In NY Jagdeo Appeals for Protection of Democracy in Guyana
Photo : Jagdeo speaking at the launch of the Internation Center for Democracy in New York
Former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo met the Guyanese diaspora at two public events in Queens, New York appealing to them to help protect democracy in their former homeland. Because of the authoritarian actions of the government and violations of the constitution, it is felt that democracy is under threat.
Jagdeo addressed packed house at Rousseau on the Bay, Howard Beach last Friday evening when the International Center for Democracy (ICD) was launched. It was an invite only event that was sponsored by Guyanese businessmen concerned about violations of democratic rights and the fear of a return of rigged elections.
The ICD is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) seeking to promote and implement programs to protect democracy in Guyana and elsewhere. It seeks to sustain and strengthen freedom and democracy, empower vulnerable groups to effectively participate in national and regional development, and take measures to attempt to end hunger and poverty. Another of its goals is to promote social justice as non-negotiable.
Last Sunday, Jagdeo spoke at a town hall type program at Royal Empress that was open to the public. It was filled to capacity.
Guest speakers at the launch of the International Center for Democracy (ICD) included Senators James Saunders and Roxanne Persaud. NYS Assemblyman Nick Perry offered some remarks. A representative of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office brought greetings. The emcee was Dr Tilokie Depoo. The meeting was also attended by former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government Ministers Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Irfaan Ali. Also in attendance was Dr Peter Ramsaroop.
Jagdeo highlighted the issue of appointment of a Gecom Chair and the erosion of the separation of powers similar to what took place under the previous PNC regime between 1964 and 1992. Jagdeo told the august gathering that democracy is being threatened in Guyana and that there is a lack of an economic plan and vision by the Government. This he said would severely impact on the development of the country. He noted that the government is “only focusing on oil to be the economic solution for Guyana, but oil can be a blessing or a curse… Oil can cause runaway price increase for the poor”.
The former President also used the occasion to remind the Diaspora members of the need for “far-reaching constitutional changes” in Guyana. And he accused the recently formed Social Cohesion Ministry of being used in a partisan manner and is dividing our people”. He added: “The Ethnic Relations Commission is not functioning. There is no fairness anymore.”
The former President appealed to Guyanese in America and those affiliated with the ICD to help Guyana protect its democracy. He called on them to lobby political leaders in their countries to guard and safeguard democracy in Guyana. “There are a lot of influential political figures in the United States… Please use your influence to lobby them to protect democracy in Guyana and in other countries. I want to ask all to help us in Guyana to build democracy and protect the separation of powers. Please become involved.”
At the town hall event, Jagdeo fielded many questions. Three issues were uppermost in people's minds: The Presidential appointment of Gecom Chair selected from among the names submitted by the Opposition Leader, dismantling of the separation of powers, and the crisis in the sugar industry. Jagdeo also touched on rising crime and management of the economy that has been stalled over the last two years.
Many in the audience expressed fear that Guyana might be heading down the same path it did in the 1970s towards a one party, one ethnic group dictatorship that ended in 1992 with free and fair elections. Alluding to what is now taking place in Guyana in terms of an economic decline, the planned closure of sugar estates and hardships faced by thousands of Guyanese, some attendees reminded those at the meeting of their experience in Guyana under the PNC dictatorship and why they were forced to leave their homeland. They expressed fear that this could affect their families back home and the Government could create greater economic hardship for the people.
In response to a question from the public on his party and ethnic issues, Jagdeo asserted that the PPP, while drawing much of its support from the Indian and Amerindian communities, is a legitimately multi-ethnic party.