During Guyana election, respectable members of society were quiet. Academics did not utter a condemnation of electoral fraud, not even those who returned and living far away from Guyana. How should they be judged by society? Do they deserve respect? And how about those of us who rallied against fraud? How should we be treated?
People in general look up to academics for their views on critical issues (like policies, election rigging, etc.) affecting a nation. In every society, academics tend to courageously (state) their views on important events and activities. But that tradition does not exist in Guyana and Trinidad, among a few other states in the Caribbean. People respect academics but they let down Guyana during the five months rigging ordeal. During the dictatorship and the colonial era, some academics and public figures of stature made their views known on important matters even if they were victimized.
In the attempted election rigging of March 2, Guyanese and Caribbean academics were silent. Even retirees lost their voice. The same was true during the Burnham and Hoyte reign of terror in Guyana. They were also silent during the violations of the constitution between 2018 and 2020 such as in the appointment of the chair of Gecom and in the refusal of the government to honor the no confidence motion to call an election within three months.
The only Caribbean based academic who spoke out against the electoral fraud in Guyana was Hillary Beckles, VC of UWI; but he did not condemn the violation of the successful passage of the NCM. All other Caribbean academics lost their voice. It was most disappointing that others, including from UG and from UWI, Trinidad branch, were silent. Even former reputable scholars, who no longer depend on government for roti, were silent during the entire ordeal. In private, a few academics (including former university lecturers) voice their opinions condemning the coalition. But they were cowards when it came to putting their name out in public on the record against fraud. Are they not ashamed for violating basic principles of academia? Where is their sense of fair play and justice in being silent to electoral malpractice? Profs Lomarsh Roopnarine, Baytoram Ramharack, Tarron Khemraj, and Khalil Gibran made their views known about election rigging in the mass media. I was the only person, aside from Freddie Kissoon, wrote voluminously and consistently against the fraud. Aside from Freddie, I assailed those who were behind the fraud. I did (do) not depend on government for roti and dhal. Thus, I speak my mind against injustice. Profs Wazir Mohammed and Nigel Westmaas, men who fought against electoral frauds during the Burnham/Hoyte dictatorships were noticeably silent. Prof David Hinds excused the March 2020 electoral fraud because he did not want his party APNU to give up power. Sherwood Lowe and a few other lecturers at UG backed APNU and fraud.
The UG academics probably were fearful of losing their employment should they publicly speak out against or supported fraud. No one wants to see the party they support lose power. But academics should not excuse or condone electoral fraud. Others were fence sitters – playing it safe both ways. Others like myself, Roopnarine, Ramharack and a few others took the risk to speak out against injustice, on the right side of morality and law.
Unfortunately, in the end, the academic beneficiaries after the fraud were those who were silent and or endorsed fraud. I was told, they were ‘non-political’, and therefore, they were rewarded with positions, promotions, and perks at UG and elsewhere. Those who were engineers and intellectuals behind and defenders of fraud continue to enjoy their benefits. Those who spoke out against fraud were considered as too ‘political’ and cannot be rewarded and there is no room for them at UG or in government. Regrettably, that is the twisted logic of the Guyanese society.