This Issue | Editorial | E-mail

On Guyana
Power Politics, Regime Change, and the Demise of the PPPC
An Essay

By Gary Girdhari

GuyanaJournal, November 2015

A recent letter regarding the Guyana May 11 elections in the press (Kaieteur News, November 2, 2015) by Vishnu Bisram caught my interest. The last paragraph states: “It was brought to my attention that vote recounts are law and must be carried out in Canada, US and UK but the representatives of these very countries to Guyana opposed recounts in the May 11 elections. People are curious to know why requests for recounts were not supported to erase doubts about the legal winner especially that the outcome was so close and there were so many charges and allegations of election irregularities.”

It is public knowledge that before the elections results were made known to the citizens of Guyana, GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield disclosed that there were “fake” and fraudulent Statement of Polls. There were other irregularities. The PPPC made a demand for a recount of the ballots in the regions where the irregularities took place. Despite this, the Chairman of GECOM in haste declared the results in favor of APNU/AFC. One may recall the ABC nations were vehement in their call for the quick declaration of the results in favor of APNU/AFC. The U.S. Charge d’Affaires Bryan Hunt was the most vocal – he apparently was running the show in more ways than one. Gerald A. Perreira (Guyana Chronicle, July 12, 2015) was caustic in castigating him in a letter "Is Bryan Hunt overstepping the boundary of his role as a foreign diplomat in Guyana?"

(There is no evidence to counter the veracity of the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield’s disclosure. Shouldn’t there therefore be a high powered investigation into this irregularity? Tampering with an official legal constitutional process is an offence that calls for thorough investigation, and the offenders should be brought to answer to such a serious law-breaking.) Read Fraudulent processing of election voting results… FAKE SOPS...

Prior to, during, and after the May 11 elections many emotional reasons were proffered as to why the PPPC lost the elections. The accusations, notwithstanding the established fact that “Guyana has been the best performing economy in the Caribbean and Latin America for the last ten years” (Kaieteur News, August 30, 2015), are broadly that “The PPP lost the elections because people were fed up with the charges of corruption, favouritism and cronyism.”

This was/is knee-jerk manic post hoc fallacy with no empirical relationship. The established data of the “best performing economy” should override the “charges” in light of the overarching development and benefit to the people. Shouldn’t it?

So questions surface in many quarters: Did the PPPC contribute to its own defeat? Did the electorate reject the PPPC leadership? Was there indeed arrogance and neglect of the grass-root supporters? And if so, should there be some changes in the leadership to include young activists? Why in 23 years was nothing done about the elections system, GUYSUCO, and the military and police? If there was so much progress, why was the vote so close? What were the other contributing factors?

The penultimate question begs another question: Did the progress benefit the grass-root PPPC supporters, only PPPC supporters, or was progress spread throughout the nation as a whole? And if it is true that Guyana had the “best performing economy in the Caribbean and Latin America” why did not ALL or MOST of the people vote overwhelmingly for the PPPC? The answer may be found simply in exploring these terminologies: Race and ethnicity. Racist entrepreneurs. Racist mobilizers. Racist outbidders. These are definitely contributory. Alone, this should not override the outcome, but may also be deliberately finagled and engineered to skew the paradigm of “democracy”. As one example, the ease of obtaining U.S. visas saw a relatively large number of Indo Guyanese migrating, as noted by one colleague, and they will continue to migrate in a disproportionate number. Should this continue at the current rate, the need for future election rigging will be unwarranted!

Additionally, major power play, self-interest, personal grudges, vindictiveness, and plain nastiness in the free news domain were crucial in influencing the plebiscite to a large extent. Moves were afoot much earlier, creating dissention between the PPPC and the U.S. One such move was the uninvited imposed implementation of the LEAD Project in Guyana whose objectives were ostensibly outlined by the U.S. Charge d’Affaires Brent Hardt: “The first component of it seeks to encourage consensus building in the National Assembly and facilitate more effective interaction between the Assembly and citizens. The second aims to strengthen the effectiveness of the National Assembly and boost citizen engagement with it; the third is to motivate and better equip Guyanese youths to, constructively, engage in political and civic processes and the fourth involves civic and voter education relating to elections and local government reform.” One must read between the lines to figure out why this created a grating debacle with the PPPC. These simple lines seem apropos: “Never trust a stranger friend / No-one knows how it will end / Wolves may lurk in every guise / Now as then, 'tis simple truth / Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.”

As time gradually moves the slow pace of governance, the APNU/AFC government is becoming more entrenched. Wrongs that were presumed to occur are fading (or misdirected) in the general population – people believe (and eventually accept) what is propagandized with the most frequent exposure – à la Goebbels.

During the recent few months I have had interactions with many individuals in different walks of life, discussing the Guyana situation since the recent elections. The consensus is that the PPPC has been cheated, that GECOM was influenced by external forces, and that the present regime is engaged in “ethnic cleansing”, “witch hunting” and viciously and rabidly undertaking “a programme of ferreting out and going after all officials suspected of “PPP leanings” and then summarily firing them”. (And I am not even touching the indecent excessive salary-gate of those in the nouveau higher echelons of political power.)

Overall the people are silent. It seems as if they are being conditioned into docility. Only those who are in the PPPC are speaking out, and many are becoming war weary! On the other side: those who are able to speak and write, those who posture as do-gooders, and those who feign advocacy of rights for all people, have turned away from doing what is right. Why? Is it because they are apathetic? Hypocritical? Opportunistic-in-waiting? Or afraid – of what? Of the inner circle of men of the military?

