Eyewitness: Southern Caribbean…

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…votes in Suriname

By sheer happenstance, elections in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad all happened to fall in 2020. WE started first off the block on March 2, but because of the PNC’s determination to maintain its rigging tradition, our results came in after Suriname’s which was scheduled for May 25.

Trinidad will be voting today and your Eyewitness can only hope they don’t have any of the drama we had to suffer!!

Our countries in the Southern Caribbean can form quite a study of what can only be described as “mixed up” societies. Anthropologists have had many a field day (literally) in trying to figure out how our societies tick. If they do at all!! Take Suriname – which is the most mixed up of all. First of all, there’s the Indigenous Peoples who, like in Guyana, mostly remained in the interior and are now about four of their roughly half-a-million population.

The Dutch that ruled Suriname brought in African slaves to labour on their sugar plantations, like they did here in Guyana. But unlike here, a substantial number of slaves escaped from the plantations and set up villages in the interior jungles – Maroons, we call them and they’re now 13 per cent. By the abolition of slavery there in 1863, the freed African slaves had formed a Creole Society much like Guyana’s with a Mixed/Coloured elite 13 per cent and the remainder, creolised Africans, 15 per cent.

The British were quite free-handed with the starving Indians they’d dispossessed in India and allowed the Dutch to import them as indentured labourers. Their descendants call themselves “Hindustanis” and are 27 per cent of the population. But the Dutch also ruled Indonesia – and imported a number of them from the island of Java. So, we have 14 per cent Javanese. Can you image this kaleidoscope of cultures?? And you though we have it tough with our “six peoples”!!

But since we’re talking about elections, the interesting thing about Suriname is that the various ethnic groups each have their own political parties!! One each for Indians, Javanese, Mixed, Creoles, and Maroons!! And since none of their groups even approach a majority, they’ve worked out a tradition where they form fluid ethnic coalitions!! This was the case even when they had a coup and were ruled by the military for a while.

So, in the last elections, we have the Government headed by Chan Santokhi of the Indian party garnering the largest block of seats, which coalesced with the Maroon Party, one of the two Creole parties, and the Javanese party!!

Their problem is that this “shared governance” arrangement has bankrupted the country.

‘Cause everyone’s got to get a piece of the action!!

…votes in Trinidad

And over in carnival land, they go to the polls today in what promises to be a pretty close contest. While TT has a similar social structure like us, there is one significant difference – a large block of “French Creoles”, which has long lost its moorings from those planters who’d decamped the Haitian Revolution and found refuge in TT!! Be as it may, they’re now simply a metaphor for the monied class.

But politically, elections still come down to race and ethnicity between the Afro-dominated PNM under Keith Rowley and the Indian-dominated UNC of Kamla Bissessar.

Their wild card is that they’re still using the constituency first-past-the-post system, where it’s possible for a party to win the “popular” overall vote, but still lose the elections if their supporters are too spread out. As it is, the two parties both have a similar number of “safe seats” – 15 each – where they’re assured of majorities. The battle is, therefore, for the remaining nine “marginal seats” plus two from Tobago.

Over there, gerrymandering, not rigging, is the thing!!

…rests in Guyana

Meanwhile, here in Guyana, the PNC appears stunned by the blitzkrieg unleashed by the Ali Administration and are still pointing fingers and blaming each other.

And haven’t even filed their elections petition yet!!