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Bring back overseas voting; each ministry must have Diaspora office – David Hinds

Professor David Hinds.

United States (US)-based Guyanese Political Science Professor, David Hinds has called for the return of overseas voting 32 years after it was drastically reduced amid concerns that the then People’s National Congress (PNC)-led administration had used it to help to cheat elections and remain in office.

“I think the problem for us in Guyana was not the concept of overseas voting, but that it was used as part of the rigging machinery of that time. So, in an era of fair elections, the meaning changes. I would propose that if we go that direction, as I think we should, it would bring overseas Guyanese more emotionally attached to Guyana,” said Hinds, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) political party that had fought militantly alongside the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for free and fair elections, constitutional reform and free and fair elections from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The PPP has been floating the possibility of electoral malpractices at Guyana’s next general elections due to be held in 2020.

Conceding that his suggestion of a return to overseas voting “is much more controversial given its association with a bad period in our history,” Hinds recommended a formula for equating the level of parliamentary representation with the number of votes while recognising that voting is the perhaps the most significant aspect of citizenship.

“Perhaps we can begin with some form of weighted voting whereby, for example, two or three overseas votes are equivalent to one local vote. In that way, you control for the perception and reality that those who do not live here all the time should not have equal rights and privileges,” he said.

The Political Scientist noted that overseas-based Guyanese could fly home to register and vote, so all that he is suggesting that they be allowed to vote in the countries where they reside. “If we go the route of oversees voting we would be merely allowing them to vote where they are located.

Hinds, who presented a paper at the just concluded University of Guyana Diaspora Conference, also called for a department of the Diaspora to be established in each government ministry to involve overseas-based skilled and qualified Guyanese more in Guyana’s development especially at a time when the country is on the cusp of becoming an oil producer.

“I propose that each government ministry should have a “diaspora section.” I know the Foreign Affairs Ministry already has such a section, but it should be expanded to other Ministries. There is a popular view that there should be a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. But I think that is too narrow,” he said.

The vocal Political Scientist and activist recommended an end to the “us” and “them” syndrome and a new approach that would involve our brothers and sisters as an integral part of the Guyanese nation. “We must change the narrative of “us” and “them” on both sides. There is a critical mass of Guyanese who live partly abroad and partly at home and others who make several short trips per year.  If we begin, to employ the narrative of “us” more, then we are likely to have a new thinking and new policies that reflect that mindset,” he said.

He further called on overseas-based Guyanese to cease seeing themselves as superior to those who live in Guyana, and at the same time he urged that systems be put in place to attract them to contribute to their country of birth.

“Of course, those who live abroad need to resist the temptation to behave as if they are “better” than those who live here. They should not demand nor should they be afforded more privileges that those citizens who live here. But having said that, they would be more inclined to return or to invest resources if there are incentives at the level of policy,” said Hinds  who returns to Guyana several times each year.

He reasoned that it is “foolish” for Guyana to ignore the skills and other resources of hundreds of thousands of Guyanese because they do not live at home permanently. He said small countries like Guyana, with its limited access to the skills and resources needed to compete in an uneven world as far as development is concerned, must draw on all its energies whether they physically reside in Guyana or abroad.

“With the coming of the oil economy, we would be challenged to find skills and resources to serve our needs and interests. Although it would be ideal if persons return permanently, one does not have to live in Guyana permanently to contribute in a meaningful way,” he said.

Former House Speaker, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran seven years ago said the prevention of overseas voting is unconstitutional and all that the Guyana Elections Commission needs to do is to devise a system that would allow for the registration of Guyanese living abroad so that their names could be included in the voters’ list. ” The Elections Commission which has the constitutional responsibility of ensuring that elections are lawfully conducted, has a duty and responsibility to ensure that the constitutional provisions are observed by providing Guyanese, wherever they may be, of the opportunity to vote at elections,” Ramkarran has said.

The PNC-Reform, the largest and most influential party in the governing APNU+AFC coalition, almost 10 years ago had also rejected Ramkarran’s call for the reintroduction of overseas voting on the basis that it had been an attempt by him to distract Guyanese from the issues of the day at that time.


  • Col123

    OK…Lets re institute those pensions for those pensioners living overseas as a starter….and take it one step at a time…to remove those barriers that distinguish those residing overseas back to full rights in Guyana…
    The question however is…Why would this educated Guyanese Afro centrist politician see any wisdom in bringing back overseas voting?… Is he uncomfortable with the “ethnic entrapment ” of the PNC also?…or is he hoping for the votes from his friend Freddie’s “self destructive PPP voters”, who should stop voting ” FUHCUP”.
    The PNC will win the national elections for the next fifty years…all it takes is a stroke of a pen for the 51 % votes…there isn’t any need for 80-90 % win anymore!

