Same old Hammie and the same old rigging PNC

Dear Editor,
Truth, however unpalatable, should always be appreciated; so, while Dr Randy Persaud takes umbrage at Hamilton Green’s message to attendees at a commemorative event at the Burnham Foundation, “I say we should keep rigging to save us from these devils, these bastards, these demons that we have…”, my opinion is quite the opposite to Dr. Persaud’s: I welcome the honesty and the bluntness that comes from the aged politician.
Hamilton Green did not say anything new, offer a fresh perspective, or suggest a course of action previously unthinkable. Green was speaking to an audience that was there to commemorate Forbes Burnham: admirers, followers and protégés; why would talking about rigging elections to gain power offend this group? Forbes Burnham rigged every election in the independent nation of Guyana in his lifetime.
1968 – the rigging was done via the overseas vote. The PNC won 93.7% of the 36,745 overseas ballots. An independent review by the Opinion Research Centre of London was only able to verify 15% of the entries on the overseas list. An investigation looking into the identity of some of the voters amusingly found that two unnamed horses on an empty lot near Manchester had been counted as registered voters among numerous examples of fraud.
1973 – the Army collected the ballot boxes nationwide and delivered them to a central counting centre. The boxes were either stuffed with extra ballots, or broken into and their contents replaced entirely. On a personal note, my mother was a PNC activist, and we (my siblings and I, as children) helped to mark the X next to thousands of Palm trees on those ballot papers in the days leading to that election. Burnham received 70% of the vote, and 37 of the 53 seats in the National Assembly. During the collection for transportation of ballot boxes by military aircraft flying out of Atkinson Field (under the command of David Granger at the time), GDF soldiers shot dead two Indo-Guyanese poll workers, who became known as the “Ballot Box Martyrs.
1980 was a repeat of 1973, and Burnham died in August of 1985. The rigging did not die with Burnham, however; and the 1985 poll was so blatantly fraudulent that the PPP pulled out on Election Day, handing the PNC under the leadership of Desmond Hoyte a thoroughly rigged, fraudulent, hollow ‘victory’.
Hamilton Green was an integral cog in the PNC during this period, and he knows well of what he speaks. We should not condemn a man for speaking his truth, nor should we feign surprise or outrage. What we should do is mark the words and the audience with great care, and ensure we thwart their plans accordingly.
It is easier to treat with this elder version of Hamilton Green; one that uses words, not sticks and stones to break bones, instead of the younger Hammie, whose threats would have sent chills throughout households in the nation, and doubtless precipitate another wave of northern migration. For many, it would have evoked memories of brutal thuggery, beatings, rapes, murders, riots and fears of every kind of violence.
Time has healed much of what Guyanese endured during the Burnham years, but the wounds are still prone to rupture. Thankfully, the old wolf is now toothless, and has a bigger bark than bite.
Editor, as to the characterization of political opponents as ‘devils, bastards and demons’, I would say that is ‘par for the course’ in a game played in muck, and it is refreshing to see ‘Hammie discard his sheepish ‘elder’ frock and emerge as a wolf in wolf’s clothing once again. There is a certain nostalgic comfort in the same old Hammie and the same old rigging PNC.

Robin Singh