GUYANA’S opposition will come to Britain later this year to warn of government moves to “steal” the 2020 election.
The socialist People’s Progressive Party (PPP) announced over the weekend that it is mounting an international campaign against President David Granger’s choice of new electoral commission chairman.
Mr Granger, who heads the People’s National Congress-led coalition government, appointed retired justice James Patterson as chairman of the Guyana Electoral Commission (Gecom) on October 19, ignoring three lists of 18 candidates provided by parliamentary opposition leader leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The PPP said Mr Granger had “abandoned” the 1992 Carter-Price formula for elections stipulating that the president must appoint the Gecom chair from an opposition shortlist. The Guyana Bar Association and other groups are planning a legal challenge to the appointment.
The party’s British branch called on the Guyanese diaspora “to stand with the PPP in its struggle to reverse the president’s decision.” And it urged democracy advocates, including the US Carter Centre, to “raise their voices and call upon President Granger to rescind his appointment.”
PPP MP Bishop Juan Edghill hit back at a joint statement on Friday by the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) and other groups that claimed “Indians do not want to be ruled by an African leader.” He said the groups had “sought to justify President Granger’s action as constitutional by beating the drums of racism.
“In one statement they have attacked, insulted and created wedges, built walls of division” by attacking all critics of the appointment, he said. The bishop will visit Britain in coming months.
The claim that the PPP was a party for Indians was used as part of a CIA-backed destabilisation campaign ahead of independence from Britain in 1966 that saw the party lose out to the People’s National Congress under Forbes Burnham in the 1964 election.
According to a 2012 census, almost 40 per cent of Guyana’s population are of Indian origin, the descendants of indentured labourers; Afro-Guyanese, the descendants of slaves from Africa, constitute almost 30 per cent; Guyanese of mixed heritage make up 20 per cent while the indigenous peoples make up just over 10 per cent.
Last week Mr Jagdeo, a PPP MP and former president, announced the formation of a team that “will look at all of the ways they can rig the elections and start blocking that.” He said party representatives would visit London, Washington, Ottawa and Brussels and other centres of the Guyanese emigrant community.
The PPP alleged widespread ballot-rigging in the 2015 election that brought Mr Granger to power. Soon after his election, Mr Granger granted US-French oil giant ExxonMobil offshore oil exploration rights in the western Essequibo region.
The Essequibo is subject to a territorial dispute with neighbouring Venezuela. Opening up the rich undersea field is likely to depress global oil prices further, harming Venezuela’s economy.