Bisram did conduct surveys in Guyana

Dear Editor,
I refer to Mr Freddie Kissoon’s letter on Vishnu Bisram in the August 18 edition of Stabroek News (‘SN should make a decision on Bisram’).

(1) Mr Bisram is employed by NYC’s Department of Education, and has 25 years’ service. He teaches at Transit Tech High School in Brooklyn and earns a salary which allows him to travel around the world on every school break. 

Mr Kissoon once sent an email to the Principal of Transit Tech enquiring about the existence of Mr Bisram, and the Principal, Mr Kalvar, confirmed it. So this point should be considered settled.

(2) Let us say NACTA is just a name Mr Bisram has given his polling outfit. Mr Bisram might just as well disregard the name NACTA, and call the thing ‘Bisram’s Polling Outfit.’

(3) Bisram indeed conducted surveys in Guyana in 1997 and later years. Proof exists. He hired canvassers to go house to house and fill-in questionnaires. The Guyana Chronicle (1997), and Stabroek News (2001, 2006) either paid in full or partially for the cost of the canvassers who were paid $14,000-$20,000 each.

The above is established, now the real question is what Mr Bisram does with these questionnaires, and his analysis and conclusions. I have questions about this. Lots of people have questions about it. Mr Kissoon and the newspapers should demand a look at the questionnaires. 

 Why do we need polls in Guyana? Don’t we all know that almost every last man votes race in Guyana. I mean seriously, cross-racial voting is only about 2-3 per cent. Just use the census numbers and you can extrapolate from those to the actual results of an election.

The PNC is an Afro-ethnic party; there are only 30 per cent Africans in the country. Indians and most Amerindians do not vote for the PNC. Now do we need a pollster to tell you about the PNC’s performance in an election?

I am very qualified to make these remarks. I did surveys in Guyana in 1997 (with Mr Bisram) and in the summer of 2010. Hundreds of people would have seen me with my clipboard at Bourda and Stabroek markets, the minibus park, in front of GPO, etc, and can confirm that I interviewed them for their voting preferences. I can tell you cross-racial voting practically does not exist. It is infinitesimal – 2-3 per cent only.

With Indians at 44% and Amerindians at 9% of the population – and Indians and Amerindians voting 98% strong for the PPP, it is a foregone and guaranteed conclusion that the PPP will win the upcoming elections. Do the electoral Maths.

Poitical scientists and psychologists who specialize in studying people’s voting behaviour would have no difficulty in explaining this unique Guyanese phenomenon.

(1) Published studies on this topic will show that in all defined ethnic or other categories, a certain percentage (10%-15% -20%) will vote outside their group’s party base. These are the more educated and tend to be liberal and progressive, and would transcend ethnic voting or other group ideology.
The Guyanese population has bucked this trend.

How and why? No one expects all Indians or a large percentages of Indians to vote outside their ethnic base (PPP), but at least accord with the empirical trend percentages of 10-20%. However, it doesn’t happen in Guyana. Even if the Indian is well educated, liberal/progressive, he doesn’t see an alternative. As for the PNC in his eyes, it is still an ethnic party. It is still a party to be feared; it stole elections and it ran a 28-year long dictatorship. So he continues to vote for the PPP.

Now there is indeed a new development in Guyana – the AFC. A very decent party. Good moral philosophy. Good, decent leaders. Its leader is attorney Khemraj Ramjattan who is untainted. Incorruptible. You would think this party would attract the 10-20% of liberal and educated Indians. Not true. Indians still fear that vote-splitting could bring back the PNC into power.

 So where do we go from here? To obtain change in Guyana, the PNC has to reform itself – become a genuine multiracial party, apologize for those stolen elections and oppressive 28-year stewardship of government. This would make it possible for Indians to overcome their fear of the PNC, and make it possible to win over 5-10 per cent of the Indian vote.

The key to obtaining a change of government in Guyana is for the PNC to reform itself into a genuine multi-racial party. The PNC’s recalcitrance about committing itself to reform simply means Guyana will continue to be ruled for the foreseeable future by what Freddie Kissoon calls an “elected dictatorship.”

Yours faithfully, 
Mike Persaud 

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