Guyana's former president, Desmond Hoyte, dies at 73 published: Jamaica Gleaner - Monday | December 23, 2002



GEORGETOWN, Guyana: DESMOND HOYTE, opposition leader and former President of Guyana, died early yesterday morning at his home.

But there are conflicting reports concerning the cause of death. An Associated Press report cited an apparent heart attack. However, information from Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) at 8 a.m. yesterday, said Hoyte was taking breakfast to his wife, Joyce, "when he slipped, fell and hit his head".

Hoyte, leader of the People's National Congress (PNC) party, had been feeling ill for the last three days and had not made any public appearances in more than a week, said Vincent Alexander, the party's vice chairman.

Hoyte had a history of heart trouble, including triple bypass surgery in New York in 1993 after collapsing in George-town, the capital, months after losing the general election. He was born in Georgetown on March 9, 1929 to parents Gladys Marietta and George Alphonso Hoyte.

Mr. Hoyte, a British-trained lawyer who received his law degree in 1959, was Guyana's President from 1985-1992, when his party lost to the governing People's Progressive Party. He had served as ceremonial Prime Minister, vice president and held several ministerial positions, including finance and economic planning minister, before becoming president.

"His death is highly untimely given what is happening in the country when we are talking about things like power sharing," Alexander said. "It is tough for us."

Party leaders are discussing a recent proposal to divide Cabinet posts among members of both parties amid tense race relations in the South American country. Currently, only governing party members hold

Cabinet positions. Guyana's population of nearly 700,000 is almost evenly divided between people of African descent, who support the opposition, and those of East Indian descent, who largely back the governing party.

Guyana has seen dozens of carjackings, armed robberies and more than 150 killings this year - four times than of last year. Many Guyanese believe the crimes are being committed by opposition supporters demanding an end to perceived discrimination against blacks. The government has denied the discrimination claims.

HIS CAREER

Mr. Hoyte held a number of key portfolios in the PNC. He was a member of the General Council since 1962, and became a member of the Central Executive Committee in 1972.

He was also legal adviser to the General Secretary from 1973, among others.

As a Minister of the Government, he held such portfolios Home Affairs Minister from 1969-1970; Finance Minister 1970-1972; and Economic Development 1974-1980. In 1980 he was appointed vice-president with

responsibility for Economic Planning and Finance, and in 1983 he was re-designated vice-president, Production.

In August 1984 he became Prime Minister and First vice-president, a post, which he filled with dignity and a high level of political maturity projecting his indomitable will as well as his clear insights, on national and international issues. He led the PNC to successive general election defeats in October 1992, December 1997, and March 2001.

The People's National Congress party met in emergency session yesterday to determine Hoyte's successor, Alexander said. In recent years, Hoyte had been talking about passing the leadership to a younger generation given his age and fluctuating health.

"Robert Corbin, the party's current chairman, will probably be elected to hold the leadership post until a special election is held to officially choose a successor," Alexander said yesterday.

Mr. Hoyte is survived by his wife, Joyce. In 1985, his two teenage daughters and sister-in-law were killed in a car crash in southern Guyana. He became president three months after the accident when President Forbes Burnham died during surgery at a state-run hospital.

Funeral arrangements for Hoyte will be announced later this week, party officials said.