Opposition coalition Prime Ministerial candidate, Moses Nagamootoo is not daunted by the failure to attract a large number of Indo-Guyanese at its rally in his home-village of Whim, Corentyne earlier this week.
Among the estimated 5,000 mostly Afro-Guyanese attendees were very few Indian Guyanese, a feature that Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan is challenging. “There were massive amounts of East Indians in that crowd…I walked the crowd and I saw thousands of East Indians there. If you didn’t see that, I saw them,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. Ramjattan is the only one so far to have publicly disputed the make-up of the crowd in the traditional East Indian stronghold of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).
Ramjattan has historically feared that a relationship with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), whose main partner is the Afro-Guyanese dominated People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) would erode East Indian support for the AFC.
Speaking at Whim, Ramjattan welcomed the large number of Afro-Guyanese attending a rally in that Indian village and he hoped that Indo-Guyanese could go to Afro-Guyanese villages and feel secure. “We have seen for too long in this country that this division, ethnic cleavages are but a source for our disaster. We must ensure, brothers and sisters, that this comes to an end,” he said.
For his part, Nagamootoo agreed that the majority of attendees were African Guyanese who also had a right to be there. “I am satisfied with the turnout at Whim. I think that there was a fair representation of Indo-Guyanese and villagers,” he said.
Given the response from several Berbice villages and other areas of Guyana, according to Nagamootoo, the coalition’s mobilization was far superior to that of the incumbent party that had trucked in people and “rented the crowd” at its rally at Kitty the same day as the opposition. “If the government couldn’t attract a multi-ethnic gathering at Kitty in the heartland of the city of Georgetown, in the heartland of Region Four that is predominantly Afro-Guyanese then our effort at mobilization would appear to be far superior because we did have a multi-ethnic attendance at our rally,” said Nagamootoo.
Asked whether he believed that the AFC should still be entitled to 12 seats if the coalition continues to attract few Indo-Guyanese supporters, Nagamootoo said that it is an election victory that would determine the allocation of seats which has been fixed by the Cummingsburg Accord. “I believe that that alone is what justifies the partnership and justifies the political proportionality within the partnership,” he said.
He described the rally at Whim as a “big success” because it did not focus on mobilizing a particular ethnic group and signaled that Guyana belongs to all Guyanese. “By coming together at Whim, it shows that it is possible for us to symbolize that national unity,” he said.
Contending that the PPP has become an anti-Cheddi Jagan (that party’s late co-founder) gang, Nagamootoo forecast that that the PPP would muster 30 to 32 percent of the popular vote because supporters would quietly vote for the coalition APNU+AFC coalition “We think that quietly are going to make their decision and they will express their verdict with their X next to the hand with the key,” he said.
The APNU-AFC coalition, he said, was focusing on issues such as crime, corruption, joblessness and hopelessness rather than race.
Former University of Guyana Political Science Lecturer, Freddie Kissoon reasoned that the poor turnout of East Indians might be due to the fact that the campaign was still early and “so the emotions are not running as they should be.” Another reason, he said, could be that East Indians are very intimidated by the ruling party. He is pretty confident that the opposition would attract a lot of Indo-Guyanese at the May 11, 2015 polls. “I don’t think the lack of turnout at the rally and the meetings are an indication that these people will not vote,” said Kissoon, a harsh critic of the government and staunch AFC supporter.
He observed that Afro-Guyanese are more Westernized and extroverted compared to Indo-Guyanese who are more introverted and there is a countryside culture of people not going out in the evening. He said even if there is voter apathy, the PPP stands to lose more than the opposition. “I don’t think you could translate that into voter apathy and if there is voter apathy in East Indian areas, it will affect the PPP rather than the coalition,” he said.
The Political Scientist said only a miracle would see the PPP winning substantial cross-over votes from other race groups to win more than 50 percent of the votes.
Making a pitch for support at Whim where he grew up and worked as fish vendor, the practicing lawyer said he left the PPP because that party has violated the ideals and aspirations of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. “They attacked me since I have left the PPP… So here I am standing forward in my own village. I cannot fool you since you know me all my life,” said Nagamootoo.
“I have never failed you Whim, I never will! I have never failed you Berbice, I never will! But I ask you in return. .. I have given you all my life, just one thing in return: On May 11 I want to ask you to walk with me and David Granger, to walk with the coalition, to vote for the key with the palm on it to bring us to victory so that we can fix this country,” he said.
Nagamootoo reminded the gathering at Whim that Berbice was instrumental in beginning the process of ending race-voting at the November 2011 general elections. The AFC had clinched seven seats and APNU 27 in the 65-seat National Assembly. “You broke the back of ethnic voting in 2011 and you brought a government that reflected the will of the people which is in opposition masquerading as government. You reduced the government to a minority and you made that government accountable to us and begin to obey the real masters of government in 2011,” he said.
He appealed to Whim villagers and Berbicians to move forward from racial healing in 2011 to national unity at the upcoming polls.