As the elections campaign accelerates, I have observed a most dangerous signal. Almost every political leader of APNU/AFC, speaking on the political platform, have been urging their supporters to assemble in large numbers at polling places at the close of polls “to protect their ballots”. The Chairperson of the PNC, Volda Lawrence, went even further. At a public meeting at Kitty, Georgetown, last evening, Lawrence is reported, in the press as telling supporters that they must follow the ballot box all the way to the container and ensure that it is securely locked.
On behalf of the PPP/C, I have worked integrally in the electoral machinery in every national and regional elections since 1997, as an Assistant Elections Agent for Region 4. From this vantage point, I can speak from personal knowledge of the dangers which underpin such political rhetoric. The unfortunate reality is that violence and riotous behaviour are closely connected to elections in this country. Invariably, they erupt from the very crowds which the PNC has historically caused to assemble at polling stations at the close of polls.
In 2015, even senior APNU leaders could not have controlled such an assembled crowd from degenerating into a violent mob that unleashed violence on PPP/C’s candidates and activists which led to the burning of Joe Hamilton’s car and a polling station, erupting in flames and burned to the ground, which was someone’s private residence at Sophia, Greater Georgetown.
Similarly, at a Primary School, located at Better Hope South, East Coast Demerara, which was used as a polling place, an assembly of PNC supporters quickly descended into a riotous mode and brutally assaulted my driver whom I had instructed to pick up PPP/C polling agents and Statement of Polls from that polling place. I am attaching photographs of these 2 incidents to remind the public, lest their memory have faded. There are dozens of similar incidents which have occurred throughout the country, on elections day, to which I can make reference, but I think these 2 shall suffice for now.
I emphasize that these atrocities occurred without PNC/APNU politicians calling publicly for their supporters to assemble at these places of polls when darkness descends. No doubt the instructions were then tacitly but centrally directed. I will be bold to speculate, that this time around, it is an agreed elections strategy and I dare say, that it is a recipe for disastrous consequences. Just imagine if the PPP/C were to be equally irresponsible and provocative and call upon its supporters to also assemble at polling places at the close of poll alongside the coalition supporters. It would be striking a match in a highly combustible environment.
The reality is that GECOM and the security forces of our country are responsible for ensuring the safety of the ballots. As far as I am aware, they have never shirked nor abdicated this responsibility. Therefore, this ominous political rallying call is wholly unnecessary. It may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but the inconvenient truth is that it is only one political party that has historically demonstrated proclivities of violence at elections time which have often threatened to derail the electoral process. It is damn ironic for this selfsame political party to call for protection of the ballots.
I call upon the international community, the elections observer teams, all stakeholders and every responsible and freedom loving Guyanese to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this most ominous development. Our electoral history is replete with examples, to establish beyond a shadow of doubt, that nothing good can come out of it.