Jagdeo says US decision makers briefed on Guyana, as opposition delegation heads to Washington

Last Updated on Friday, 22 September 2023, 8:06 by Denis Chabrol

US Congressman Hakeem Jeffries addressing an opposition rally in New York on Sunday, August 15, 2021.

Guyana’s opposition plans to complain to United States (US) House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and a number of other decision makers in Washington that Afro-Guyanese are facing discrimination, but the government says it last week already debunked those claims in meetings with American elected leaders.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said the delegation that would be attending the September 27-28 conference in Washington DC would be released in the coming days. Ahead of the opposition finalising its positions that would be taken to the conference, he confirmed that alleged discrimination would be among the key items. “We know for sure that we are going to give a correct assessment of the political and economic situation in Guyana generally and we will outline and support the case that the government discriminates a lot,” he told a news conference.

Organisers of the event hope to convince American policymakers to block a US$134 million loan from the US EXIMBANK for the Wales Gas to Shore Project and pressure government into agreeing to electoral reforms such as fresh house-to-house registration and the use of biometrics at polling stations to weed out multiple voting and voter impersonation.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday expressed confidence that President Irfaan Ali and his delegation’s visit to Washington DC last week did a good job in debunking claims of discrimination by outlining government’s policies and programmes such as education, public infrastructure, job creation, scholarships, cash grants, healthcare across Guyana. Mr Jagdeo said Dr Ali also briefed American Congressmen about democracy, including alleged election rigging by the People’s National Congress Reform/ A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change. “Already, people are sensitised as to these issues that will happen in the US. We’ve made it clear on all of these issues so when they go up, they’ll have a hard time,” Mr Jagdeo said, adding that Congressman Jeffries was among those briefed about Guyana’s inclusionary system.

While the list is bloated due to continuous registration and the constitutional removal of the residency requirement, Mr Jagdeo noted that in reality only 460,000 of the estimated 600,000 listed electors voted in the 2020 general and regional elections. Concerning the opposition’s persistent demand for a biometric system at polling stations, the Vice President reiterated that government was not opposed to such a mechanism. “We’re in favour of enhanced biometrics providing they don’t disenfranchise people,” he said, adding that a broad spectrum of legislative and executive branches of the US government.

With regard to issues of energy and food security, enhancing regional and economic prosperity and sustainable environmental stewardship that the Congressional Black Caucus is interested in having the US and Guyana collaborate on, Mr Jagdeo said the opposition did not have defined national or international positions. “Clearly they would have nothing to say on the key issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Jagdeo claimed that organisers refused to sell 10 tickets to representatives of the Guyana Embassy in the US, an indication that the planners were not interested in a “broad range of views” at the conference. “It would have been inconvenient to the lies that will be told there,” he said.

He said the Black Caucus was not expected to mount a mission to Guyana, but “we have nothing to hide about our national policy” and “we are managing the country for all of the people of Guyana.”

A number of US Democratic Congressmen as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have cited the need for inclusion, transparency and benefits to all Guyanese at various times.