Beware! Martin Luther King Jr. admonishes: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

I re-state: only a handful of individuals have openly, objectively and critically pronounced views critical of the situation. Even the voice of the Carter Center was/is noticeably silent! Here again the probing mind seeks an answer.

What is more salient and fundamental to understanding this demise (because it is a demise) of the PPPC is to approach the matter with Occam’s razor. It is my view (and probably the view of others who prefer silence) that the outcome of the elections was pre-destined to remove the PPPC from office. The declared result gave the PPPC 49% of the votes, winning 7 of the 10 regions. The alleged rigging however decided the final outcome. This was easy with the complicity of the ABC nations who were there to supposedly observe…. GECOM was/is simply a pawn.

With such a slim margin, it was reasonable and necessary, especially with ample prima facie obligation, for an immediate recount to allay fears and allegations of rigging. This could have been accomplished within hours. But the American, British and Canadian missions thought otherwise and made their decision known to GECOM and disavowed the nation’s independence. Quoting from Marcelle Persaud's "open letter to Dr Surujbally, ABC observers" (Guyana Times, May 21, 2015): “GECOM’s words or conclusions do not constitute truth. At least, it no longer does given the abundance of controversies and irregularities that have surfaced. The ABC observers’ conclusions about the May 11 elections do not necessarily constitute the truth either.” And to add insult, The PPPC’s call for a recount was ignominiously, brusquely and impolitely dismissed by the power-players. Why?

It’s geopolitics, stupid! It’s about power and control…. For one, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro has not harbored a cozy relationship with the United States. It stood up firmly, even sometimes embarrassingly so, against former President G.W. Bush and President Obama. Guyana under the PPPC has had a mutually beneficial economic relationship (rice for oil) with Venezuela. (Under this new APNU/AFC it is no more. Exxon is buoying up on the horizon.) In the eyes of the U.S. this relationship with Venezuela must stop. Guyana has also developed an independent alliance with the BRICS economic block – Brazil, China and India in particular. The historical and economically skewed relationship with the ABC nations (the West) was being threatened. And “this confounded nonsense must stop”. Here enters U.S. Charge d’Affaires Bryan Hunt who “told” GECOM to declare APNU/AFC winner. The ABC unilaterally decided: “Despite investigating, in collaboration with other observer missions, repeated allegations of irregularities, we have found nothing that would materially impact the integrity or credibility of the process.” Further, the ABC decreed: “…that the voting and tabulation processes in the Guyanese national and regional elections were free, fair, and credible.” (Read Kaieteur News, May 16, 2015)

What has happened in 2015 is a replay of 1964. Then, the casus belli was the communist bogey – the regime change involved many days of strikes, burning and looting, loss of lives, deep racial division, mass movement and dislocation of people for ethnic security. There was a similar coalition between the PNC and the UF. Regime change in 1964 was deemed “cheap”. In 2015, despite the PPPC’s adherence to the much cherished free market, the rationale was different as aforementioned; regime change now was softer and cheaper.

Earlier, I noted that the May 11 elections marked the “demise” of the PPPC. Why so? Because the PPPC thus far has done nothing in any meaningful and forceful manner to effect any change in the current political drift. Apart from talk which is cheap, they were/are unable to whip up support nationally or internationally. Their protests were weak and limited to one street in Georgetown. Where were/are their supporters? Their civil protest actions could have shut down the country! Where were/are the voices of those in CARICOM? Where were/are the voices of civil and human rights groups? Only one national newspaper (and a handful of individuals) is making remonstrations. The others and the so-called civic-minded people are complicit and guilty by association!

The PNC has a long history of election rigging (with full collusion of western allies). This was exposed by British TV, and well documented (see youtube) although there are overt denial and benign deception within the APNU/AFC. Many of their erstwhile comrades are still around. Allegedly they have done it again in May 2011. (See Someone rigged the elections. Guyana Times, May 18, 2015) The PNC has the personnel and the wherewithal…. N. Singh pronounced: (Guyana Times, October 17, 2015): “The PNC and AFC are already planning to rig all future elections so most of us are living in denial. For 28 years the PNC rigged elections and all the PPP could do was to write, protest and live in denial hope that the next elections will be fair and transparent.…(sic) the PNC … policy was to maintain power at all cost…. so brace yourselves for another 28 years of rigged elections.” Herein lies the “demise” of the PPPC. Say Amen.

Now I quote Bisram again: “People [Guyanese] are curious to know why requests for recounts were not supported to erase doubts about the legal winner especially that the outcome was so close and there were so many charges and allegations of election irregularities.”

This leaves a lingering doubt in my mind about the legality of the elections and the integrity and “goodness” of the “winners”. This doubt is unshakeable because like Mahatma Gandhi there is a 'still small voice' within me sustaining my conscience. “In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place…. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Please indulge me as I end by philosophizing:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. entreats: “Cowardice asks the question: ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question: ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question: ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but because conscience tells one it is right.”

This statement is axiomatic. Goodness is hard to define. It is not an abstraction. It is not something that is practiced at one’s whims and fancies. It is a lifestyle integrated into one’s consciousness. For one to do good one has to, first of all, be good within. It is my belief that divinity lies within. Otherwise one’s action is akin to buying indulgence.

Guyana Elections; Reasons Why Guyanese Must Vote – With Their Conscience