PRESS STATEMENT By Mr Hugh Desmond Hoyte, SC, MP. Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference Thursday 2002 July 11 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
* STATEMENT BY CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT
* STATEMENT BY THE HEADS OF WESTERN MISSIONS
* RESULT OF PNC/R PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE EVENTS OF 2002 JULY 3
* THE CONTINUING DESTRUCTION OF THE BAUXITE COMMUNITIES
STATEMENT BY CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT:
People's National Congress Reform has noted with respect the observations of the CARICOM Heads of Government, at the end of their 23rd Conference, on the July 3rd events at the Office of the President, in a Statement entitled, “The Situation In Guyana”.
We appreciate that the Heads would have based their comments on the briefing obtained from Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo which, of necessity, would be biased, and self-serving partisan. It is regrettable, however, that the Heads should have allowed themselves to be gulled by Mr. Jagdeo into believing that the incident had something to do with elections or a plot to overthrow the government. It is clear that the CARICOM Heads do not fully understand the political and social realities in Guyana and how deeply ordinary people are affected by and resent the corruption, racism, discriminatory practices, and the general oppressive behaviour of the incumbent regime, and why they feel compelled to resist. The Heads might well want to ask themselves why ordinary people would begin a 17 mile march to Georgetown at 5 o’clock in the morning, if they did not have real grievances.
When a government becomes the chief law breaker in the nation and consistently flouts the laws and even the provisions of the Constitution, it is little wonder that the country will find itself in a state of unrest.
STATEMENT BY THE HEADS OF WESTERN MISSIONS:
We have also noted the recent statement issued by the heads of the United States, United Kingdom and Canadian diplomatic missions in Georgetown. This foray into the internal affairs of Guyana is, to say the least, ill-advised, unbalanced and unhelpful. Insofar as it purports to define “democracy” and the basis for the authority and legitimacy of the government, it is woefully incomplete and startlingly ingenuous. We reject out of hand the implied thesis that a government, merely because it has been elected to office, has the right to ride roughshod over the citizenry, to constitute itself the chief law breaker in the society, to be as corrupt, unjust, vicious and oppressive as it pleases. We would in passing remind the diplomats of the words in that well-spring of democracy, the (US) Declaration of Independence: “that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends” - that is, the inalienable rights of the people - “it is the right of the people”, to abolish it…. When a long string of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce (the people) under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government and to provide new Guards for their future security”. We are not saying that this is a course to be lightly undertaken; but we do say there can be circumstances in which this can become an option, even in a democracy. Having said that, we wish to reiterate that PNC/R has no agenda to overthrow the government, notwithstanding PPP/C propaganda.
The diplomats can hardly claim ignorance of the troubling causes of the unsettled nature of Guyana’s political and social life. They cannot be unaware, for example, of the deeply held belief in many communities that the government is divisive and spiteful in its treatment of sections of the country in which it perceives itself to have limited political support. They cannot be oblivious of the real threats to the livelihood and very existence of the bauxite communities. And they must be cognizant of the pervasive corrupt and criminal nature of the current government in Guyana and the pall of government-sponsored crime, money laundering and drug trafficking that has blighted this country over recent years.
The violent and inhuman atrocities of the notorious ‘Black Clothes’ police squad is widely known, as is the terror and murder it has wrought in many communities, under the protection of the government. The stench of their evil deeds has even affected the work of the US mission here. We were appalled to learn that the “Black Clothes” policemen were enforcers and hit men for a recently convicted former official of the US Georgetown mission who ran a visa-selling racket here.
The PNC/R does not wish to believe that, by virtue of their statement, the diplomats condone the executive lawlessness, corruption, misuse of donor funds, and extra-judicial murders - all perpetrated by the government which is the order of the day in our country. We would have hoped that they would have sought to distance themselves from such indecencies. Otherwise, their statement can only serve to reinforce the government in its corrupt, discriminatory and oppressive ways.
What is most unfortunate about the statement is that the PPP regime’s propagandists have been given an opportunity to claim that it is proof positive that the Western countries is in full support of the regime’s policies and is prepared to intervene militarily in Guyana on its behalf. It is noteworthy that some slight credence is given to this wild notion in a recent Stabroek News editorial. How external military intervention in Guyana will help the PPP is a question that still baffles us.
RESULT OF PNC/R PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE EVENTS OF 2002 JULY 3:
The People’s National Congress/ Reform has completed its preliminary investigation of the events of Wednesday 2002 July 3, which ended in a tragic loss of lives, the shooting of several persons and the arrest and detention of many others. We have also reviewed the reports of the destruction of the tents at a vigil site in the Main Street Avenue and the brutal assaults on the women campers by “Black Clothes” police on the same day.
The activity of Wednesday 2002 July 3 had its genesis in the Bauxite Communities where the entire work force at the Bermine operations at Kwakwani and Everton suddenly discovered that they were about to face the bread-line without any notice or explanation from their employers or the Government. The Linden Community realised that they faced a similar fate. Consequently, in order to draw public attention to their plight, they mounted a vigil at the Main Street Avenue and staged three protest marches in Georgetown. There were no incidents during these marches or at the vigil site over the two-month period of the exercise.
The protesting members of the Bauxite communities began mobilising support for their cause and soon they identified with several other communities along the East Coast and in Georgetown who were having similar experiences of joblessness, discrimination, marginalisation and victimisation. Out of this, the People’s Solidarity
Movement was born, comprising several organisations and representatives of Georgetown communities and Villages along the East Coast of Demerara.
