DPP must ensure justice is done following Munir murder acquittals by Albert Baldeo
I was very young, but I remember well the Guyana elections of 1968 and 1973 in Ankerville, Port Mourant, where I was born and raised till my migration in 1973 for college. I did my part to get the voters out to the benefit to the PPP and to sell the Mirror newspaper, organ of the PPP.
The general elections were held 16 December 1968. It was a Monday. Everyone was ready and prepared to vote. From early morning, the villagers set out for the polling stations. They descended on various polling stations at St. Joseph Anglican Primary school in Ankerville, St Xavier Roman Catholic in Portuguese Quarter, Port Mourant Hospital in Haswell, Tain Primary School, and other locations to cast their ballots. Port Mourant was primarily an Indian village -- over 99% Indian. There was only one Mixed family in Port Mourant I could recall.
In Ankerville, I ran errands on election day to round up those who had not cast ballots to get them out to the polling booths. There was a list of electors that party (PPP) agents had in possession. At the entrance of the polling stations, names of those who voted were crossed out. The party agents knew exactly who voted and didn’t cast ballot as yet. Being in the company of elders, I was instructed to go to homes and get the non-voters out. I ran from street to street delivering messages and urging those who had not yet voted, to go the polling stations. Everyone came out!
The July 16, 1973 election remains etched in my memory. I remember vehicles armed atop with gun-toting machine guns and African soldiers patrolling the Port Mourant area that day and several days later. The troops set up camp in Tain and Whim and they were all over Berbice, stronghold of the PPP. Their vehicles with their gun toing soldiers and para-military units intimidated and terrorized Port Mourant and other villages on the Corentyne. I was told the same was done in other Indian villages throughout the Corentyne Coast. It may well have been the case all over the country as Burnham implemented his plan to rig the voting.
Party agents in Port Mourant and surrounding areas meticulously planned and organized how to get all the voters out. People woke up early that Monday morning July 16 and headed for the polling stations to cast ballots. They came out in their numbers. As in 1968, those who had not cast ballots by mid-day were reminded. I did errands, going house to house, for the party agents rounded up those who had not voted. Near the polling stations, the agents kept a list of voters and crossed out the names of those who voted. In this way, they knew exactly who cast ballots and how many votes the party received. Since people voted race, it was expected that almost every Indian voted PPP. Ditto Africans and many Mixed for the PNC. Portuguese, Chinese, Amerindians, and some Mixed voted UF (That year it was the Liberator Party with the UF). At the end of the polling day, party agents knew how many votes the party expected to receive in each polling station. They could aggregate the numbers for the entire country for each party, plus or minus a small percentage. the ballot boxes were seized.
Polling agents were not allowed to accompany boxes. Soldiers confiscated the boxes. At polling stations, when the boxes were seized, there was uproar. The soldiers used their bayonet threatening agents who simply watched helplessly as their ballots were stolen and with it the election .
Cheddi Jagan called for peaceful protests and public gatherings, protesting the rigging. The village of Port Mourant came out in full support onto the roads in protest against the rigging. Workers downed their tools. The entire road from Rose Hall to Bloomfield and beyond came out in full support. I remember walking from my home to the road top in front of Rambalass shop in Ankerville on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hundreds gathered on the roadside each day. Armed gun-toting carriers mounted on the roofs of GDF vehicles and soldiers carrying rifles or machine guns stood menacingly directing their guns at us, instructing us to go home. Not moving, they rolled on with their patrols.