Guyana’s Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo possesses considerable skills as a politician. As president of Guyana, he displayed and utilised autocratic tendencies, didn’t care much for the independence of GECOM, except when it served his purpose of never holding local government elections in the 12 years he was president or the four years as puppeteer for Donald Ramotar’s marionette of a presidency.
Jagdeo amassed immense wealth while in office and has become one of Guyana’s wealthiest citizens, all of this in stark contrast to his humble beginnings. This was not lost on many of his PPP cabinet members, operatives and those with political connections. They also became fabulously wealthy as is the case of the PPP’s current presidential candidate Irfaan Ali, who as Minister of Housing also came from hard-scrabble beginnings but now owns a palatial residence.
Unexplained wealth, corruption, bribery, graft, money laundering, narco-trafficking and any means of pillaging the national coffers became the hallmark of successive PPP administrations. Those activities operated side by side with the death squads and disappearance of over 400 Blacks and to a lesser extent poor Indians and those who stood in their way, such as Minister of Agriculture, ‘Sash’ Sawh whose murder was never solved and happened under Jagdeo’s watch.
It is important to understand that what we see playing out in real time with the dispute over the March 2nd elections for Jagdeo and the PPP has more to do with who controls Guyana’s new found oil wealth, access to power and Indian triumphalism than democracy and integrity of the electoral process. The PPP had admitted that in their eyes, there were no Black Guyanese to represent the country as foreign ambassadors overseas. Lest we forget, it was less than five years ago that America, Britain, Canada and the European Union labelled Guyana a narco-state racked by endemic corruption and money laundering during successive PPP administrations and was on the verge of international sanctions for failure to comply with anti-money laundering laws.
Now, every right-thinking Guyanese must ask themselves if the country is no longer labelled a narco-state under the APNU government and no longer face the threat of international sanctions, what happened?
The PPP had a plan to regain office the day they were voted out. The very GECOM that is now being vilified suddenly became important to the PPP in the name of holding local and regional elections. The PPP knew that due to the numerical superiority of their Indian support base, they should win, but were concerned about decreased support from that demographic due to high emigration. GECOM’s bloated list of electors (registered voters) became a gold mine. In a country with a population of less than 800,000 there are over 600,000 registered voters or nearly 80% of the population? The overall participation rate in the March 2, 2020, on a day declared a national holiday was approximately 65%. Even when controlling for crossover votes (very little), which is infinitesimal as evidenced by the totals received by each of the other smaller parties who competed nationally; in areas that PPP won, support approached 85-93 percent. That is an amazing feat…if true. The PPP had to show enormous gains of 2.5 to 3 times the number of votes APNU received in other areas to blunt the deluge that they would face in Region Four, Guyana’s largest population centre and support base of the APNU. Based on the PPP’s own data, they expect Guyanese to believe that they gained over 10,000 cross-over votes, APNU gained less than 500 and the other parties gained a statically insignificant amount of votes in Region Four.
Enter the relationship of Jagdeo and Mercury Public Affairs (MPA). Mercury, no stranger to controversy and involvement with the Russian interference of the 2016 American elections, set about rehabilitating the image of Jagdeo and the PPP. Jagdeo, who will do anything at all cost in order to amass more wealth, is the same person who attempted to hire convicted felon Bernard Kerik (at the time was arrested and under indictment) to lead the Guyana Police Force and reform that agency around the time of the death squads. Mercury has aggressively lobbied the current American administration and members of Congress as well as worked closely with the OAS, who by the way has a lot to account for in the removal of president Evo Morales of Bolivia ( https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/27/oas-has-lot-answer-new-study-disputes-key-claim-paved-way-right-wing-coup-bolivia). Mercury’s game plan was for the PPP to declare themselves the winners of the election, claim electoral fraud against the sitting government and accuse their opponents of corruption being worse than the PPP. In other words, present a false binary choice to the Guyanese people.
Over a year ago, Jagdeo and his handlers (MPA) without evidence of polling data or research, started laying the narrative of PPP as winners of the coming elections after the Charrandass no-confidence vote in Guyana’s parliament. Jagdeo has a ubiquitous media presence in the Guyanese and international media scape that easily dwarfs President Granger’s and the APNU.
As a matter of fact, Jagdeo and the PPP have made direct and specific threats to business owners who they view as APNU supporters and is said to be compiling a list of enemies to go after should they accede to office. Jagdeo and Mercury Public Affairs have operated a misinformation and disinformation campaign to play the Guyanese people for suckers with the end goal of Jagdeo installing his second hand-picked puppet as president to rape and pillage Guyana’s oil wealth. Should this happen, expect Jagdeo to have the constitution changed for him to serve as president again, much like Putin did in Russia.
Make no mistake, the $34 million dollars that Jagdeo (and his “investors”) have admitted paying Mercury will seem like pocket change and a shrewd investment, compared to what they will reap over the next 20 years while Guyanese will be worse off with Jagdeo and his band of kleptocrats in office. To prevent this from happening, Mr. Granger must continue to abide by the constitution, the courts and GECOM being the only duly authorised independent body that can declare the results of the elections.