Election fiasco in Guyana; Trinidad & Tobago on edge

-:Dr. Ravi Chaturvedi:-

The Indian indenture system was a system of indentured servitude, by which two million Indians were transported to work in European colonies, as a substitute for slave labour, following the abolition of the slavery trade in the early 19th century. Under the colonial rule, India’s population provided the British Empire with a ready source of cheap and mobile labourers. The demand for Indian indentured laborers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834. They were sent, sometimes in large numbers, to plantation colonies producing high value crops such as sugar in the Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius and South Africa.

The Indians were paid meager wages, lodged in small and unhygienic dwelling units with bare facilities for human existence. However, well-versed in the art of sugarcane cultivation hardworking Indians contributed substantially to the improvement of plantation economy. The thrifty farming Indian community saved every penny to educate their children who in course of time became prominent in various professions (teaching, medical, and administration). Members of the community decided to demand their own share of cake in running the country.

The Indian community came up with prominent politicians who were in the forefront of the freedom struggle in these colonies. Dr. Chedi Jagan (Guyana., dentist; degree in dentistry from American Howard University), Basdeo Pandey          (trade union leader), Kamla Persad-Bissesar (Trinidad & Tobago),  Fred Ramdat Misier, Ramsewak Shankar and newly-elected President Chandrika Persad Santokhi (Suriname) and Mahendra Chaudhry (Fiji), all of them had to face strong opposition. Jagan, Shankar and Chaudhary were ousted from office by employing unconstitutional means.

With the dawn of Independence, the tussle for power started between the Indians and the indigenous locals. In the Caribbean, a new Anglophone (blacks and creoles) group considered themselves as political successors of the colonial rulers. Over the years, the gulf between the two groups has increased enormously. Consequently, elections in Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago in recent years has witnessed racial divide.

The elections in Guyana have been ominous since 1953 with the Indians (including Jagan) being marginalized. The results of the last election held in March this year are being held in abeyance where People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/ C) opposition has emerged clear victor. Even a recount agreed to between the opposing parties in which both leaders agreed to abide by is now being ignored by the current Government. The recount confirmed that the opposition has won the elections but the results have been rejected by the caretaker Government. Guyana is thus in deep crisis despite warnings from the USA, the Organization of American States (OAS), the  Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) (Caricom), the UK, Canada, the UN and the EU. All have been urging the government to accept the results of the recount and allow Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali to take oath as President of the country.  The call of the international community has gone down the drain so far.

Trinidad & Tobago is also reported to be heading towards a close election on August 10. The die seems to be evenly cast between the People’s National Movement (PNM) party in power and the opposition United National Congress (UNC).  The ruling party is led by Keith Rowley while the opposition team is headed by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. It is a close race. Time will only tell the final outcome!

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