COMMENTARY by Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
The year 2020 is going nowhere. There is nothing worse that forgetting how to smile. The fun, laughter and spontaneity that the seasons bring were masked by a virus that kept spreading. By the end of 2020, humanity breathed a universal sigh of relief and hoped that a new chapter will be written. It didn’t begin this way. The start of 2020 held out hope and promise of a world that was filled with exciting possibilities. It was a year that many felt will signal perfect vision of what was to come.
There was confidence among Republicans that President Trump would shake of the impeachment trial that lit the flame of acrimony in Washington. By the end of January, there were reports that a virus had begun to spread in China. It was not treated with great seriousness; the US had fought viruses before and China was a long way off. The candidates were busy preparing for debates, and toward the end of January, we mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and seven other persons. The last day of January saw Britain officially leave the European Union.
In February 2020, President Trump held a newspaper that showed he was ‘acquitted.’ The tension between the Republicans and Democrats was pronounced and hardly augered well for the future. The coronavirus hit closer to home when a passenger ship the ‘Diamond Princess’ was quarantined in Japan with many Americans infected with Covid-19. It was the following month that our world changed forever. The statistics showed that the US had over 188,000 cases of Covid-19, out of 858,000 worldwide. The messages were mixed. President Trump told the nation that with the warm weather the virus would go away, while Dr. Anthony Fauci said the situation would get worse. The story of the pandemic, in the US, became the tale of two narratives: one group throwing caution to the winds, while the other masked up, observed social distance, and sanitized.
Reality has hit hard. Hospitals ran out of beds and services were stretched to the limit. Last rites were administered on Skype and Facetime and relatives could not give their loved ones a proper funeral. In New York, Queens became the epicenter of the virus because of population density, the failure of persons to follow directions, and poverty. There were several adjustments that had to be made. Schools were closed and then re-opened with blended learning. There were limits as to the numbers that could meet in houses of worship, planes were grounded, parades and festivals were canceled and ‘virtual’ took on a new meaning.
In this calamitous environment, Guyana went ahead with its national elections. How could a country that is divided be further divided? Guyana provided the answer. If you need drama, an opera that is infused with race and class, a cuss down in which might strive to be right, where friends become enemies, and neighbors look the other way, a Guyanese election is the recipe, a fruit cake that has gone dry and sour.
It didn’t have to be this way. The election day started with hope. Many thought the elections would be over in days. The political parties knew the results on the night of the elections, when the Statement of Polls were tabulated. District Four, with the biggest number of votes, were left for last. This is where the Demerara broke loose. Mr. Mingo produced a spreadsheet that falsified the numbers, and in full view of the international observers, tried to pass it off as genuine and legit. But no one was buying it. The Americans, British, Canadians, OAS, Caricom, Commonwealth, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Sir Hilary Beckles, Sir Ronald Sanders, Mia Mottley, Owen Arthur, US Congressmen, and a host of others, cried foul. They wanted nothing to do with it, nor did the Caribbean Court of Appeal. The response of the government was predictable. Its back was against the wall and it fought back. The government told the nation, and the world, that the PPP/C brainwashed the Americans, the British, Canadians, OAS, Caricom, Commonwealth, and the rest, to say that it lost the elections. Guyanese are not silly. If the numbers don’t add up, they will say so, and they did.
The numbers of scribes were endless with opinions that highlight the divide in Guyana. If you want to see racism at its most vicious, call a national election in Guyana. It is when people lose their reason, and healthy debates become a thing of the past. As the days rolled into weeks, and the weeks into months, we were in the Guinness Book, for the wrong reasons: the longest delay in declaring an election result.
Many stood up to defend democracy. They should be applauded. As Guyanese at home, and those in the diaspora, tried to get a true picture of events, there was one clear voice that stood out. He didn’t care whether he was loved, hated, admired or vilified. He called it as he saw it, and he did so fearlessly. When the history of the 2020 elections in Guyana is written, Freddie Kissoon will take center stage. Guyanese should treasure him.
Guyana was not the only place where racism captured popular imagination. The United States saw rallies and marches to protest the killings of Blacks, at the hands of law enforcement. It gave birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement. This is an important movement; we must fight for justice for Blacks against police brutality. We must fight for justice for everyone because all lives do matter. As the year 2020 came to an end, a member of the Indo-Caribbean community, Rita Persaud, lost her life in a tragic hit and run accident.
It is to the credit of Aminta Kilawan-Narine, of the South Queens Women’s March, that a rally was organized to call for justice for Rita. It was held in the compound of the 102 Precinct. The rally saw a group of community leaders pressing for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.
Finally, on March 17, 44 BC Mark Anthony, and hundreds, gathered at the Capitol to praise Julius Caesar. Anthony spoke for three minutes, at the end of which there was a mutiny, followed by mob violence. On January 6, 2021 AD, hundreds gathered at the Capitol to praise Donald Trump. He spoke for three minutes, at the end of which the mob took over. Donald Trump may fancy being a Mark Anthony, but we are a nation of laws, and reason, and judgement has not fled to ‘brutish beasts.’