By Dr. Tara Singh
The Clement Patterson family knows some finer points about leadership. Mr Clement Patterson served as village elder and captain for several years at Santa Mission on the West Bank of the Demerara River (opposite Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara). His son, Leonard, also followed in that tradition having served there as captain for several years, too.
Leonard Patterson still lives at the Mission with his wife and enjoys farming. Leonard’s children, according to Praimnauth, (one of Mr Clement Patterson’s sons-in-law)have done well academically and do not reside anymore on the Mission, as their secondary education combined with exposure to good leadership qualities in their formative years, have allowed for geographic and occupational mobility.
Mr Clement Patterson is a remarkable man. At age 71, he was one of the distinguished guests who met Queen Elizabeth II on her historic 1994 visit to Guyana. That treasured moment still lingers in his memory. He would like the Queen to know that he is still alive though incapacitated by blindness for the past 18 years.
At age 97 Mr Clement Patterson is still able to shave and bathe himself. He moves around with the aid of a walking stick. He moved from Santa Mission over several years ago to Laluni on the Linden Soesdyke Highway to live with his daughter there.
Mr Clement and his wife Edmundson, who died about 8 years ago, at age 81, had 10 children: 5 boys and 5 girls. Two girls have died. One of their daughters lives in Canada, one in the United States, and one now lives at Laluni on the Linden Soesdyke Highway where she does farming as well as take care of her father, Mr Clement Patterson. Four of the five sons (one lives at Santa, one at Laluni. one on the West Bank Demerara, and one is engaged in mining in the interior) live in Guyana while the other one is resident in Suriname.
This family and their extended members say that they will cast their votes for the PPPC at the March 2020 regional and general elections. They will cast their votes for the PPPC not only because the PPPC provided the opportunity for the head of the family, Mr Clement Patterson, to meet Queen Elizabeth II but also because they love the PPPC’s message particularly on Amerindian development, including such stellar projects as solar energy, land titling, revival of logging and mining, and the re-hiring of the 1,972 Amerindian CSOs who were fired by the Granger administration.
The Pattersons like thousands of Amerindians are attracted by other incentives such as the PPPC’s promise to double old age pensions, to raise the school child grant dramatically from $(G) 10,000 to $(G) 50,000 per child within the 5th year in office, to grant financial and technical aid to single family households.
These messages in addition to others such as free university education, the award of 20,000 scholarships, student loan forgiveness, the reduction of the cumbersome tax burden, re-negotiation of the oil contracts, the re-institution of democratic rule, among others, also resonate well with all race groups in Guyana, including Amerindians.
The messages of the PPPC’s main competitor, APNU-AFC, are too generalized to have a significant impact on voters’ minds. Voters had been duped by the APNU-AFC party over the last 4.8 years and they don’t trust them anymore irrespective of what they promise. it’s evident that the governing coalition government (APNU-AFC) is badly wounded and all their attempts at healing are failing because they cannot access the right prescription.
The APNU-AFC coalition has applied several hurdles to the election process to frustrate the will of the electorate. They unilaterally appointed James Patterson as Gecom’s Chair in clear contravention of the constitution, and then refused to hold elections within 3 months consequent to the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion (NCM). Other constitutional aberrations have been committed but there is no punitive sanction that could be imposed for those breaches!
Another recent attempt at electoral frustration is a subtle practice called “voter suppression.” Gecom has drastically reduced the number of polling booths at mainly PPPC areas. isn’t this another method of rigging? The PPPC has had an uphill battle with Gecom to ensure free and fair elections, despite rhetorical flourishes from Granger and the Gecom Chair. The smaller parties have been, for the most part, missing on this vital matter.
Notwithstanding these politically instigated obstacles, a critical analysis has buttressed the Clement Patterson family’s optimism that the PPPC will win the March 2020 general and regional elections with a comfortable margin of victory.
The APNU-AFC government has not only driven the country into economic malaise, including widespread corruption, but also engaged in undemocratic rule characterized by frequent subversion of the rule of law and the trampling of the constitution. There are ominous signs everywhere that Guyana has, once again, been perched on the precipice of a dictatorship. Guyanese, including Amerindians are eager to halt and reverse this slide into dictatorship by voting overwhelmingly for the PPPC.
The analysis took into consideration the voter registration and the election results of 2006, 2011, 2015 and LGE 2018, in addition to opinion poll results and the level of people’s mobilization.
It is projected that 460,000 or 70% of the persons on the OLE (Official Voters’ List) will cast their ballots, barring no March surprise by Gecom. In the last general and regional elections (GRE) 415,788 persons cast their votes. This means that about 44,212 more persons are likely to vote at GRE 2020 compared with 2015.
For GRE 2020 the PPPC has been able to build a momentum as never seen before by any political party in Guyana. With a weak 2015 campaign and a not-so-attractive Presidential candidate, the PPPC lost GRE 2015 by just 4,545 votes. Despite those limitations,they were nevertheless still able to increase their voter volume by 36,315 (or by 21.8%) over GRE 2011 results, compared with an increase in voter volume of 32,190 or 18.4% for APNU-AFC.
The volume of votes for both major parties at GRE 2020 are likely to increase. However, the PPPC is projected to increase its volume of votes by 20% nationally compared with 10% for APNU-AFC. The APNU-AFC projected increase is lower than the PPPC’s largely because of it’s major partner, the AFC’s rapid decline in electoral support.
Just a cautionary note. In GRE 2006, 150,943 persons did not vote; in 2011, 128,799 did not vote; in 2015, 167,656 did not vote. It is projected that about 200,000 persons may not vote at GRE 2020. Why? Voter apathy? Internal migration? Or are those voters abroad (resident, studying, visiting). Or it’s a combination of these factors? This is an area that needs serious research. There was also much speculation that the American Embassy issued 30,757 visitor’s visa which represents a phenomenal increase (of 3.6 times) on the annual average visas of 8,500 granted between 2000 and 2013. How many Guyanese voters who were granted visitors’ visas in 2015 were abroad in May 2015 and were therefore unable to cast their votes could not be determined?
The extended Amerindian family of Mr Clement Patterson calls upon all their Amerindian brothers and sisters to cast their votes for the PPPC and they also extend this message to all Guyanese voters. Almost 5 years of APNU-AFC governance is more than enough.
“We cannot allow them to continue to destroy the country,” says one of Mr Clement Patterson’s sons-in-law.