Reeling from the effects of a poor turnout at Local Government Elections, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated coalition Saturday night admitted for the first time that some of its supporters were disenchanted and opted to stay away.
“Sophia, you know, that the PPP won this constituency. They won this constituency by a few votes because some people were very upset and they didn’t come out to vote for many reasons but I know those persons who did not come out will soon realise that the government does have a plan for Sophia,” PNCR Chairperson Volda Lawrence told a Thank You rally held at ‘C’ Field, Sophia that barely mustered 150 persons.
The PNCR/APNU and AFC have separately cited a lack of education about the local government system because November 12, 2018 was the second such polls in 23 years, racism peddled by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the retrenchment of thousands of sugar industry workers mainly in Berbice.
PNCR General Secretary, Amna Ally, declaring that “Sophia is PNC and we are in a coalition and that makes it even better,” reasoned that the APNU’s defeat in Sophia was not a loss but a victim of racism as was the case in many other areas of Guyana. “You heard Comrade Lawrence telling you that we slipped up with a couple votes and lost the constituency but Comrades, we didn’t lose. You heard Pandit (Ubraj) Narine telling you about racism and I can tell you that it is a classic example in many parts of this country and that was promoted by no other than the dunce Bharrat Jagdeo,” said Ally.
The veteran Guyanese politician added that “I want to be very serious and to tell you tonight that it is important for us to vote and many people did not understand the importance of going out and vote for the candidate of their choice”.
Andriea Marks of the APNU, with 1,066 votes lost to the Param Persaud of the PPP, with 1,279 votes in constituency 6- Cummings Lodge/North, Central and South Pattensen Turkeyen.
In a local government election characterised by a 36 percent turnout countrywide, the PPP picked up 386 of the 596 Proportional Representation seats countrywide compared to 188 by APNU.
Chairman of the Guyana Youth and Student Movement, Ryan Belgrave admitted that A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) lost some contact with supporters. “We understand that we have not talked with you enough in the past,” he said. PNCR member, Attorney-at-Law, James Bond said Saturday’s public meeting ” is a first in a series of public meetings by the APNU+AFC in which it seeks to reconnect and energize its base”.
Lawrence, who is also Public Health Minister, promised that an “agenda for Sophia” would be rolled out in another few months to help boost the academic performance of youths there where free Mathematics, English and Science classes. Lawrence, who is also Public Health Minister, announced that a hospital would be constructed in the area soon so that access to health care would be close by.
She noted that already roads in that densely residential community were graded within two days of concerns raised and the playfields were cleared in the area on Saturday.
“We will continue in this very vain and you are going to see that what we say we mean,” she said. Speakers took credit for reduced crime, improved roads and bridges, better potable water supply, a police station, literacy project, improved telecommunications and other services, increased salaries and pensions over the last three years.
Outside the playground, a group of people heckled the meeting, demanding better infrastructure. “We need road and we need light,” they said. They only calmed down when uniformed police went and spoke with them.
All the speakers appealed to supporters not to stay away from the polls again in the next general and regional elections that are constitutionally due the latest by August, 2020. Minister of Public Affairs in the Ministry of the Presidency, Dawn Hastings warned that if they stay away again from the polls, it would be a “big, big mistake”. “I must encourage those, who thought that by staying home that they would have been doing something bad to the APNU and AFC government, but they were doing bad to themselves, my comrades,” she said.
At that juncture, a number of middle-aged and elderly ladies were heard saying “You have to come and see what the people want” and “you have to come at least every three months”.
The APNU sought to whip up support among its predominantly Afro-Guyanese support base to vote in the 2020 general elections by warning them against returning to “those dark days” of death squads, disappearances, corruption and mismanagement by the People’s Progressive Party.
“We cannot forget the Lusigan massacre, we cannot forget the Bartica massacre, we cannot forget the Buxton killings, we cannot forget Lindo Creek (massacre). We cannot forget that many of our sons were not seen back. We cannot forget Crum-Ewing and then they stand up and they ‘buss deh mouth about crime and we can’t control crime but, Comrades, we are not losing our sons. Up to today, many mothers do not have closure for their children. Over 400 young people, young men were killed under the PPP government,” she said.
She warned supporters no to “sell your souls” for six or ten thousand dollars.
AFC General Secretary Marlon Williams highlighted that 70 percent of Guyanese are youths. He urged adults to encourage young people to join the lines to vote in 2020 for APNU+AFC to avoid a return of lies, oppression, corruption and death squads. “Let us be honest with ourselves. You got to understand this is serious business because if you don’t get them lining up in front of you come election day in 2020, the massacres that this country experienced will come again,” he said.
Evidence led in a United States court has show that then Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy had ordered a sophisticated telephone interception device only sold to governments. Such a device had been found at a location owned by Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan who has been convicted in New York and jailed for drug trafficking.
Prior to his arrest at the height of a violent spate of murders, carjackings and disappearances, the Guyana Defence Force had intercepted a bullet proof vehicle at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara with telephone interception/ triangulation equipment and high powered weapons.
Prior to his arrest in neighbouring Suriname, statements had appeared in the daily Kaieteur News newspaper in which Khan had claimed that he had avoided the then Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration from being toppled in a coup.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has already labelled the 2020 general and regional elections as “the mother of all elections” because it would determine which party gets its hands on huge oil revenues. Acting Prime Minister, Carl Greenidge has said the 2019 Budget would be very important as it is the fiscal package in the year just before general elections.