By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
QUEENS, NEW YORK – Guyanese and others in the greater Richmond Hill area of Queens rallied in support for democracy in Guyana. The protest, organized by the Guyana Diaspora Council, was held at Independence Square, Liberty Avenue, mere yards away from the unofficial Jagan Square, so named by the late Pandit Ramlall. Protesters feel that democracy is under threat because no official winner is named by the elections commission of the March 2 elections.
The protesters called for respect of electoral democracy and urged Gecom to declare the right winner of the March 2 elections based on the Caricom observed recount of votes. The protesters also expressed their solidarity with Gecom Chair, Claudette Singh, for rejecting the fraudulent Lowenfield report that disenfranchised some 115K votes, 25% of the electorate, that violate their basic voting rights.
According to Vishnu Mahadeo, the purpose of the rally was to give Guyanese and other people a platform, other than social media, to express their views on the electoral impasse in Guyana and show their disgust with attempts to manipulate the election results in favor of a party. Mahadeo and other speakers condemned the attempted count frauds and court challenges to a declaration of the rightful winner.
The protest began with opening prayers by religious leaders praying for peace and the right declaration of the results. The religious figures and other speakers were very articulate and knowledgeable of the Guyana political crisis. They prayed for the upholding of democracy and the dispensing of Justice. Among the spiritual leaders were Brahmchari Yogesh of American Sevashram Sangha and Black American Pastor DuJohn.
The religious figures and other speakers praised Barbados Prime Minister and Caricom Chair Mia Mottley and other PMs as well as former PMs and current and ex Ambassadors from the region for their strong comments against electoral fraud in Guyana. The political figures and diplomats emphasized the significance of having every vote counted in the Guyana election. The religious leaders prayed for peace in Guyana America as related to the movement against racial injustice and destruction of property in recent Black Lives Matter protests. The hope was expressed that Gecom Chair Claudette Singh would honor the result of the recount and not disenfranchise any voter. The will of the electorate must prevail.
Speakers urged Guyanese to be patient and wait on the Caribbean Court of Justice’s ruling on the appeal of Guyana Court of Appeal’s decision that added words to the constitution.
The Guyana Diaspora Council also issued a statement in support of Ms Mia Mottley and condemned the virulent attack on this accomplished Caribbean stateswoman for championing democracy in Guyana and the region.
There was the guest appearance of Indian American Jennifer Rajkumar, a Professor, who won the Democratic primary dethroning long time Assembly Member Mike Miller of the 38th District that encompasses parts of North Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, where thousands of Guyanese make their home. It’s the first time that an Indian American would be elected to the New York State Assembly assuming she prevails in the general election in November. Prof Rajkumar, educated at Stanford Univ Law school and at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, expressed support for the democratic process in Guyana. Rajkumar, whose ancestors, hailed from the same areas of India where Indo-Guyanese trace their roots, has been closely following political developments in Guyana and patronizes Guyanese events. He victory was owed to a multi-ethnic coalition that captured the imagination of voters in the 38th District that includes a near majority of Italians and Irish. In 2011, Rajkumar became the first Indian-American elected as the District Leader of the 65th District of NY State Assembly, beating out an incumbent at the position for 28 years with over 70% of the vote. She was re-elected to the position in 2013 and 2015 and did not seek re-election until she decided to seek higher office in 2020 winning the primary. Rajkumar said she hopes that the election fiasco comes to an end with the ruling of the CCJ.
Also addressing the rally was Mr Grant M Lally, a Republican of Long Island. He said he was in Guyana as an observer for the election. Lally shared some of his experience on election day activities. Lally, who claimed he was a member of the Carter Center Observer team, said that the elections were the best he and others had ever witnessed. He commented that the process was robust. Lally said the political parties and observers knew the results of the election that very evening after the closure of polls. “It was known that the PPPC won the elections”.
Vishnu Mahadeo, the main organizer of the protest, raised the need for support of electoral democracy in the homeland and for the Guyanese people many of whom he claims are on the verge of starvation. He pointed out that tens of thousands lost their jobs due to closure of factories over the last five years, the March elections, and the devastating effects of Covid. He commented: “America is the bedrock of democracy and we must never compromise on democratic ideals”. He and other speakers also praised the American government and the worldwide community for their support of free and fair elections and the recount outcome in Guyana.
Attendees at the protest praised Mahadeo and others for the vision to put together this rally in support of democracy in Guyana and his leadership to help bring people together.