President Jagdeo lauds U.S., Canadian envoys for denouncing violence here By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
June 4, 2002

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has lauded the United States Ambassador, Mr. Ronald Godard and Canadian High Commissioner, Mr. Serge Marcoux, for coming out recently and making “very strong statements” in deploring criminal violence in this democratic society.

“I was very pleased to see the U.S. Ambassador and the Canadian High Commissioner making some very strong statements (recently)…and saying that there is no justification whatsoever for criminal and political violence in a democratic society and I think those were very strong statements…” Mr. Jagdeo said two Fridays’ ago at a news conference he hosted at State House, Georgetown.

On May 13, the Canadian High Commissioner joined his American counterpart, Ambassador Godard, in deploring criminal violence here.

“I fully subscribe to what my colleague Ambassador of the United States said last Saturday (May 11): `There is no justification for criminal violence in a democratic society; just as there is no justification for political violence in a democracy’,” Marcoux said.

The Canadian envoy noted that Guyanese society is going through a very difficult time.

“Ten years ago it opted, through free and fair elections, for democracy. But Democracy cannot be defined only by the periodic holding of elections,” Marcoux asserted.

“Democracy is also defined by the inclusiveness of all citizens in the process of government; democracy is defined by the quality of the dialogue between the politicians themselves, whatever their political allegiance; between the politicians and civil society and between the different groups who form the civil society,” he said.

“Democracy can be judged by the quality of the dialogue between these different sectors of society (and) this is the kind of democracy that all our governments have promised to uphold during the last Summit of the Americas,” Marcoux added.

Such a democracy, he said, thrives above all in Parliament, the normal place to discuss the affairs of the nation.

It is strengthened through the different media whose task it is to inform the public of the main current ideas and opinions discussed in a society “but it never, never flourishes in the streets”, he said.

“The streets may be a meeting place for the citizens. It is not the proper place to conduct the affairs of the nation,” he asserted.

Three days before, Ambassador Godard asserted that one of the reasons Guyanese are so frightened by the current crime wave plaguing this country is that the problem is being debated in a particularly acrimonious political environment.

He said in this environment, criminal violence, normally roundly condemned by all sectors of society, has been treated almost like “a legitimate subject for debate”.

Godard, however, pointed out that there should be no room for doubt since Guyana is a democratic society that is founded on and depends for its existence on respect for the rule of law.

“There is no justification for criminal violence in a democratic society, just as there is no justification for political violence in a democracy,” Godard had declared.

The U.S. Ambassador was at the time addressing a large gathering at the gala opening of the technologically advanced multi-million-dollar DIDCO Poultry Farm at Yarowkabra on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway.

Meanwhile, President Jagdeo at the news conference warned that the threat to democracy comes from many quarters including political parties and in some cases, sections of civil societies and the media. He urged that the international community should look beyond the concept that its only state actors that can violate democracy and work together to combat all the forces which pose a threat to democracy.