Local Observers Fight for Democracy in Guyana
Over 100 Long Islanders flew last week to the small, but newly oil-rich, South American Republic of Guyana, to act as official International Observers to the country's March 2nd national elections. Then - when the opposition Peoples Progressive Party ("PPP") decisively won the vote - the governing party, A Party for National Unity ("APNU"), of President David Granger - attempted ignore the ballots - and execute a coup.
Observers flew-in from all across Long Island, and the New York area. Most participated through the American Chamber of Commerce - Guyana (www.AmCham.gy). Other groups included the Guyana Bar Association, and The Carter Center. Observers were also sent by the European Union ("EU"), the Commonwealth, the Caribbean Community ("CARICOM"), and the Organization of American States ("OAS"). Some of the American observers were Kawall Deosaran of Manhasset; Andy Rambharose of Old Westbury; Grant Lally of Lloyd Harbor; Jay Mahindro of Smithtown; and Rishi Prashad of Huntington.
The vote went smoothly on March 2nd - Election Day. By 10:00 PM the vote was all counted at the country's 2300 polling sites. But the next day - as the polling site reports ("SOP's") were being tallied by the Elections Commission - it was clear that the PPP had defeated APNU by a decisive 52% (233,193 votes) to 47% (217,305 votes).
Then the brazen fraud - and APNU-organized violence - began. APNU operatives tried to shut-down the vote tally, and bused drunken armed mobs to Election headquarters. A bomb threat was called-in; an APNU government minister and police threatened International Observers with arrest and deportation; and finally a man charged in and physically attacked the Elections Chairwoman.
Andy Rambharose of Old Westbury was at the Elections Commission headquarters when armed mobs began gathering outside on the street. Elections workers allied with APNU suspended the tallying of the vote results, and created a fraudulent "spreadsheet," adding nearly 25,000 fraudulent votes, trying to substitute that fraudulent count for the official vote.
“The international and local observers made a significant contribution towards protecting free and fair elections in Guyana,” stated Rambharose. “The American Chamber of Commerce members - many from Long Island - were critical and covered various regions throughout the day and remained "on-duty" at polling stations for the entire ballot count. We were present at Region 4, Elections Office for the counting of the Statement of Polls ("SOP's")"
US Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) was quick to join in supporting the American observers, and demanded their safe treatment.
“I stand with the Guyanese people’s right to determine their leaders in a way that is consistent with Democratic norms…. The attempt to not count the SOP's - the certified votes - would be a fraud,” stated Suozzi.
The presence of American observers from the American Chamber and other groups, and the rapid intervention by the US Ambassador and leaders like Congressman Tom Suozzi, stopped the attempted APNU coup. A delegation of neighboring governments from CARICOM is now taking-over the election count.
Guyana is a country of only 750,000 people, but as large as Great Britain. Guyana suffered under a dictatorship from 1964 to 1992 - under the late dictator Forbes Burnham - whose party the PNC is the leading member of APNU. Because of oppression and economic collapse under Burnham, over one million Guyanese fled the country in the 1970's and 1980's. Most now live in America, including Queens, Nassau and Suffolk in New York. The Richmond Hill section of Queens is known as "Little Guyana."
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and former President Jimmy Carter demanded free and fair elections in Guyana. The PPP won those elections decisively, and then ran the country until 2015, when APNU came back - in coalition with a small party - by a narrow, one seat margin. The PPP is heavily backed by the Indian-Guyanese population, while the APNU party gets its support from the African-Guyanese population.
Huge oil deposits were discovered offshore in Guyana four years ago, and Exxon began pumping the first oil production just last month. According to the latest petroleum industry estimates, Guyana has the second largest oil reserves, per capita, of any country in the world - after Kuwait. The coming "oil boom" is part of the reason that Granger and his APNU party are so desperate to hold power - and are trying to steal the election.