Individuals are being considered for national honors for their role in protecting Guyana’s democracy between August 2018 and August 2020. Some Guyanese and non-Guyanese names appeared in the media who should be considered for a newly minted “Order of Democracy”. Those who played a role in championing democracy after the rise of the dictatorship in 1966 should also be considered for such an honor. There are several Guyanese in the diaspora and at home who played a critical role in combating electoral fraud and authoritarianism and in lobbying foreign governments and global institutions to retore democratic governance in Guyana in October 1992. In determining who should be honored, emphasis should be placed on rewarding those who engaged in volunteerism as opposed to those who championed democracy for a couple years and did because of the expected financial rewards that would flow from it.
Those who have engaged in volunteerism and provided affordable funds for social work are true heroes. They are unsung heroes who did a million times more than those whose names appear in the media and stood out because of their stature but were paid for their services in advocating for democracy. The unsung heroes don’t crave media attention; the paid activists.
Volunteers should be given preference over paid political activists for national honors. The former engages in community work out of love while the latter does it because it is a paid job – monetary reward. The former does it out of a belief and ideology and a commitment to humanity while the latter is motivated by payment or business proceeds. The former does not look for rewards. The latter expects monetary gains and gets irate if demands are not met.
There are several unsung heroes in the diaspora that the Guyana government should have honored way back since 1992. They championed democracy ever since it was taken away from the nation in 1966. Without their activism, democracy would not have been restored in 1992. Some of the volunteers have passed on, but a few are still around. I know very well those in America who dedicated almost all of their time to championing democracy in Guyana, almost on a full time basis. They were affiliated with the ACG, the support group of the PPP and I know of their invaluable work since I came to New York as a sixteen year youngster in 1977 to pursue university education. I was not affiliated with that group but I gave support to their activities.
In the 1970s, there was only a few Guyanese who were involved in any political activism relating to Guyana. I immersed myself in the struggle with a few university students sine 1977. Soon, we were organizing demonstration and picketing exercises in front of the Guyana Consulate on the east side in Manhattan including for the July 1978 rigged referendum. I was able to engage in an anti-dictatorial struggle because my parents and older brothers and sisters worked and paid the bills freeing up my time for political activism. While there were was over a hundred Guyanese students at the campus, only a few of us were interested in Guyana. Just a handful us organized rallies, protests, writing and printing newsletters, and spending afternoons and weekend distributing them at public spaces. We were an independent group unaffiliated with others though we collaborated on protests and rallies. During the 1980s and 1990s as the Guyanese migrant population grew in America, so too did the political activism up to 1992. For the best of my recollection, lonely Arjune Karshan from the US based diaspora was honored for his activism; I think it was done by Jagan. Recognition of the diaspora activists like Baytoram Ramharack, Ramracha, Flattie Singh, Chuck Mohan, Maner Swami, Abdul Hafiz, Joe Kanhai, two of Karshan nephews (forgot names), Ravi Dev, Errol Arthur, Joe Ragnauth, among others. I was there from the outset (1970s) reporting in the ethnic media on varied activities besides organizing protests, preparing petitions, and corresponding with legislators in America and other countries. I know the history of those involved in the struggle for Guyana’s democracy from the US. Vishnu Bandhu played a significant role while in the US before returning to Guyana to launch URP; he fought the Hoyte dictatorship and was in forefront combating 2020 fraud. Leyland Roopnarine fought for democracy in Guyana during Burnhamism and and the Hoyte dictatorship before migrating to the USA. Paul Tennassee fought the dictatorship since his return to Guyana in 1984 alunching the DLM and remained till his migration after the 1992 elections. Leyland, Tennassee, and Bandhu are worthy of national honors.
I recall in May 2015 and every year thereafter, the APNU+AFC doled out honors like boxed foods to supporters. Hundreds of known election riggers were ‘honored’ for their contributions to the nation. The list of honorees included several who unleashed physical brutality on freedom fighters. Those honors should be recalled. And those names mentioned above should be on the honors list.