Dr. David Hinds in his letter, “The Western powers have chosen a side in elections impasse” (Kaieteur News, May 20, 2020) indicates he is writing “to correct the narrative that is being promoted that electoral rigging is a one-sided phenomenon.” He states that “to give the younger generation the impression that it is only one party that has been accused of rigging elections is a blatant falsification of history”.
Like Dr. Hinds, I too, and I believe the majority of Guyanese, would not like to see the falsification of history for such falsification contributes to the mistrust and racial divide, thereby preventing national unity and economic development. Unfortunately, his letter conflates two issues, i.e. actual rigging of elections based on evidence and accusations of riggings from a disgruntled loser in an election. The former is based on documented facts, the latter being simply a belief or claim. Those who have read the Bible may be familiar with the story of Simon Magus. Simon claimed he could fly and decided to prove it to his followers so he climbed a tall tower and jumped over the edge. However, instead of soaring through the air, poor Simon dropped to the ground and his body splattered all over the place. Claims must be proved before they can be accepted.
Dr Hinds notes, “There is enough evidence that given our ethnic geography both parties have benefited from tampering with the process in areas where their support base predominates”. As I read that excerpt, I recalled Eusi Kwayana’s 2003 article, “Cycling to a better place – Kean Gibson and the cycle of racial oppression in Guyana”. In that article Kwayana states, “Dr. Gibson’s political anecdotes and history are highly selective. Although she may be on to something in her diagnosis of religion as the key component of our problems, she has not made the argument”. Likewise, I believe Dr. Hinds has not made the case he argues. It would be extremely beneficial if Dr. Hinds could provide the evidence from independent sources that both major parties have tampered with elections.
So far, I am aware only of documentary evidence from independent sources indicating that elections under the PNC were fraudulent as the following list shows: UK’s Granada TV documentaries on the 1968 and 1973 elections; Report by Lord Avesbury, head of an international team of observers for the 1980 election; Report by Lord Avesbury and Lord Chitnis on the 1985 election, as well as report in the New York Times on the roughing up of Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the UK Guardian reporter, Anthony Jenkins. I seem to recall too that the WPA had protested the handling of the 1985 election and the Caribbean Council of Churches, among others, was accused of meddling in Guyana’s internal affairs. Now for the 2020 election, we see the observers representing the Commonwealth, the OAS, the European Union (EU), the Carter Center and the diplomats from the US, UK, Canada, and the EU all claiming that the tabulation of results for Region 4 was tainted and Clairmont Mingo’s declaration not credible. As well, Guyana’s Chief Justice has ruled that the laws were not followed by Mingo. And once again, the old PNC play-book has been revisited – foreigners are meddling in Guyana’s internal affairs.
While I am aware of allegations by PNC/APNU of fraudulent elections under the PPP, I have not seen any confirmation by credible independent sources. In fact, the results of all the elections were considered credible by foreign observers although processes could have been improved. Following protests by the opposition parties in 1997 and the most vulgar and disgraceful display ever seen in Georgetown by some of their women supporters, the results of the 1997 election were audited by an independent team of CARICOM nationals, headed by eminent Trinidadian Lawyer, Ulric Cross. No significant variance from the declared results was found. However, the election was soon declared unconstitutional by Justice Claudette Singh, now retired, and current Chairperson of GECOM, because of the use of voter registration card as the only means of identification for voting. Interestingly, this was a feature voted into law unanimously by all party members in the legislature, including the Leader of the PNC, Mr. Desmond Hoyte. Later, the election was challenged in court by a PNC supporter, after the party lost the election.
Dr. Hinds has mentioned that in 1961, the PNC was able to “prove” that the PPP had rigged that election. Here is what I have been able to determine. The 1961 election was conducted under the first past the post system where the country was divided into a number of constituencies. Guyana was still a colony with the Governor, Sir Ralph Grey, as the Administrator. The PPP had limited control over the affairs of the colony, Cheddi Jagan’s title being Chief Minister, and the election was under the control of the Commissioner of Elections, a British civil servant. After the results were declared, the PNC filed six election petitions. Five were dismissed, one upheld, and the election for that constituency declared void because there were thirteen underage voters and one who impersonated someone else. Even if those fourteen votes were discounted from the winner, a PPP candidate, he would have still won by over 400 votes, but the judge ruled the election void.
Regarding his claim that “the ABCE countries have openly chosen a side in the current standoff – they have taken the PPP’s side”, a logical mind would ask why would they have given full support to the APNU+AFC in 2015 when the Coalition won and now side with the PPP. In fact, the US International Republican Institute takes pride in its role in effecting change in 2015 (“Guyanese youth gain a voice”, The Hill, 08/06/15, Mark Green, President of the IRI). And then, when the PPP protested the results, the US Chargé d’Affaires, Mr. Brian Hunt, defended the results saying “The final results of the election accurately reflected the votes cast by the Guyanese people. All political parties should respect the outcome of the democratic process.” Was Mr. Hunt taking side?
Dr. Hinds opines, “Now in 2020, the primary interest of the West in Guyana is its newly found oil wealth. All other interests are in the service of that primary interests.” This may be true but was this not the case when the oil in large commercial quantity was first discovered in 2015? And how would the PPP put Guyana in a worse economic situation when APNU+AFC has already signed major oil contracts, contrary to the advice of the two independent international experts who were consulted, thereby giving away billions ($ US) to the foreign oil giants and leaving paltry sums for the Guyanese people together with the potential for catastrophic environmental consequences? Dr. Hinds has evaded this issue.
Finally, I agree with Dr. Hinds when he states that a “factor at play is the underlying ethnic problem which both parties know exists but for obvious reasons they downplay”. This is David Hinds the academic speaking. Unfortunately, in the 2020 election, David Hinds was a politician in one of the two major ethnic parties and therefore part of the problem he identified. No other than his friend Freddie Kissoon notes, “If the PNC had won, then David was partly responsible for widening the race chasm because he campaigned for ethnic domination (“50 Shades of David Hinds”, Kaieteur News, May 13, 2020).
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