My friend and long-time political colleague, in a letter published in the State-owned Guyana Chronicle (March 21, 2020), said that “recent statements…of mine has been cause for worry and disbelief”. I know that the Chronicle will not publish my response and I ask, therefore, that the independent media do so.
It does not surprise me that Hammy, as is his right, will defend the interest, as he perceives them, of APNU/AFC, but I am appalled that he has descended to attacking me racially. Because I am of Portuguese descent, Hammy has suggested that I am somehow less entitled to speak my mind on national affairs than he is as a Guyanese of African descent. Then, perhaps, we should all pack up and leave Guyana to its Indigenous people.
Of all the people that I have known well and respected throughout my, admittedly, long life, in and out of politics in Guyana, Hammy Green is the last that I would have expected to question who I am, as always first, a Guyanese.
It must be that when I served in the Cabinet alongside Hammy for eight years under Forbes Burnham, I was a “good Guyanese Portuguese”.
It must be that when our country’s reputation was seriously threatened and under siege from the American media from the Jonestown massacre, when I was assigned by President Burnham to speak for Guyana in the US, on NBC’s Today Show hosted by Tom Brokaw, on the Walter Cronkite Newscast and some other 20 odd television interviews in the space of one week, I was a “good Guyanese Portuguese”. It would not be lost on Hammy, who likes to recall the past, that while I was defending Guyana’s honour before the American media, our Minister of Information, Shirley Field-Ridley, his wife, at home, made herself totally unavailable to the international media.
It must be that when I joined Forbes Burnham’s delegation, at his invitation, on his first official visit to the US after Independence and helped write his first speech as Guyana’s Prime Minister to the Washington Women’s Press Club on July 22, 1966, that I was “a good Guyanese Portuguese”. There is much more on that visit that I could relate.
It must be that when I compiled Burnham’s most critical speeches to tell his story with the assistance of Reynold Burrows, published as A Destiny to Mould in 1970 by Longman Caribbean and which remains the only major publication documenting his speeches and public statements from 1955-1969, I was a “good Guyanese Portuguese”.
It must be that when I came home from New York and was appointed by President Desmond Hoyte to serve as the Head of the Guyana Public Communications Agency and as his special advisor for three years, I was “a good Guyanese Portuguese”.
It must be, however, that now when I speak out against an unvarnished, ugly and barefaced attempt to rig the election results, I have become “a bad Guyanese Portuguese”, according to Hammy, one with “disdain for certain ordinary folks” and with “deep-seated prejudices”. No Hammy, I am the same man just speaking the truth and the same man that I know you recently recommended to receive the Golden Arrow of Achievement.
Hammy refers me to the confrontation between Jonathan Yearwood (ANUG’s Observer) whom he describes as a “Portuguese – local white” (who happens to be Guyanese) and Carol Joseph whom he describes as “a small built Afro Guyanese female” and asks why not a word of condemnation from me.
I was there as an accredited Observer when Carol Joseph arrived at GECOM. She immediately, in a loud and exceedingly offensive tone, proceeded to direct the Returning Officer as to how he should be conducting the process. She then proceeded to hurl insults and threats at the Local Observers and Party Agents in the room who sought to challenge the Returning Officer’s presentation of the count. I heard her threaten to stamp Yearwood in his mouth.
I had left the room when the incident between Yearwood and Joseph occurred. From the video I have seen, it appears that both of them are at fault and should have known better.
Hammy accuses me of “suggesting that APNU/AFC is trying to rig the elections”. I have not said that but, as Forbes Burnham often used to say, “who the cap fit let him pull the string”.
Hammy further cautions that I “should know that you don’t make statements of that kind without credible evidence”. I was there at GECOM. What more credible evidence do I need than my own eyes and ears? I witnessed the GECOM Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, present a series of alleged numbers of votes recorded to each of the political parties from a spreadsheet, not the Statements of Poll, which bore no resemblance to the SoPs in the possession of the Observers and Party Agents present in the room.
When the Party Agents sought to point out the discrepancies, Mr Mingo simply ignored them, his officers continuing with the count at a pace that was almost impossible to follow.
The diplomatic community and International Observers also in the room, recognising the pretence at following the Chief Justice’s (ag) directions to Mr Mingo to resume the count from the SoPs had become a farce, left the room. I left shortly after.
If Hammy and his APNU/AFC comrades need further credible evidence, I suggest they read the statement from the Commonwealth Observer Group to Guyana deployed here by Secretary General Patricia Scotland herself, which amongst other things, points to:
* “The unlawful declaration made by Mr Mingo on the 5 March at about 2 pm, despite the tabulation process being halted.
* The continued failure of the Returning Officer, Mr Mingo, to comply with the 11 and 13 March orders and judgments of the Acting Chief Justice. On 13 March, the Chief Justice made patently clear that actual Statements of Poll should be shown to entitled parties present. For the avoidance of doubt, the Acting Chief Justice demonstrated herself how this should be done and enquired ‘what was the difficulty in doing so’ during the contempt of court proceedings.
* However, on resuming the tabulation after leaving the Court on 13 March, Mr Mingo refused all requests from those entitled to be present to view the actual Statements of Poll and did not display the spreadsheet being populated. This compromised the process of ascertaining the credibility of the Statements of Poll relied on by Mr Mingo to tabulate the results: and, it was impossible for the Party Agents and those entitled to be present to observe that the numbers being called out were being accurately entered on the spreadsheet.
* In some cases, the tabulation totals announced by Mr Mingo on 13 March reflected more votes than were entered on the list of eligible electors for certain Polling Stations.
* At no point did the leadership of the Guyana Elections Commission halt or rectify these blatant instances of disregard for the rule of law and electoral ethics, despite its vested authority to independently ensure credible elections”.
Hammy is pretty good at his history but I must point out to him that the Melvilles and the Harts involved in the Rupununi uprising in 1969 were not of Portuguese descent. My brother, Martin Nascimento, who was a Captain in the GDF at the time, incidentally, was actively involved in putting down that contemptible rebellion. My brother also played a commanding role in defending Guyana against the Surinamese invasion at the New River Triangle.
I end by asking a simple question. If indeed the APNU/AFC believes that the declaration of the results in other Regions such as Three, Five and Six, are questionable, then why the resistance to holding a recount of all 10 districts under the supervision of the Caribbean presence?
I feel certain that when a recount is held and the facts established, that my small part in seeking to defend what is right against what is wrong, will be vindicated and, hopefully, Hammy Green and I will resume our friendship.