Keep campaign Violence free Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 15, 2002

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AS THE campaign enters its crucial pre-nomination of candidates phase for the October 7 general election, there are fears of possible political violence in Trinidad and Tobago.

For all the pressures associated with the conduct of national elections, Trinidad and Tobago, with which Guyana has some striking similarities, has managed to avoid the political violence that has, unfortunately, so often characterised elections in Jamaica and this country.

Now, following a confrontation at the Tunapuna-based office of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) involving supporters of the two dominant parties, People's National Movement and United National Congress, including the PNM's incumbent candidate, Eddie Hart, there have been calls for a lowering of the tension that has built up over the past week.

Both Manning and former Prime Minister and UNC leader, Basdeo Panday

happily share the view that political violence has no place in the country's commitment to free and fair election.

But they are operating without an overall code of conduct for the election as existed for Guyana's last two elections, or as obtains for current campaigning for Jamaica's coming national poll.

Manning said last week that his party has always contested elections "peacefully", adding: "We have won peacefully and when we have lost, we have demitted office peacefully, unlike some people".

In the absence of a national code of ethics for the October 7 poll, the UNC's candidate for Tunapuna, Carlos John, a cabinet minister in the last government, took the initiative to arrange with the PNM's incumbent, Eddie Hart, junior Sports Minister, for a meeting for them to come up with a code of their own that could also serve as a model for the other 35 constituencies.

Unfortunately, for reasons better known to himself, Hart failed to show up for the meeting with John, that was arranged following the fracas at the EBC's office in Tunapuna, perhaps the most crucial of the five marginal constituencies, and where there are charges and counter charges of attempts at voter-padding.

We sincerely hope that better judgement will prevail, and that not only the Tunapuna candidates, but all other contestants and their parties, will give substance to their claims of commitment to "peaceful" campaigning.

They must leave the voters to freely determine, in a civilised atmosphere, free from fear, which party gets the mandate to govern the country for the next five years.