Protest ban lifted

Stabroek News
January 20, 1998

Minister of Home Affairs, Samuel Hinds, yesterday issued an Order revoking the ban on protest marches and other demonstrations in Greater Georgetown with effect from Sunday.

The lifting of the ban, Hinds said in a release captioned "Let Get Going (Again) Guyana" was one of the elements of the agreement reached between the People's Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic and the People's National Congress (PNC) containing a menu of measures designed to return Guyana to normality. The PNC has in turn agreed to a moratorium on public demonstrations and marches in Georgetown.

The agreement, signed by the two parties on Saturday evening, was brokered by a CARICOM goodwill mission headed by Sir Henry Forde, QC, former foreign minister of Barbados. The other members of the mission were Sir Shridath Ramphal, SC, former Commonwealth secretary general, and Sir Alister McIntyre, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

At a press conference yesterday at his Congress Place headquarters, PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte, said that the moratorium was on public demonstrations and marches against issues related to the controversy about December 15 elections.

"But let us say that today or tomorrow the government decided to shut down (for example) Stabroek News or Channel 28, we would consider that a matter for political protest. But it will have nothing to do with elections or the controversy," he said.

Also, he said, his initial reaction was that it would apply to any demonstration outside the National Assembly for the ceremonial opening of the Parliament, since it would be related to the elections.

Hoyte told reporters, that the demonstration and marches had brought about the "acceptance by the PPP/Civic of the need to investigate thoroughly every aspect of the elections. That gives us an opportunity to prove conclusively, as we expect the review would do, that we were right. We were right to protest; we were right to demonstrate; that we are right when we said that the elections were extensively flawed," he added.

He said that there was no need for demonstrations now that a mechanism had put in place a "process that will eventually show whether we were right or whether we were wrong."

Asked what would be his response, considering the wide support the demonstrations and marches had received from his party members and supporters, if the audit proved him wrong, Hoyte said that he would admit he was wrong if the audit so indicated.

Reacting to the comments that some of the PNC supporters and members might get the impression that with the intervention of an outside body, as in 1992, he had sold out in reaching the agreement with the PPP/Civic, Hoyte stressed that as leader of the PNC he had to exercise the authority of the leadership. "I have to make decisions which a leader ought to make," Hoyte added.

He explained that when the party's central executive met on Sunday it had a "full and frank discussion of the agreement where there were many persons who expressed concerns, but in the end the concerns expressed arose from misunderstanding [of the terms of the agreement]".

Asked about reports that officials and other officers of the Elections Commission were tampering with the documents related to the Elections, Hoyte said that it would be impossible for the paper trail to be convincingly disguised to escape close scrutiny. Also, he claimed that the officials of the commission were still trying to get election day officials to sign the relevant documents and that a number of them had refused and reported the matter to him.

He said that the documents were given to them to sign when they went to receive their pay but when they checked the documents they were unrelated to payment and they refused to sign them. Efforts to reach Elections Commission Chairman, Doodnauth Singh, for a comment on this proved futile.