Desmond Hoyte dies at 72 Patterson hails former Guyanese president BY RICKEY SINGH Observer Caribbean correspondent Jamaica Observer - Monday, December 23, 2002
FORMER Guyanese president and leader of the Opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) died at his home in Georgetown yesterday, apparently of a heart attack. He was 72.
In a message last night to the PNC's general secretary, Oscar Clarke, Jamaica's prime minister, P J Patterson, said he was "extremely saddened" by the news of Hoyte's death.
Patterson, who had a personal friendship with Hoyte, described the PNC leader as belonging to a generation of Caribbean leaders "who relentlessly and unashamedly stood from the beginning. for independence of thought and action by the people of the Caribbean.
"Over the years, I grew to admire his frankness and honesty, both on domestic as well as regional matters," Patterson said. "He was a formidable political opponent and whether in Government or Opposition, he was always ready to rigorously defend what he thought was right. That, of course, landed him, understandably, in many controversial situations but he was always prepared to stand and be counted."
Hoyte, a lawyer by training, led Guyana for seven years after the 1985 death of the PNC's founder, Forbes Burnham and was credited for a programme of economic liberalisation and political opening that ultimately led to the 1992 election victory of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) and the end of 28 years of PNC rule.
President Bharrat Jagdeo has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff from today and announced that Hoyte will be afforded a state funeral.
Hoyte, who had a history of heart problems that necessitated a triple bypass operation in 1993, died shortly after having his breakfast yesterday, the PNC's chairman, Robert Corbin said.
He was taking a cup to his wife Joyce when he collapsed on a stair. The couple managed to have a brief conversation before Hoyte died, Corbin reported.
"His death is highly untimely given what is happening in the country when we are talking about things like power sharing," said the PNC's deputy chairman Vincent Alexander said. "It is tough for us."
Hoyte's Afro-Guyanese based party recently resumed talks with Jagdeo's PPP, which draws its support from ethnic Indians on how to address race and other problems in the country, including a recent wave of violent crime.
Party chairman Corbin said that under the PNC's constitution he has assumed temporary leadership of the party until a special congress is called to elect a new president. Corbin is being seen as the front-runner in that race.
Hoyte was earlier re-elected leader of the PNC at the party's biennial congress when potential candidates withdrew their nominations. But Hoyte had said that he did not want to be at the helm at the time of his next birthday in March 2003.
Although he faced three election defeat since 1992 and was under pressure in some quarters to allow for a renewal of the PNC, Hoyte's major legacy is likely to be his management of transition from the Burnham era, when Guyanese politics was associated with vote-rigging, a concept of the paramountcy of the party, deep economic stagnation and outward migration.
After Burnham died in 1985 while undergoing a throat operation, Hoyte began to open the economy and encourage foreign investment and was soon returned to office in an election on which the controversial system of overseas and postal voting was abolished.
In the 1992 election, monitored by the Carter Centre, Hoyte and his party were defeated by the PPP's Dr Cheddi Jagan. When Jagan died in office in 1997, Hoyte was defeated by Jagan's widow, Janet Jagan, in a controversial election.
A series of meetings between Hoyte and Jagdeo, who replaced Janet Jagan who retired while in office, aimed at resolving the country's problems, have been stalled since April, except for a brief summit in September.
Hoyte had accused the government of failing to implement agreed measures, accusations denied by Jagdeo.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press and Observer staff
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