• 24 Feb, 2024

Reflecting on the NCM 2018; Charrandass saved Democracy

Reflecting on the NCM 2018; Charrandass saved Democracy

Reflecting on the NCM 2018; Charrandass saved Democracy

Guyana observed the fourth anniversary of the successful no confidence motion last Wednesday December 21, triggering new elections that catapulted the then opposition PPP into office. Had it not been for Charrandass Persaud, the coalition would have still been governing till this day. Democracy was saved!
The 2018 NCM outcome was not unexpected. Rumors swirled weeks earlier that two government MPs were considering voting in favor of the NCM.
 
It was not entirely unexpected that Charandass Persaud would vote for the motion.
I travelled to Canje (home town of the local MP) and the sugar belt several times between late 2015 and December 2018 to conduct polls, interviewing voters who crossed over from PPP to vote AFC (the coalition) that resulted in its capture of government, to assess the performance of the then administration. Everyone expressed disappointment in the policies of the regime as related to failures to honor commitment to sugar workers, Canje residents, other Berbicians, rice farmers around the country, and other agro producers. They were seething in anger when government gave themselves 75% salary increase in 2015 and nothing to sugar workers and when farmers (rice farmers in particular) were told to fend for themselves. Charandass would have been aware of their grievances and anger. They communicated such feelings daily and spoke loudly. He got a mouthful from them. Several people spoke with him on their disappointment with the AFC’s silence on the closure of sugar estates and other problems and on his own silence.  Many were using the worst foul language to describe him and AFC colleagues. I conveyed to him and other MPs how the public felt about the AFC and the coalition’s maladministration on broken promises. Charandass was feeling guilty and helpless on how to respond to his constituents’ complaints and expectations. He could not face them. He tried countless times to get AFC leadership to intervene on their behalf, but they were not willing to listen or take action. Thus, if there was at least one person (MP) who I expected to bring down the government, it was Charandass. I could sense it in his tone of speech and body language when we spoke. I recognized he had enough and would take unconventional action against his colleagues. He was prepared to courageously break with the government although he didn’t say so specifically.
 
I was in parliament the day before the NCM, meeting friends on both sides of the aisle and querying their views on the vote and how it would go. I even had a brief chat with Mr Charandass Persaud on the rotunda as debate was raging on a bill, not the NCM. He smiled when I asked how he would vote or what he thought would be the outcome. He didn’t want to talk about it. He evaded the subject. He told me the country and the world would know “tomorrow”. I didn’t know by that time whether he had communicated to others his feelings about AFC leaders or how he planned to vote.
 
There was friendly banter on the rotunda among MPs of both sides. None of the government MPs expected defection in the vote. No opposition MP expected defeat of the government. I engaged several of them and none gave a hint that the opposition had 33. On the other hand, Government MPs were beaming in confidence. In fact, days earlier Carl Greenidge and other MPs were ridiculing and mocking PPP leadership to show their 33 to defeat the government in the NCM. They were asking for 33, not 34 MPs as was later presented in court to reverse the fall of the government. I don’t think they suspected that Charandass or anyone else would defect although another MP’s name was mentioned who could potentially defect. (He is no longer in parliament and shall remain anonymous).
 
That evening I left Guyana for New York where people asked me on the 21st what I thought would be the NCM outcome. I told them that I expected that the government would collapse. They asked who on the government side would vote for the motion. I refused to give a name but cited two potential votes. They disagreed citing their reasons why the government would win the NCM.
 
On the 21st late afternoon, I boarded my Delta flight at JFK on way to Paris to connect with Air France to Mumbai. About three hours in flight on Delta, I saw a news item (Demerara Waves, I believe) on my phone messages saying the government lost the NCM. I immediately phoned my friend Ravi Dev (while in flight) who confirmed that Charandass voted with the opposition against the government on the NCM. The government fell.
 
In the diaspora and at home, as reflected in reactions to his vote, Charandass was immediately considered a hero by those opposed to the coalition. They cheered his support for the vote. They were glad the government fell. Friends in India were also pleased with the vote; they fondly remember Charandass who visited India in January 2018. I had asked friends to engage Charandass when he was there in January 2018. I had/have politically influential friends in India and several countries through my writings and activism in the diaspora. The nature of the engagement in India would remain confidential. His name became more popular among friends in India and elsewhere; they respected and admired him for the vote. His nay is known in every Guyanese household in Guyana and the diaspora and through the Caribbean region.
 
In late January 2019, I visited Guyana for India Republic Day celebrations and engaging the public for their views on Charandass. Government supporters expectedly disliked him. Opposition supporters and many who voted AFC were sympathetic with Charandass. Shockingly, some AFCites were also supportive of Charandass. All over traditional PPP strongholds, Charandass was considered a hero. It was felt that had the coalition government not fallen, it would have strengthened its standing over the next two years putting in place the required steps or measures to creatively win a majority in elections due by September 2020.
 
Charandass put breaks in the spokes of the wheel of the coalition to creatively secure another term in office. He single ‘handledly’ prevented the re-election of the coalition. Elections resulting in a change in administration in 2020 is primarily Charandass doing. The supporters of the then opposition, now government, would forever be grateful to him.
Yours truly,
Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a fourth generation Indian. His great grandparents from both his mother and father’s sides were born in India -- Gurbatore from Ghaizpur, Amru from Azamgarh, Sau from Chapra, Mangri from Mau, Bhuri and Bhura Singh from Bharatpur, among others. They all came at different times to then British Guiana (1880s and 1890s) to work on sugar plantations as indentured laborers. After serving ten years, they were freed laborers. They remained on the colony rather than returned to India, married and had children. They used the savings from indentureship to purchase landholdings to cement their ties to their adopted land. They were not given free land. Vishnu Bisram is ninth of twelve children of Gladys and Baldat, rural farmers, she also was a seamstress and he a taylor and they attended to a kitchen garden as well. Vishnu attended the St Joseph Anglican (called English) primary school from 1966 to 1972. In 1972, he passed the annual nationwide Common Entrance exam winning a scholarship place to attend the government Berbice High School in New Amsterdam, some 17 miles from his home village of Ankerville, Port Mourant. He declined the placement scholarship and opted instead for the private Chandisingh High School to which his family pad to pay a tuition. He entered for eight subjects at the Cambridge University Exam in 1977. Vishnu migrated to the USA in 1977 to further his studies. He enrolled at the City College of City University of New York September that year at age 17, studying Bio-Chemistry and also completing a major in Political Science. After his BSc in Bio-Chem, he pursued graduate studies in International Relations earning a MA. He went on to complete multiple post graduate degrees including doctorates in Economics, Sociology, History, Political Science and Educational Administration. Dr Bisram taught for over forty years in various subjects in the US. He also served as a newspaper reporter and columnist for over four decades and is a well-known pollster in the Caribbean region. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling extensively around the globe to research and write about Indian communities. He published countless articles on various subjects in the mass media, journals, and books. He also organized international conferences on the Indian diaspora and presented papers at many conferences. He was a guest lecturer at universities in Mauritius, India, Fiji, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, USA, and other countries. He is a well regarded political analyst on American and Caribbean politics. He makes him home in Guyana, Trinidad, and America and travels frequently to India.