Need for peace key to accord - President Jagan

By Patrick Denny
January 19, 1998

President Janet Jagan has welcomed the agreement brokered by the CARICOM mission headed by Sir Henry Forde which is aimed at reducing tensions and helping the country return to normalcy.

With the agreement in place, President Jagan said she felt that people should feel free to come and watch cricket (a English touring team is due here next month) and investors free to come and invest in Guyana as they had been doing.

Speaking with Trinidad and Tobago's TV Channel 6, which was in Guyana covering the post-elections developments here since Tuesday, President Jagan explained that among the considerations which prompted the ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic into entering the agreement with the opposition People National Congress (PNC) was the need to return peace and stability to the country.

"I think uppermost was the fact that in Guyana its citizens want peace. We want to be able to go about our business; our children must be able to attend school; people of all ethnic groups must be allowed to enter the capital city (Georgetown) and not be in fear of attack. These were factors I think that helped to bring about the settlement," she told Sunil Ramdeen, the Channel 6 producer, in an interview at her Bel Air home yesterday, at which reporters from the Stabroek News, the Mirror and the Trinidad Express were allowed to sit in.

Another contributing factor was the way the mission had approached its work and the care with which CARICOM chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell, had selected the members of the team.

She told Ramdeen too that her confidence that the audit would confirm the PPP/Civic had won the elections was behind the reason for the government agreeing to it. In fact she said that the government hoped that the audit would result in the PPP/Civic being awarded an additional seat since 75 per cent of the reject votes she understood had been cast for her party.

Asked if her government would agree to fresh elections if the audit results indicated such a need, President Jagan said that she was confident that the audit would not throw up such results.

"Approximately at 11 o'clock (11 pm on December 15) we all knew what the results were. If we could know from the telephone calls from all the polling agents in all the areas, who gave us results, I am certain the PNC was fully aware (of the results). President Jagan said.

President Jagan dismissing criticisms of rigging, asserted that her party had campaigned on a solid record of achievement in its first term, during which it had ensured that people all across the country had shared in the benefits of the country without regard to racial origins or political affiliations.

Giving reasons for the PPP/Civic's agreement for an inquiry into the December 15, poll, President Jagan pointed out that the PPP/Civic had agreed to the audit in an effort to allay the fears of those persons who believe the allegations of rigging made by PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte.

She said too that it was "part of a peace plan because we want peace in this country. We want to get ahead with our economic development". Another factor which pushed the PPP/Civic in the direction of a settlement, President Jagan said, was the concern for the impact of the PNC-led demonstrations on the economy and for the welfare of the people as "if the madness were to continue the whole country would fall apart as it did in the '60s".

President Jagan said that her government's job was to restore confidence in the country so that people could come here and do business. "I hope that all Guyanese and all people in the Caribbean Community understand, because if we are affected in this way there will be a spin-off to Trinidad, to Jamaica, to Barbados. The tourists will be afraid that the spin-off from here will affect them," President Jagan noted.

Asked to respond to the question whether she would consider stepping down if it was the only way of bringing stability to Guyana, President Jagan said that having analysed the situation, it was her party's belief that the problem wasn't really her but the fact that the PPP/Civic won and that the PNC had not lost in a close race.

The interview with President Jagan was the first she gave following the agreement her party reached with the PNC on Saturday evening just before midnight.