THE EDITOR: It has been a long struggle to have the right winner declared in the Guyana election. August 2 will long be remembered by the region and Guyanese in particular as the day the caretaker president of Guyana conceded defeat and allowed the rightful winner to be sworn in.
Prime Minister Rowley had said in mid-March that he feared it would not end well. He was right; it took five months and David Granger said he would challenge the outcome in court. Trinis developed a keen interest in the election declaration and are relieved that it is over. Irfaan Ali, a PhD holder of UWI St Augustine, was sworn in as President.
What a relief for those of us who were in the forefront of the battle championing democracy and the right to count the ballots. I participated in several election battles in Guyana to have the ballots correctly counted going back to the first rigged election of 1968. Never before have I seen such global unity over the last five months to combat electoral fraud.
The globe was arrayed against the opposition between 1966 and 1992 because of its ideological alignment with the Soviet and Cuban blocs. And not since 1973 have I experienced such a large majority of Guyanese at home and in the diaspora united to oppose flagrant rigging.
The Guyanese/Caribbean diaspora is most pleased that the impasse is over; a burden is lifted from their shoulders. They breathe a sigh of relief. There were celebrations that democracy has triumphed.
From March 3, while in Guyana as a reporter and observer, I was appealing to the parties to respect the will of voters. My pre-election polls showed the PPP was ahead and would win. The initial count on March 3 gave the PPP a victory. On March 4, Owen Arthur said the PPP had won.
Myself and a few others worked behind the scenes to get international forces (politicians, governments, organisations) to cajole the parties to accept the vote count and recount. Some didn’t wish to have their names known publicly for fear of consequences. As a veteran of the struggle for free and fair elections going back to the 1960s, I didn’t mind my name in public glare for participating in an honourable act to stand up for free and fair elections.
Not surprisingly, recognition, congratulations and words of gratitude came in from India, Trinidad, Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore for the work we quietly did, as some of us also did between 1973 and 1992 to restore voting rights in Guyana. The right to vote is fundamental in any democratic state and parties must be willing to accept the outcome.
The experience in fighting for free and fair elections between 1966 and 1992 and between 2015 and 2020 will never be forgotten. I can write volumes on my travels, including to Trinidad, Barbados, etc in meeting important voices and courting their support for democracy in Guyana. Those who experienced the fraud and fought against it would have the knowledge and feel to write about it.
Almost every Guyanese in the diaspora and at home and every Caribbean national intensely followed the elections during the campaign and through August 2. In fact, the globe watched with horror at what transpired since December 21, 2018, following the successful no-confidence motion and the refusal of the fallen government to accept global parliamentary norm and resign.
It challenged the vote and even what constitutes a majority of 65. It even defied the CCJ. Every decent person condemned the government over the no-confidence motion and the counting fraud of March. Every democratic country and international organisation condemned the fraud.
Everywhere in the diaspora and even in other parts of the globe, there is celebration that the Guyana election impasse is finally over. Many Trinis in America followed it. There were euphoric displays in the US, Canada, the UK, and Trinidad. Guyanese and the international community are relieved. The nation and the diaspora want to move on.
Congratulations to Dr Irfaan Ali and team. It is a victory well deserved. I salute and applaud the work done by colleagues in the diaspora to lobby foreign forces to pressure the defeated coalition to throw in the towel. Granger did right in conceding. Reforms would be needed to safeguard the right to vote and the counting of ballots.
DR VISHNU BISRAM