At the international conference in Trinidad over the weekend to commemorate the 100th anniversary since the end of indenture, accolades were showered on the late PM of Barbados Owen Arthur in the protection of the ballot in Guyana. This writer presented a paper on the role of the Indo-Caribbean diaspora on the restoration of democracy in Guyana in 1992 and the struggle for the right count in 2020. Questions were raised about the role of Caricom to combat the 2020 fraud as opposed to its silence (and by extension complicity) on electoral rigging between 1965 and 1992.
The beneficiaries of electoral fraud were the PNC and its supporters. The international struggle against fraud was carried out by Indians and people of other ethnicities who themselves could not stomach electoral fraud and ethnic persecution. Some of the latter, like many Indians and members of the minority groups, were brutalised.
Internationally, in the US, Canada, UK, Trinidad, Surinam, Venezuela, and French Guiana, Indo-Guyanese organised to combat the fraud. (Small numbers of members of other ethnicities were also involved in the organised protests against electoral fraud). Indo-Guyanese were joined by Indo-Surinamese and Indo-Trinidadians to fight rigging. I used to liaise with the groups in Trinidad where I visited regularly (between 1981 and 1992) from New York to meet with sympathisers.
In NY, Indo-Trinis were deeply involved in the struggle against the Burnham and Hoyte dictatorships. Ditto Indo-Trinis in Canada and the UK. In NY, two leading figures in the anti-dictatorial struggle, Baytoram Ramharack and myself, were initially motivated, groomed, and trained by Trinis, Vassan Ramracha and his brother Rennie and others. The Trinis were largely responsible for Ramharack and myself switching from a planned career in the Biomedical sciences (after I completed my undergrad Bio-Chem degree) to social sciences and educational administration. It was the Trinis who introduced us to and nurtured us in organised struggle on the college campus in New York in 1977.
I came with some experience in organised struggle from my youthful teenage days in opposition to the 1968 and 1973 electoral frauds and the student dissension on the Corentyne in 1976 and 1977 and the protests against compulsory student national service. Ramharack also partook in that 1977 student dissension when he was a student in Bohemia. I came from Corentyne High.
While the leadership of political parties and civil rights organisations, labour unions, etc, were involved in the struggle in Guyana, their support groups in the diaspora played effective roles in exposing electoral frauds and human rights violations in Guyana. The group I belonged to, that would later link up with Ravi Dev’s group in 1985, did not belong to any particular political party. We supported all parties that belonged to the PCD. We were not partisan. We were above party politics.
And we were above ideology. I, in particular, made financial donations to all of them and attended all of their events and programmes and fundraisers in America. We collaborated on protest activities in NY and Washington although we distributed our own literature. Our group was centre and right of centre as opposed to PPP and WPA groups. The DLM, URP, and UF support groups and our group was pro-America while some others were pro-Eastern Europe. We read the politics well that in order to bring about political change in Guyana, one had to be pro-America. It is also ungrateful to live in America and be anti-US or take positions that threaten the national interests of the country that provide us sanctuary. If America had not accepted us, what would have happened to the more than 10K that escaped Guyana annually to the US between 1977 and 2017?
The Indo-Caribbean diaspora, which also formed the base of all the groups, except for the WPA that had a mixture of ethnicities, lobbied the US Government to support democratic reforms in Guyana. We wrote to and met Members of Congress as well as members of the Administration of Carter, Reagan, and Bush appealing for their intervention to restore democracy in the homeland.
We were ably assisted by the Indian diaspora (Indians from India) that had strong links with Congress and the Carter, Reagan, and Bush Administrations. Their connections opened political doorways for the Indo-Caribbean diaspora that led to statements from Ron Brown, Ted Kennedy, Benjamin Gilman, Stephen Solarz, Joe Addabbo, Gary Ackerman, Elliott Engel, Stephen King, Chuck Schumer, Ted Weiss, among others. We wrote to and convinced politicians in other countries to take a position against the dictatorship.
Pressure from the US and other Governments paved the way for political and economic reforms and restoration of democracy in Guyana. A similar struggle lobbying Congress and the Trump Administration as well as the Governments of UK and Canada and the Commonwealth of Nations, the OAS, and Caricom was waged by the Indo-Guyanese diaspora between December 22, 2018, and September 25, 2019, for a date for the election and for the right to the ballot on March 2 and the correct count that came on August 2, 2020. As I acknowledged in my presentation, Caricom, OAS, the Commonwealth, and the ABCE countries played pivotal roles in protecting the right to the ballot in Guyana.
The Government must applaud the work, and I salute that small group of Indo-Guyanese in the diaspora that played a most important behind the scenes effort in interacting with and lobbying the Trump Administration and Members of Congress that helped to foster political change on August 2. They did not want their names to be publicised for fear of victimisation. I didn’t object to my name being used in statements and correspondences to the State Department since I was doing it from the 1970s.