Govt bans protests - for one month

Stabroek News
January 13, 1998

Following the mayhem in the capital yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Sam Hinds last night announced that the government was banning all public gatherings and meetings for a month and he warned that the army and police would be enforcing this "to the fullest extent in the city of Georgetown".

Hinds in an Order issued under the Public Order Act Chapter 16:03 said in the interest of good order and public safety, all public meetings, gatherings and assemblies of persons and all processions and marches in any public place are expressly prohibited.

In addition, all persons are expressly forbidden from organising, holding, speaking at or attending any public meetings, gatherings or assemblies of persons.

The Order will remain in effect for a period of not more than one month with effect from today and applies to the entire Greater Georgetown area, i.e. the area bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by the eastern boundary of the company path on the eastern side of Plantations Cummings Lodge, Houston and Rome, on the south by the southern boundary of Plantation Rome and on the west by the Demerara River.

Hinds, in an address to the nation, said that the government wanted to assure the public that everything will be done to return the country to normalcy. He referred to the mobs which created havoc in the city centre after Chief Justice Desiree Bernard had rendered a decision striking out the election case brought by the People's National Congress (PNC) against the declaration of Mrs Janet Jagan as President.

PNC leader Desmond Hoyte last night described the issue of the Order "as an act of extreme fear and desperation" by the ruling PPP/Civic. "It shows the PPP as being uneasy and I do feel that this repressive order will provoke extreme (anger). It is an act of futility and will generate greater tension in the society," he told Stabroek News in a telephone interview shortly after the order was issued by Hinds.

Hinds, the Prime Minister-designate, said that since the elections on December 15 there had been "incremental efforts at subverting democratic governance and law and order in Guyana by forces who have refused to abide by the will of the electorate". Hinds, who served as President last year on the death of Dr Cheddi Jagan, said that the government had acted with great restraint and has kept the door open for dialogue.

Hinds noted that policemen on their lawful duty were assaulted by members of the mob who also seized police communication equipment. He said protesters also converged on the Office of the President and aimed objects at the building. One window in the complex was shattered.

Hinds said that even while the court has spoken, peaceful avenues are still open to settle differences. He referred to the CARICOM mission which is due here tomorrow. In addition, he noted that an audit initiative emanating from the Private Sector Commission has been adopted by the Elections Commission. He said the government supports both of these.

"We believe that these events in Georgetown are politically directed, and should be contained in the interest of peace", he said. Hinds added that PNC leader Hoyte had been given the benefit of the doubt when he stated that the protests were peaceful. "The situation on the ground today, however, suggests otherwise and the government cannot remain unconcerned", he stated. The Home Affairs Minister urged all leaders to display maturity and urged Guyanese to act with reason and respect for the rule of law.