted way past the scheduled closing time and some polling agents were severely beaten.

Earlier, a leading government official had said that while a public enquiry was desirable, such a probe should not be mounted until there was some certainty that the activities being enquired into had ceased.

The President's view on the inquiry makes it likely that one will be set up as opposition parties have also registered their support.

The call for a public enquiry was first made by the leadership of the Working People's Alliance which saw it as necessary so that the people could learn the truth as far as was possible about the causes of those incidents.

The People's National Congress REFORM (PNC/R) has also backed the call for an enquiry saying that such an enquiry would disprove the imputation that it was in some way responsible for the disastrous events and in particular the fires which caused so much destruction and hardship.

"Some statements have", according to the release it issued earlier this month, "in the absence of the possibility of finding any such evidence, attempted to find some [way] of allocating blame to the PNC by alleging that the public statements of the party's leadership contributed in some way to the various tragedies."

The PNC/R statement also urged consideration of police provocation and brutality, the shooting to death of Water Street vendor Donna McKinnon on Robb Street and the circumstances surrounding the attempted arson at St George's Cathedral.

ROAR Guyana in supporting the call for a public enquiry wants it not only into the events of April 9, 2001, but also into the events of January 12, 1998, among 16 issues it claimed to be of concern to Indian Guyanese. In a whole-page advertisement in the Stabroek News, ROAR said it wanted the enquiry to be able to make binding recommendations to the government.