Hoyte dies …Government to collaborate in funeral arrangements By Shirley Thomas Chronicle - Monday, December 23, 2002

PEOPLE’S National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte, O.E., S.C., died at his North Road, Georgetown home yesterday. Mr. Hoyte, who had quadruple bypass surgery since he stepped down from the presidency, died of a suspected heart attack.

A former President of Guyana for seven years, Hoyte, a lawyer-politician of long standing, is to be given a State funeral by the Government of President Bharrat Jagdeo.

While the PNC/R's major decision-making body, the Central Committee, was in session yesterday to discuss funeral arrangements, President Jagdeo was huddled in a special session with some top cabinet and party colleagues of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) discussing the Government's plan to honour with a State-sponsored funeral the politician who was President from 1985 to 1992.

The President later ordered that the 'Golden Arrowhead', the nation's flag, be flown at half- mast today at all points. The death of the man who led the PNC for 17 years, after the departure of its founder leader Forbes Burnham in 1985, occurred around 08:15 hours, PNC Chairman Robert Corbin told the media at a Congress Place, Sophia briefing, just before midday.

Corbin said doctors would later determine the case of Hoyte’s demise before his 74th birthday next March but PNC Parliamentarian, Dr Dalgeish Joseph officially pronounced him dead. The news, which sent shockwaves across the nation, the Caribbean Community and farther afield, was communicated by Mr. Corbin who said, according to information received from the widow, Mrs. Joyce Hoyte, her husband awoke quite well.

He went downstairs (in the middle floor of their three-storey house), had something to eat and drink and was in the process of taking a cup of tea back up to her when he fell. Corbin said Hoyte spoke to his wife even as he was on the floor before dying shortly after the fall.

A Book of Condolence is to be opened at Congress Place from 10:00 hours today, PNC/R First Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander said. Meantime, Corbin called on the party membership to remain calm and be strong and disciplined.

"We would like to use this opportunity to ask our supporters to remain calm. As a party, we are saddened and, in this season of goodwill, we know that there is grief," he acknowledged.

Corbin said the party was unable to give any further information then, other than to confirm the demise.

"I know that many questions might be in the minds of the public but we hope that you will bear with us until we have proper information from the doctors on the cause of death etc. All I wish to do this morning is to confirm that he has passed on," he said of Hoyte.

The party 's Central Executive was meeting later to discuss certain arrangements with respect to the funeral. Corbin said the party is a disciplined one and its Central Executive will ensure its work continues while its Constitution speaks quite clearly to the succession issue.

He appealed to members of the public, particularly well-wishers, who might be tempted to go to the Hoyte’s residence to convey condolences to Mrs. Hoyte, to refrain, as far as possible, from doing so.

Corbin said any questions and comments about the funeral could be had from Congress Place and Central Executive Committee member, Mr. Deryck Bernard would keep the media briefed about developments leading up to the funeral.

"You will be doing Mrs. Hoyte and the country a service if you can avoid crowding the residence at North Road and by accessing Congress Place for information," Corbin said.

General Secretary Oscar Clarke said the funeral is temporarily scheduled for Monday, December 30 and a Government and PNC/R team would meet today to discuss the Government’s collaboration in the programme, as the administration has offered to meet any request made in that connection.

He said he was aware of the announcement that flags on Government buildings will be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for Mr. Hoyte and that the funeral would be treated as a national occasion.

Hoyte, who took over the PNC leadership mantle from Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham in August 1985, had, earlier this year, indicated his intention to demit office before his next birthday on March 9.

But weeks prior to the Biennial Delegates Congress last August, Hoyte signalled his intention to carry on and was returned by an overwhelming majority.

He secured 508 votes to the 33 won by his lone opponent, Ms Germaine Vansluytman, who remained in the race after others had withdrawn.

Alexander, reacting to the loss yesterday, said “moments like these in the party have always been moments for rallying and finding strength to deal with the circumstances.”

"It is a moment when we are very sad, but then we will hold together under such circumstances."

Reflecting on some of Hoyte’s last activities, Alexander recalled that, two Saturdays ago, they visited Hopetown (West Coast Berbice) together and Hoyte, who lost his own but maintained a close affinity to children, officiated at a party for them in the village.

"He was very cheerful, very light-spirited on that occasion. That was the last time I personally sat with him,” Alexander remembered. He alluded to Hoyte’s address at the last Biennial Delegates' Conference when he called for 'shared governance'.

Alexander said: "He has certainly left us with a platform that can move Guyana forward, given the nature of the problems with which Guyana is faced. I think, in that regard, one could say that he completed a significant task of giving us direction, concurrence within the party and a way forward for the nation.”

Alexander said one of Hoyte's legacies would be the position paper the party has since submitted to the Social Partners, not only advocating shared governance but expounding “our views on the form we think shared governance may take in this country.”

Though he felt Hoyte did well during his years in politics, Alexander remarked that the former did not choose such a career path. Rather, he was a brilliant young lawyer cajoled by Burnham to get involved and his involvement was “an answer to a national call,” Alexander declared.

He said, in that regard, one could say Hoyte was a patriot who gave up his personal career ambition, based on a call and ended up being leader of the nation until October 1992.

Hoyte had a great love for music, played the piano very well and was an avid reader with a particular liking for Literature, Philosophy and Poetry. His great interest in cricket and a repertoire for jokes are other things Alexander remembered about Hoyte. (With reporting by Sherwin Campbell)