Protesters target key ministries

Stabroek News
January 7, 1998

Protesters yesterday crippled work at three ministries, two government agencies and the Georgetown Education Department in their attempt to bring the operations of government to a stop to back claims that the recent general elections were rigged.

The Ministry of Health on Brickdam was effectively closed during mid-morning by the protesters and they laid siege to the Ministry of Labour shortly after noon and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs an hour later.

Also the target of the protesters, who comprised mainly supporters of the People's National Congress (PNC) and estimated at some 3,000, were the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Georgetown Education Department, which are all located in Brickdam.

On Monday, the crowd laid siege to Customs House, the Guyana Airways Corporation and the Ministry of Finance severely disrupting operations there. The pro-PNC demonstrators have employed a new strategy where they lay siege to the buildings and insist that public servants stop their work.

Permission for these demonstrations have not been granted and the protests contravene the stipulations for a peaceful picket under the Public Order Act regulations. The crowd, which began to assemble at the Square of the Revolution at 9 am moved to the various places of work where they called on workers to "Lock dem window! Come downstairs!", "Anyway open?

Shut dem doors" and "No wuk! No school!". Workers in groups or walking singly emerged from the buildings and as they made their way out of the compound either on foot or on bicycles, motorcycles or cars, they were applauded and cheered.

The protesters, mainly young people, chanting to the accompaniment of drums, entered the government compounds of the various ministries where the security guards were too few to effectively keep them out. At the National Insurance Scheme, a senior police officer who instructed workers to shut their windows and return to their desks was taken to task by two female employees.

They told him to do his duty and not to interfere with the protest, but to let "the people carry on their struggle". He did not respond but walked away. While the crowd called on workers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to join in the protest by leaving their work place, heavily armed police reinforcements waited at the neighbouring Office of the President (OP). However, the protesters did not stop there yesterday.