Former Guyanese Presidents boycott Chinese commemoration of 70th anniversary

A scene from the vigil at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

…say chief guest representing Guyana a “usurper”

Monday night’s 70th Anniversary ceremony at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre for the People’s Republic of China was boycotted by three former Presidents of Guyana after it emerged that caretaker President David Granger would be the chief guest even as he is in breach of the Constitution.

Former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo, Donald Ramotar and Samuel Hinds indicated in a joint letter to Chinese Ambassador Cui Jianchun and his wife Liang Huili that they would not be attending the ceremony when the President and Government have lost their legitimacy.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo at the vigil

“We three former Presidents hereby express our deep regrets that in the current circumstances in Guyana, where the Constitution has been breached and the coalition Government has lost all legitimacy, we could not attend your ceremony of commemoration…where Mr David Granger, is the chief guest representing Guyana, as he is doing so as a usurper.”

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali holds a candle for democracy

The event on Monday evening was overshadowed by a vigil, organised by the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (Guyana) along the road leading up to the convention centre.

People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Presidential candidate Irfaan Ali, who attended the vigil, lamented the heavy Police presence compared to that of ordinary citizens holding candles and protesting for the Constitution of Guyana to be honoured.

“This is an NGO that we saw advertise that they were holding a candlelight vigil. We’re standing up in defence of democracy, calling on the Government to name a date for elections. We’re standing up against dictatorship. Standing up for the rule of law. We’re standing up for fundamental rights.”

He added that Guyanese have fundamental rights to movement and rights to assembly. “They have blocked Guyanese at every single point from exercising that right, leading to this venue. So persons are kept away from exercising their democratic rights. And look how many police they brought out against people holding candles. Is there any aggression here?”

A scene from the vigil at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

When it comes to reports that Granger is likely to name a date this week, Ali made it clear that a date should already have been named by the caretaker President in accordance with the law and calls from local organisations and the international community.

Turning a deaf ear

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who was also present at the protest, lambasted the caretaker President for turning a deaf ear to the Constitution and to calls for him to immediately set an election date, after he would have been advised by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

“I think the whole country has seen who Granger is. He’s prepared to defy the Constitution, he’s prepared to discomfort all of Guyana, just to retain power at all costs, in spite of calls from the international community, just so that he and his corrupt cabal can continue to prosper.”

“Today we saw a brutal statement coming from the Commonwealth. That follows statements made by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and many others have been making statements. All pointing out that this has gone beyond constitutional rule and it would affect our country.”

Jagdeo made it clear that Granger must call an election date that does not exceed February month-end, noting that the PPP is prepared to keep up its protest action until the President does so. In fact, he warned that protests would only intensify.

“Every single day that passes, where he doesn’t call elections at an early date, the protests will intensify. We will point out how we are currently under a dictatorship, so we no longer have constitutional rule in Guyana.”