PPP treated its Supporters with Contempt

PPP treated its Supporters with Contempt

Photo : Bharrat Jagdeo with supporters.

A handful of overseas based (primarily Indo) Guyanese (and a few Indo Trinis) assisted in the struggle for free and fair elections in Guyana during the 1970s thru 1992 when the country held its first democratic election after independence 1966). An appeal is being made to the Indo Guyanese diaspora to help secure a fair election in 2020. That group of freedom fighters who led the overseas struggle for democratic elections is no longer enthusiastic to lead or even to join the campaign for an election free of fair and free from fear that is due by 2020 because of the shabby treatment meted out to them by successive governments since 1992 particularly in the post-Jagan period (1999). Indo Guyanese at home and abroad were treated with contempt.

All elections were rigged in Guyana between 1968 and 1992. But getting overseas Guyanese to assist in the struggle to help democratize their homeland was a near impossible task. Fear, lack of interest in Guyana, limited resources, etc. made it difficult to get Indos to join the movement against the dictatorship. Only a handful of us carried out the international aspects of the struggle to restore democratic rule in our former homeland. We lobbied the US government (Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations) and Members of Congress to help return our country to democratic rule and an open economy that existed prior to independence in 1966.

The US (and U.K.) was responsible for installing the PNC into office in 1964 and propping up the Burnham dictatorship to keep the pro-Soviet PPP out. After the Cold War ended in 1990, with PPP no longer a major concern to the West, and as we appealed to Washington to help liberalize and liberate our former homeland, the US demanded economic and political reforms in Guyana. Desmond Hoyte caved in to the demand by Washington for Jimmy Carter Center to observe the election; Carter Center itself was lobbied by us in the US to observe the elections.

A relatively fair election was held in October 1992 under international supervision resulting in the defeat of Hoyte. Democratic governance and free and fair election would not have been possible without US intervention which came about largely through that very important and direct role played by the diaspora in the US. The diaspora in the U.K., Canada, Trinidad, and other countries also lent a helping hand to liberate their former homeland. The PPP returned to office; but the role of the diaspora in the restoration of democracy was never really acknowledged or fully appreciated.

The relationship between the post-Jagan governments and supporters abroad would turn sour. Many among those who championed the cause for free and fair election felt disrespected and unappreciated and fell out from the PPP. They were marginalized and alienated from the party they built and helped to put into office. Many would eventually join the AFC in 2011 supporting Moses Nagamootoo, a political giant, who defected from PPP to AFC because of his own mistreatment. The disgruntled freedom fighters (former supporters of PPP) teamed up with Nagamootoo helping the coalition APNU+AFC to win in May 2015. Without Nagamootoo on the ticket and overseas support, the coalition would not have defeated the PPP. Nagamoottoo made the difference as he was the magnet around whom the disenchanted PPP supporters rallied, but many now complained that neither Nagamootoo nor the coalition in general has delivered to expectations and have withdrawn support.

However, although the former freedom fighters are disillusioned with the rule of the coalition, they are not very enthused about returning to the PPP or helping the PPP to win an election. The PPP badly treated its supporters and those who played a leading role in liberating the country. The NY diaspora bitterly complains about a few individuals in their midst who alienate Indian supporters and ACG members in the Big Apple.

There is a hands-off approach on calls to help secure a free and fair election in 2020. The diaspora has been treated too badly over the years by the political forces in Guyana, and they don't want to be burnt again. The proverb "Once bitten twice shy" is apt here. The PPP will have to change the way in which it treats the Indian diaspora.