IT is an undeniable and historically authenticated fact that for too long Guyanese have suffered immensely from the rigging of General and Regional Elections on multiple occasions by one political party — the PNC. In fact, these riggings have caused Guyanese to flee to all parts of the world in order to survive and barely eke out a living for themselves and families. The social fallouts are too numerous to mention. They fled from the harsh and inhuman dictatorial rule of the PNC under Forbes Burnham and then Desmond Hoyte, using whatever legal and illegal methods they had available. This was the era of Burnhamism characterised by the five Bs: bankruptcy, backtrack, blackmarket, banditry and beri-beri. The PNC utterly devastated the socio-economic fabric of this nation and I will say that life sentence for election riggers is the way forward.
It is sad that those in the past have gotten away with these acts which can be likened to a coup. The only difference is that with a coup the government in office is overthrown often through violent means but with electoral rigging, the rightful government is overthrown during the rigged electoral process. The result in either case is the same. Therefore, the punishment must fit the crime: ‘In national elections, successful electoral fraud on a sufficient scale can have the effect of a coup d’état’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_fraud). On the other hand, the letter writer seems to believe that since ‘the PPP clearly has the numbers, which means life sentences for rigging would apply to only PNC operators, for all practical purposes. In view of the demographics and politics of Guyana, I would venture that there are grounds to label this a racial and racist proposal’ (GHK Lall’s letter captioned: ‘Elections rigging and life sentences’, Kaieteur News). This would suggest that it is perfectly excusable for the PNC to attempt to rig and get off with a tap on the shoulder or else it is ‘racism’. This is high class baloney.
It has always been about the PNC and its innate penchant for rigging and is not about the PPP as was suggested by the same letter writer in the media. In his letter, he further stated that, ‘the underpinnings of voter registrations, hence voting eligibility, have been subject to question and controversy. Neither of the major parties is untainted’. I cannot recall anytime that the PPP was involved in this type of skullduggery, it is well documented that from 1968 to 1985 and then in the prelude to the 2020 Elections that it was the PNC which did this in a variety of manner, and this would go back even before the voters’ registration, for example, the appointment of the Chairperson for GECOM and all the other senior appointments. Moreover, it is a fact that a huge percentage of persons who worked at GECOM are known supporters of the PNC. It cannot be that the letter writer is unaware of these irrefutable facts. In the last General and Regional Elections, I witnessed this first hand.
The PNC never wanted election observers and did all within their power to keep them out. The letter writer should realise that it was the PNC who labelled the election observers as ‘interferers and meddlers’ prior to the 1992 Elections. At one point during the Region Four vote count, the PNC attempted to lock them out and this again played out during the recount. They always wanted to steal the elections with impunity as they did before 1992 and in 2020, they did put on a ‘live show’ for the observers and the world to view and yet they denied attempts to rig.
It is common knowledge even to the PNC Executive members as well as its supporters that the PNC is devoid of any strategy and all they ever did was to depend on their rigging machinery. Blaming the Burnhamite Granger for the failure of the PNC to retain power is just an ingenious way of being the proverbial ostrich. Imagine a political party which has been around since 1957, more than 64 years, still has to depend on rigging and not their achievements as a government to win an election. I see no ‘reform’ of the PNC, even that term has been abused by the PNC. An Editorial which appeared in the media on November 7, 2021 summed up the struggle to reform our electoral laws, ‘the history of modern elections laws in Guyana is a history of either facilitating the PNC to take power or attempting to prevent them (PNC) from rigging elections to keep power’. This Editorial summarises the fact that the PNC will do whatever it takes to get into power and remain there. If we go back in history we will find that even after the most massively rigged elections in 1985, the PNC-led by Hoyte was unrelenting and not prepared to allow free and fair elections and stubbornly refused to allow electoral reforms.
It has always been a colossal struggle by the PPP and the masses in Guyana to ensure that elections are not rigged. This struggle before 1992 is well documented history. But this has always been an ongoing struggle after 1992 and up to 2020.
It is time to get our electoral reforms correct so that the PNC is never allowed to rig or attempt to rig any election in the future. Guyanese must never be allowed to suffer from the fallouts of the PNC’s rigging and our laws must be reformed to ensure this. We have been given ‘life sentences’ by the PNC and some suffered death penalties in the past. This is draconian! It is time that all legal loopholes (we are wearied by numerable trips to the CCJ) are plugged and the penalties match the crime.