The PNC/R identified fully with the grievances of these citizens and empathised with them Several of the issues of concern had already been raised by the PNCR leadership in the dialogue process and otherwise with no result. The Bauxite Unions met with the PNC/R and requested its support. The PNC/R therefore took a decision to give full support to the cause of the workers and the People’s movement.
The Movement planned and organised for a march to take place on Wednesday 2002 July 3 and applied for Police permission. Many marches, candlelight vigils and various other activities had been held peacefully without incidents, and permission was routinely granted. There was therefore no reason to believe that the requisite
permission would not have been forthcoming. Consequently, the PNC/R encouraged its members to participate.
As late as the evening of Tuesday 2 July , 2002, no response had been received by the organisers from the Police on the East Coast. With either inadequate or no information several thousands of Villagers from the East Coast of Demerara began their procession to Georgetown as early as 5:30 o’ clock on the morning of Wednesday 2002 July 3. The plan was for them to link up in Lamaha Street,with participants from Georgetown, Linden and other parts of the country. There was Police presence throughout the march which was peaceful and orderly throughout most of the East Coast.
On arrival in Georgetown a section of the marchers branched off from the main procession along Vlissengen Road, while the remainder continued along the original route into Lamaha Street. This created a great deal of confusion with various sections of the march in several streets in Queenstown. These eventually followed the prescribed route along Lamaha Street, south into Main Street and east into Regent Street to the Square of the Revolution.
The breakaway section, however, proceeded to the Bourda area and arrived at the junction of Regent and New Garden Street near the Presidential complex There were no Police barriers as is usually the case at that junction. As a result, several persons in the procession proceeded along New Garden Street outside the Presidential
Several marchers have given accounts of what occurred. Some claimed to have heard a single shot, others several shots, after which pandemonium broke loose. According to some reports, a woman who was standing in New Garden Street close to South Road was shot in her head. The shot is alleged to have come from within the Presidential Secretariat. At this point some persons, seeing the gate open, walked into the Presidential compound.
Everyone spoken to, however, maintained that all the persons who had entered the compound were unarmed and that many eventually left voluntarily. When most of the persons had walked out of the compound, the gate was suddenly closed and shots were fired indiscriminately in the compound. Those who were trapped in the compound ran for shelter and ended up in a room in the bottom flat of one of the buildings. It was into this room where they were huddled that a guard, whom some can identify, pointed a gun through the window and shot several persons. Two died on the spot and one was taken to hospital. Later, those persons trapped in the compound were arrested and detained by the Police.
The PNCR at its last Press Conference expressed with sympathy to the victims of the tragic events and their families. We believe that the persons who entered the Presidential Secretariat were misguided and/or misled. No person could believe that such an act could have promoted the cause of the people. It has turned out to be a
distraction and diversion of attention from the main purpose of the march. No leader of the PNCR would organize and plan such a distraction. This incident should not be used to sweep under the carpet the main issues that motivated the villagers to walk 17 miles to the capital.
It is significant that the notorious Black Clothes Squad, whose depredations were one of the reasons for the march, seized upon the distraction of the above incident and the opening of the Caricom Summit to carry out another of their illegal acts. On the said Wednesday afternoon, they carried out a most cowardly and vicious attack against defenceless women, many of them senior citizens. This outrage took place at the site of the Vigil on Main Street, when some of them led by Robo Cop, Merai and Gangster went on a rampage kicking, beating and otherwise assaulting women, all the time using the foulest language. The threw away the people’s food, broke up their furniture, stole stoves, TV sets and a generator, and destroyed the tents..
In an effort to obtain an objective and more detailed account of events of Wednesday July 3, 2002, the Party has decided to appoint an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate and make a full report. Members of the public with information on these matters will be invited to give evidence.
THE CONTINUING DESTRUCTION OF THE BAUXITE COMMUNITIES:
We have dealt at great length in several media conferences and press releases with the question of the PPP/C regime’s calculated design to destroy the Bauxite Industry and the Bauxite Communities.
The chief implementer of this programme is, as everybody knows, Prime Minister Sam Hinds. Having recently taken action to destroy Bermine’s operations at Everton and Kwakwani, he has put hundreds of workers and their families on the bread line and blighted the prospects of the once thriving communities. It was Sam Hinds who, against all technical advice and the protests of the Bauxite workers, removed ownership and control of the power generating facilities at Linden from the Bauxite Company and handed them over to a private US-based company (Linden Power Company).
The chickens have now come home to roost. Yesterday, the Linden Power Company cut off all power from the Bauxite Company whose operations have now ground to a halt, with dire implications for the job security of the few remaining Bauxite workers, the future of Linmine, and the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed with the Canadian-based company, Cambior, for an involvement in the Linmine operations.
In all of this, however, Mr. Sam Hinds has still emerged a winner. As part of the deal with the Linden Power Company he had arranged for that company to lease his residence at Watooka, Linden, at an exorbitant rent. He is, of course, still receiving his rent.
We wish to make our position as a Party clear lest their be any misunderstanding. We believe that the cause of the poor and marginalized people of this country is just and honourable. We believe it to be our moral and political duty to be resolute and strong in their defence. We believe that protest and other forms of political action are hallowed by tradition internationally, by our Constitution and by the Caricom Charter of Civil Liberties. Our Party reasserts our legitimate constitutional right to peaceful protest against the wrongs being perpetrated by this corrupt, discriminatory, racist, untrustworthy and incompetent regime. Our struggle will continue to overcome all forms of bad governance, corruption, discrimination and criminality by members of the regime and their favoured acolytes. We will maintain the struggle until the objective of good, honest, competent government for Guyana is achieved.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
2002 July 11.
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