Desmond Hoyte Editorial -Stabroeknews -Monday, December 23, 2002

The death of Hugh Desmond Hoyte yesterday at the age of seventy-three shocked the nation. The passing of time will enable a fuller evaluation of his legacy and the important role he has played in the modern history of Guyana but few will disagree that the high point of his career was his period as president from 1985 to 1992.

Inheriting a bankrupt economy and a society in which there had been no free and fair elections for some time which had led to some degree of repression, he had the fortitude, despite internal opposition in his own party, to introduce a period of glasnost and perestroika where there was a reversal of the failed policy of state capitalism and the introduction of a programme of privatisation and the encouragement of new investment, two of the fruits of which were Barama and Omai Gold Mines. There was a rebirth of press freedom and the introduction of electoral reforms which led to free and fair elections in 1992. It is no exaggeration to say that under his stewardship substantial progress was achieved in many areas.

The loss of power in 1992 may, paradoxically, have been among his finest moments. Announcing on the night of October 7th that his party “in keeping with the requirements of democracy… will accept the results of the poll” he stated: “I expect all citizens to accept these political developments, maintain a peaceful and harmonious climate in society and keep the welfare and good name of Guyana foremost in their minds.” At a time when the situation was still unsettled as a result of polling day violence it was an act of statesmanship that restored some level of normality. However, the immense disappointment he suffered as a result of the loss of the opportunity to continue with the economic recovery he had started led to a bitterness that was evident in his subsequent career as leader of the opposition.

Desmond Hoyte was among his other accomplishments a distinguished lawyer. Responding to a request to serve by then party leader Forbes Burnham in the late sixties he continued to serve his party faithfully for the rest of his life, to the detriment of his career as a lawyer and his financial well being. Even his bitterest critics have not alleged any acts of corruption on his part. It is perhaps these qualities of dedication and service for which he will be best remembered. He leaves a gap in his party which will not easily be filled.

Stabroek News offers its condolences to Mrs Hoyte and the executive and members of the party.

May he rest in peace.

(See reprint of Ian McDonald column. A comprehensive obituary by Dr Tyrone Ferguson has been commissioned and will appear in our Sunday paper.)