  • Johnmair

    Oh dear.I objected when he said it at the conference.I object now.The way to corruption is paved with good intent..

  • Truth !

    if u don’t live,work,pay taxes and r familiar with local life etc etc etc then u don’t vote from overseas

  • Godwin

    what a shame,no new ideas everything is about bringing the old back.

  • Jinnah Rahman

    Dr. David Hinds, the roving professor, who traverses from the Imperialist USA to Guyana twice a year or more, is sowing seeds of CONFUSION, again.

    I thought that we had put to rest the “germ of conflict ” – OVERSEAS voting many decades ago, after it was used as one of the main TOOLS of RIGGING elections in Guyana, causing me ( this writer) to be imprisoned in 1973, for preventing massive Fraud at the General Elections.

    Thousands of pages have been written by the JAGAN-PPP. And an international Campaign was established to bring FREE AND FAIR elections and end ONE PARTY RULE in Guyana. Brother Hinds played a significant role, as a youth, within the broad-based Movement, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

    It must be recalled – for those who lived abroad – that Walter Rodney led an International campaign for the release of imprisoned former PPP activist, Arnold Rampersaud, who was charged for the murder of tollgate policeman,m in Corentyne, Berbice. Two PPP supporters were killed the Guyana Defence Force and others brutally beaten and harassed.

    Strangely, the professor has now joined a section of Indo-Guyanese racist, linked to the JAGDEO-PPP, domiciled in the Imperialist USA and Canada. These elements, who use FAKE names on social media, propagate their reactionary and racist ideology.
    The AFRO CENTRIC Professor Hinds is described by certain media outfits as a Rodneyite and a spokesman for the WPA in Guyana to establish their credibility The fact is, brother Hinds speaks only for himself. Brother Hinds’ views do not reflect the BROADER ideological position of the World-wide RODNEYITE MOVEMENT.
    Walter Rodney was a profound Marxist Thinker, who ranks amongst the greatest working class International intellectuals and revolutionaries. Comrade Rodney’s scholarship is reflected in his monumental book, HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA, which forms the basis of a precise understanding of the capitalist-Imperialist world and the enslavement of our African sisters and brothers in Guyana and the rest of the world.

    Overseas voting must NOT return to Guyana, at least not in this period of our history. In any case, it should not be an essential factor in the discussion of the diaspora. This band of Guyanese, who reside abroad and are “thinking” of returning to Guyana, when the CONDITIONS are right for them. Life does not work the way a lot of them think.

    Nothing is wrong with human beings moving to different parts of the world to improve themselves and the welfare of their families. But MOST migrants forget where they originate, until they become useless to the country in which they migrate. When that section decides to return to the motherland, they make Huge DEMANDS on the incumbent administration and its citizens.

    The Good life was enjoyed by those who left and made themselves comfortable, That section never cared for their homeland, why should they be taken seriously, now? Anyone who is repatriating should understand that Guyana in the process of constructing and they must think about how best they can play a meaningful role, as those who stayed here have been doing.

    Everyone has RIGHTS, but very few remember that we all DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES .

    • Henry Horton

      Sure, the USA is ‘imperialist” and what are we to make of the PNC coalition’s embrace of free market economics – “Volunteerd Slavery”?

    • Col123

      Jinnah, boy you on a roll here… elections in Guyana is always clean as a whistle.. don’t believe me?.. ask the Presi… he used to have those boxes secured by folks with weapons!.. he even had folks killed in protecting those ballots…
      Why are you attacking the political scientist as a roving whatever in his travels to the US?..Isn’t that against your beliefs?…and what’s all this talk about Afro centrist on the professor?. Did you not read the US released embassy documents on the good Presi ?

  • Ram John

    Good suggestion by Hinds. Allowing overseas Guyanese to vote must be pursued. I agree that 3 or 4 overseas vote will = to 1 local vote. The Financial gain will be tremendous. Lots of remittances $$$$

  • melkend

    To all the short sighted folks here who thinks Dr. Hinds idea is such a bad idea, should know that all US citizens can vote in all their elections regardless of what part of the world they live. Yes Burnham used overseas voting to rig elections, but Burnham has been dead for years. I think we need to bury him. This is 2017, we need to think and act 21st century not 18th.

  • Col123

    And can you believe this guy ?…and he is “educated ” besides!