Protesters attempt to disrupt Carifesta launch
Stabroek News – April 24, 2008
As the protests against the issue of the Channel 6 suspension from the airwaves continued, protesters attempted to disrupt last evening’s launch of the tenth Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) even while President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed hope that the regional festival would bring unity.
Just before the official start of the proceeding, a small group of mainly women raised their voices shouting “No Carifesta” and “We want Sharma” among other slogans. Ringing a bell and blowing whistles the women shouted their slogans for a few minutes before the police attempted to restore order. Some persons in the crowd also attempted to calm them down.
During this time, a Stabroek News reporter was accused by some of the protesters of being from the state-owned NCN TV and Channel 65 and they apparently believed this was so and when the reporter took out a few photographs they shouted that they did not want NCN or Channel 65 there because “they does tell lies”.
As the protesters chanted their slogans, this did not appear to have any effect on officials sitting on the other side of the Cenotaph, but hundreds of persons, who were there for the launch looked on as a few of the more vocal protesters were hastily led away by the police. It was not clear whether they were arrested but after they had been moved off, and as the programme got underway, chants were still occasionally heard from the back of the large crowd though not enough to prevent persons from enjoying the show.
During President Jadgeo’s address, he urged that the regional arts festival bring people together “and I need to add the government and opposition too”. But at the ending of the proceedings, as the President was leaving, a group of protesters quickly converged on him but his security detail prevented them from getting too close. Shouting about the CNS TV 6 suspension and the high cost of living and banging empty tin cans the protesters shouted out at Jadgeo as he was driven away.
Since the suspension of CNS TV6 licence for four months by President Jagdeo, the opposition PNCR has vowed that if it was not lifted that there would be protests to make Carifesta “unmanageable”, a stance that Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony slammed as “unreasonable”.
Following a protest march around the city last Friday, which was supported by hundreds of persons, the PNCR had written to the Caricom Chairman and Secretary-General about their concerns and also mounted a picketing exercise at Caricom Headquarters. Another such exercise was held on Tuesday during the meeting of Cabinet and another was slated for yesterday’s launch.
The PNCR in a statement had said that it “is actively putting measures in place to continue demonstrating its concern about such critical issues as the cost of living, the breaches of the Constitution, the torturing of our citizens, among other matters, by holding more picketing exercises and rallies and meetings in different parts of the country.”