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UK politician who observed a Guyana election dies

A British elections observer, who had described the 1986 elections as “crooked as barbed wire” has died.

The UK Guardian reported that Pratap Chitnis, Lord Chitnis, died on July 12. He was 77.

Lord Chitnis was one of several members of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons whom the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) had lobbied prior to the 1986 poll on grounds of human rights abuses and repeated rigged elections by the then Forbes Burnham-led Peoples National Congress (PNC) administration.

Chitnis and his colleague, Lord Avesbury, had been prevented from entering Guyana and took evidence from the opposition while in Trinidad where they had been holed up.

They together produced a report titled “Guyana Elections: Crooked as Barbed Wire.”

Ironically, Lord Chitnis had been a consultant to Robert Mugabe in the first Zimbabwean election in 1979. Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe has been isolated from the Commonwealth, an organisation of mostly former British colonies.

The UK Guadian described Lord Chitnis as one of the most prominent fixers in centre-left politics from 1960 to the end of the 1980s. He was a modernising head of the Liberal party organisation, active in the party throughout the time of Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe and David Steel. He was a key player in negotiations that led to the creation of the Liberal-SDP Alliance, which endured from 1981 to 1987.

Chitnis was born in Birmingham, the son of a Hindu family doctor and a French mother. When the second world war broke out, he was sent away to be raised by nuns. Later, he went to Stonyhurst college, Lancashire, run by Jesuits. He read English at Birmingham University and took an MA at the University of Kansas. But after these studies, he forsook further interest in literature and would proudly admit that he had ceased reading novels. He became avowedly anti-intellectual and disdainful of academics. Even in his chosen calling, he eschewed any interest in policy formulation and concentrated solely on the mechanics and machinations of politics.

 He is survived by his wife, Anne, whom he married in 1964. A son, Simon, died in childhood.