July 3, 2003 marks one year since the storming of the Office of the President by thug elements who were part of a PNCR supported protest along the East Coast of Demerara. The demonstrators, led by known PNCR leaders, forced their way into the compound of the Presidential Complex and were in the process of making their way into the Office of President. The protesters injured Presidential guards and also destroyed furniture and office equipment in what can only be described as an act of extreme recklessness and provocation. Two persons were unfortunately killed in the process and several others wounded, having been lured into their deaths by irresponsible elements, one of whom, Philip Bynoe, is now a fugitive of the law and the other, Mark Benschop, on charge for Treason.
The motives behind the attack on the Presidential Secretariat were clearly political.
It is clear that those who masterminded the assault on the Presidential Complex had an agenda that was sinister and diabolical. The storming took place before the opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Georgetown. Also the action has to be seen against the background of an orchestrated attempt at the time to create mayhem and disorder in the country and ultimately to bring down the legitimate and democratically elected PPP/Civic Government. Immediately after the storming of the Office of the President several protestors began torching business places and vehicles.
The fact that one of the ring- leaders, Philip Bynoe is still on the run and another, Mark Benschop, placed behind bars awaiting trial is a clear indication that democracy and the rule of law is well entrenched and must not be taken for granted.
It should also serve as a reminder that any attempt to tamper with the essential structures of the State will be met with the full might of the law, the consequences of which can be severe.
The Government, on the occasion of the first year of the attack, wishes to place on record its appreciation to the disciplined forces for the high professionalism displayed in ensuring the safety of the President and in the preservation of law and order. The Government also wishes to express its gratitude to local groups and individuals, including leading members of the PNCR and the international community for their outright condemnation of this assault.
The lessons of July 3 must be clear to all. While the Government respects the freedom of people to assemble and to engage in protest actions, such actions must be carried out within the framework of the law. The Government will not tolerate any infractions of the law under the guise of “peaceful protest” as is often the case. The foundation of civilized societies rests on respect for the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution` of Guyana.
The Government of Guyana wishes to call on all Guyanese not to allow themselves to be misled by elements who seem bent on sowing the seeds of destruction out of narrow self-interests. For its part, the PPP/Civic Government remains committed to build a peaceful, inclusive and cohesive society, one in which there is full adherence to the rule of law and where the rights of each citizen is fully respected.