Guyana to hold elections Nov. 28

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 1/31/2013, 1:01 p.m.

Citizens of the Caribbean trade bloc nation of Guyana will vote for a new government on Nov. 28 in a scenario that may represent the best chance for a combined opposition group to unseat the governing East Indian-dominated People's Progressive Party (PPP) after 19 consecutive years in office amidst credible allegations of corruption, encouraging the narco trade and discrimination against Guyanese of African descent, among other ills.

Barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, President Bharrat Jagdeo Sunday afternoon issued a proclamation naming the date and giving political parties just over six weeks to nominate candidates for the 65-seat Parliament and get their campaign into full gear.

The campaign comes in the midst of a libel case involving Jagdeo and newspaper commentator and university professor Freddie Kissoon, which has brought out some interesting facts about which racial group gets the most contracts, infrastructure projects in their home areas and high-paying top jobs.

So far, the overwhelming evidence points to Indians being given special treatment and Blacks being largely ignored. Of the more than a dozen ambassadors serving overseas, none is Afro-Guyanese, and the main witness at the trial has made it clear the Hindu-led administration does not think that any Afro-Guyanese is qualified to represent the country of 750,000.

The cause could become a key campaign issue.

To political observers, the date was no surprise, as the business community had been lobbying for authorities to get it out of the way so they'd have enough time to cash in on the busy Christmas season.

Jagdeo, meanwhile, bowed to growing international and domestic pressure to temporarily lift a four-month ban imposed on an opposition television station for allegedly slandering a close friend and confidante of the head of government in a commentary aired earlier this year.

CNS-TV 6 was forced to shut down its transmitters last week after Jagdeo imposed the ban on the station, which also gave generous airtime to opposition parties and commentators, triggering criticism that its closure was timed to give the PPP a clear advantage in the run-up to Nov. 28.

Bishop Juan Edghill, the head of the controversial Ethnic Relations Commission who said he had been slandered in the commentary, which had referred to him as a political stooge with a criminal past, has already sued station owner Chandra Narine Sharma for $500,000, so its closure puzzled critics and even the most loyal of PPP supporters, who saw the punishment as an overkill.

The station will be allowed to resume itsprograms immediately but must close again on Dec. 1 to continue serving its "sentence."

"What I've decided to do is allow Sharma to broadcast for the next two months and start the suspension on December 1 so that they don't have any excuse for another defeat. I want to take away any excuse that they would have to create violence or enmity. We want them to participate so we can thrash their asses," Jagdeo said.

Jagdeo's final term in office has been marked by widespread and credible allegations of corruption, generous encouragement to the narco trade and political high-handedness-points the seven-party A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has been pounding on the campaign trail and during district meet-and-greet sessions with citizens.

Retired Afro army commander Brig. Gen. David Granger is leading the APNU, which has been gaining traction but will now need to lift its national profile to cash in on the best chance to rid the country of the PPP.