By Dr Kumar Mahabir
Love him or hate him, Guyanese Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandas Persaud had the courage to stand and swim against the political rip currents of the Essequibo River.
And for that extraordinary courage based on a conscience vote, he must be honoured, even idolised as the Mahatma Gandhi of Guyana. Already there are plans to name babies after him as well as streets in his native Berbice. A meme with his portrait on a champagne bottle has been created, and a song on the theme “Charrandas is a Hero”, produced by Rishaad Ishmael, is being shared on social media.
On that historic day in Guyana (December 21, 2018), Charrandas voted against his own governing party for the opposition People’s Progress Party (PPP) led by Bharrat Jagdeo. MPs Jaipaul Sharma, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Sydney Allicock did not have that strength of character to take that leap. Charrandas’ one dissident vote changed the course of electoral history in Guyana by constitutionally toppled a government from power which is still stubbornly and illegally refusing to resign.
Charrandas’s single vote made history in Guyana and the Commonwealth Caribbean, except for the Turks and Caicos Islands. On his Facebook page, Trinidadian political scientist Dr Kirk Meighoo stated: “It has NEVER happened before.” (23/12/18). He added that the no-confidence-motion victory demonstrates strength in political democracies like Guyana. “For parliaments to work, our parliamentarians need to represent their constituencies, and not their party or race.” [A theory negating Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s belief (Kaieteur News 5/1/19)].
Meighoo went on to write that no one can accuse Charrandas of being racially motivated by voting for an Indian-dominated party. On every occasion for the past three years, Charrandas voted for the African-dominated party in Parliament, against his own conscience. Indeed, Charrandas worked at every level to electorally overthrow the ruling PPP from power and install an African-dominated coalition in government in 2015.
Charrandas Risked his Life for Conscience
Charrandas knew that he could have been dead at the hands of hoodlums supporting the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition government headed by a retired brigadier, President David Granger. The PNC has a long bloody history of harassment, imprisonment, torture, violence and murder of political opponents.
Political opponents of the PNC such as Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin and Dr. Walter Rodney of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) were all fatalities. Paradoxically, WPA members Dr. David Hinds, Dr. Roopnaraine and Tacuma Ogunseye have joined the current PNC-led coalition.
As an Indo-Guyanese, Charrandas and his family were more of a risk of being physically attacked than other citizens. In the publication entitled In Transit: Gangs and Criminal Networks in Guyana (2012), human security researchers Taylor Owen and Alexandre Grisby wrote that “the fact that the Guyanese police are largely Afro-Guyanese added to the Indo-Guyanese distrust of the security forces and reinforced ethnic tensions” (page 18).
This independent research project produced in Geneva should be instructive to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan. He as well as the families of other members of the coalition government such as Moses Nagamootoo, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Jaipaul Sharma and Hemraj Rajkumar are still not safer.
“Charrandas you Gun Dead Tonight.”
Charrandas said he has spent sleepless nights before me made his conscience vote. He spoke repeatedly about imminent death to reporters, saying: “My life may go, but you know what … I will die a happy person with a clear, God-damn conscience.”
He said Public Health Minister “Volda Lawrence was sitting in the cafeteria and said whoever crosses the floor, she will kill the person; throw them over the rail.” In the full glare of media cameras, Charrandas was being abused verbally and/or physically by Derek Basdeo and Government MP, Jermaine Figueira, who was seen “hitting me…and cussing me.” Government MP Jennifer Wade shouted: “Charrandas, you gun dead tonight” (St. Lucia Times 1/1/19).
In expectation of his likely murder, Charrandas had written a farewell letter to his son “encouraging him to be a good father.” In the event that “something happens to him, Persaud said he [had] written a letter detailing the reason for his action for which he has asked his secretary to make public” (Guyana Chronicle 22/12/18).
Charrandas said: “I knew that my life was in terrible danger… So I sought help [to leave Parliament building and the airport the next day]. I could not trust Khemraj Ramjattan and his police …” (Kaieteur News 3/1/19).
As expected, the illegal PNC-led coalition government is out to get Charrandas by any means. Ramjattan and his co-conspirators are alleging that Charrandas is a Judas who was bribed to defect, has dual-citizenship, is a gambler (both only now “discovered”), breached airport security protocol, fled to Canada instead of Barbados, etc., etc. Whether found guilty or not, these dirt-digging and mudslinging tactics cannot stain the purity of character of Charrandas Persaud.
Dr Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.