People’s Progressive Party (PPP) member Gail Teixeira is calling on all Guyanese to continue the fight for free and fair elections. She made the charge during an event in remembrance of the Ballot Box Martyrs, Bholanauth Parmanand and Jagan Ramessar, who were shot dead by members of the Guyana Defence Force outside of the polling station at Number 63 Village, Corentyne on the evening of July 16, 1973, when general elections were held.
In 1973, the army (GDF) was used by the Forbes Burnham regime against the people of Guyana country, Teixeira said. She noted that it was the first time that the army had been used against the people, and she said many soldiers today would not want to see that happen again in our country.
She said Guyanese must use occasions like Tuesday’s ceremony to not only go through the motions, but to reaffirm and recommit “ourselves as Guyanese to stand up and fight for democracy, the fair elections.”
Reflecting on the gains made over the years, she said Guyanese must use occasions like the anniversary of the Ballot Box Martyrs to recommit themselves to fight for what is right.
“It is not just the generations of the 1970s; it is not the generation of the 80s and 90s, but it is our generation; the young people here. We are faced again as a country with a constitutional crisis looming in our country,” Teixeira posited.
She recalled that the coalition Government assumed office after getting 4,526 more votes than the PPP, which was less than one percent of the total votes in 2015. However, the following year, in 2016, at Local Government Elections, the PPP obtained 30,000 more votes that the Coalition; and last year that gap had risen to 47,000.
The change came about as a result of the hardships many Guyanese have been forced to endure, she charged. Among the hardships, she said, are new taxes, some of which have seen an increase in the cost for construction materials and equipment.
Members of the Disciplined Services, she noted, collect a month’s salary as a Christmas bonus; however, the Coalition gave them each $50,000 as a bonus across the board in its first year in office, and nothing in the following years, while public servants still await their 20 percent wage increase as promised by the Coalition on the campaign trail.
She called on all to demand that respect be accorded the Constitution and the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“We must remember that when we went to Surujbally, as the Chairman of GECOM, and asked for a recount of 20 ballot boxes where we found that the Statements of Poll and the registration by the Returning Officer were different, Surujbally promised, and nothing happened; and the next thing you knew, Grainger was being sworn in as President at Parliament Building. We must make sure that this time we are very vigilant and make sure that every vote counts,” she declared.
It was explained that Parmanand, 45, and Jagan Ramessar, 17, were shot dead while demanding that PPP votes be counted at the place of poll, or a party agent be allowed to accompany the ballot boxes to wherever the military personnel were taking them.
Regional Chairman David Armogan, at the wreath-laying ceremony, said the PPP will not sit idly by and let democracy be trampled upon, or allow the efforts of the two martyrs who made the ultimate sacrifice to be eroded.
“On that day, two young men who went to cast their votes decided that their votes must be counted, and that is how democracy works; your vote must be counted.
“Unfortunately, instead of agreeing to their desires, they were met with a hail of bullets. The very clouds that came upon this land and ensure that democracy did not reveal are threatening us once again; but, comrades, we want the dictators to know this time is not long time,” he declared.
Executive Secretary of the PPP, Zulfikar Mustapha, explained that the Ballot Box Martyrs and many others had made sacrifices for Guyana, to ensure that democracy prevails.
A monument has been erected at Number 63 Village in memory of Bholanauth Parmanand and Jagan Ramessar.
Ramessar’s eldest brother, Tiyraj, who was 20 at the time of the incident, recalled that at the time of the shooting, authorities had tried to keep it silent.
He said that when his brother did not return home that evening, family members went in search of him. Having received information about the shooting, they went to the Skeldon Hospital and inquired, but he was not there. The search for the missing teenager bore no fruit that day; however, the following day, they went to the Number 51 Police Station and made a report.
The Police did not provide any information to them. However, one officer suggested that they check with the New Amsterdam Hospital. It was there that they were able to identify the body, he said.