The incumbent PPP/C yesterday accused “opposition elements” of defacing the party’s elections posters and billboards, but the major opposition parties dismissed the accusations as “ludicrous” and “rubbish.”
PPP/C Campaign Manager Robert Persaud told a press briefing at the party’s Freedom House headquarters that there were reports of a gang of about three to four persons in the Kitty area on Wednesday defacing party billboards, removing posters and scrolls in the evening. The incident occurred a short distance from the Kitty Police Station, which he said was strange. The vandals further proceeded to a certain part of the East Bank of Demerara where similar acts were conducted, he said, while noting that though limited in number, the group seemed very organised and centrally-directed in their targeting PPP/C campaign materials.
“The party considers this an act of hooliganism and not befitting the standards that Guyanese deserve and want during this elections period,” Persaud charged. He noted that the billboards are secured at an average of $300,000 each and scrolls at $30,000 and as a result the vandalism cost the group financially. Efforts have been made to restore the materials which were damaged, he added.
However, both the main opposition PNCR and the AFC yesterday dismissed the PPP/C’s charges as “ludicrous” and “absolute rubbish,” respectively. In addition, opposition coalition APNU refuted the claims as “a distraction from the real issues,” while stating that it would never be a part of such unlawful behaviour. APNU’s Lance Carberry said, “I think it is a ridiculous claim… we are not prone to acts of vandalism [and] we will not waste time to even dignify it with too long a response.”
Also addressing the issue of destruction of the PPP/C paraphernalia, PNCR leader Robert Corbin said, “I would not put it beyond the dirty tricks department to be doing that themselves to create confusion.” He also took the position of coalition APNU and said that PNCR, being apart of the coalition, had no time for “such nonsense” since it was “too busy” focusing on strategic governance plans for the upcoming general elections.
The AFC, through presidential candidate Khemraj Ramjattan, also countered the claims made by the PPP/C, saying that its party strongly advises its activists to desist from any unlawful acts. He stated that he was confident that AFC supporters adhered to admonitions and challenged anyone to produce concretised information linking any of their supporters to unlawful acts.
He said the PPP/C would have a legitimate reason to be upset if indeed opposition forces destroyed their billboards and he stated that if the PPP/C has any information on the vandalism, it should forward it to the Guyana Police Force. He said that no party should be subjected to defacement or destruction of property, since all of them “are in the business of competing in this campaign period [and] it is reprehensible that any should be subjected to destruction of property.”
He added that the AFC supports a violence-and-crime-free campaign and peaceful, free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, Persaud said the PPP/C would continue to bring uncivil behaviour during the campaign to the attention of the Guyana Elections Commission, the election observers and all others concerned. He noted that the party will be dispatching a formal letter to the Chairman of GECOM Dr Steve Surujbally about the development, which will be copied to Commissioner of Police Henry Greene. He called on the police force to step up its vigilance.
He added that the development comes on the heels of efforts to “intimidate, antagonise and to seek confrontation with” its supporters at several of our public meetings. As a result, he reaffirmed that the PPP/C will not condone or tolerate any of its supporter’s engaging in such behaviour.
“The party at all times has indicated that it intends to instill a level of disciple, civility and respect for other parties especially during this period and we expect other parties will do the same,” he said, while urging its supporters not to react and to remain calm and to ignore provocations.
Persaud also noted that the PPP/C was the first party to indicate to GECOM of its willingness to sign the elections code of conduct for parties and he said it is disappointed that APNU and the AFC are hesitant to sign on. He said their objections would not help to foster an environment of peaceful, free and fair elections and suggests a lack of commitment on their part.