It is all in the numbers, and numbers don’t lie. Guyanese know that talk of numbers during an election season is talk of race. When the numbers were comforting, and a solid cushion of confidence existed, there was no need for any appeal of any kind at Babu John; or anywhere else for that matter. Or to identify the ruling PPP as being of this or that particular kind of party. Instead, all efforts were focused on trashing and demonizing the opposition. But now there is open appeal, crude appeal (no matter how sanitized), and desperate appeals that start with the numbers. What follows is a close scrutiny of the environment, and utilizes the few available figures, to extrapolate and arrive at some reasonable positions.
First, there is the following table, extracted from a US government website identified hereunder, which presents the number of immigrant visas issued at foreign posts – in this instance the Georgetown Consulate – to local residents. As can be noted, the figures are for the last 10 years.
Immigrant Visas Issues at Foreign Posts
(By Foreign State Chargeability)
Fiscal Years 2005-2014
The total of 49,368 Guyanese permanent migrants is for the US alone. Nothing is offered here in respect of Canada, or other ports found hospitable by Guyanese. It should be sufficient to say that, while the exodus would be nowhere close to the American figure, it would be fair to approximate it in the high single-digits thousands. Now the US Consulate environment provides a telling picture of local movement.
During regular opening hours, there is a crowd. Even the most cursory inspection would indicate that a good majority of those waiting in line, day after day, are Indian Guyanese. Thus, it would be fair and reasonable to state that most of the forty-nine thousand plus leaving on a permanent basis for the last ten years would be Guyanese of Indian extraction. That number could be as low as 60% of the visas granted, or as high as 75-80% of the same total. This would add up to anywhere between 30,000 to 40,000 Indians who have left this country for the United States on a permanent basis. A picture should be emerging, but it is still incomplete. In a land with sparse official numbers available, there is another piece available for contemplation.
Attention is now drawn to a Stabroek News article dated October 15, 2014 and titled ‘T&T has 25,884 Guyanese illegals.’ No one has challenged the accuracy of that number released by Gary Griffith, Trinidad’s National Security Minister. If there are this many illegal Guyanese citizens in neighbouring Trinidad, there easily could be – erring on the side of caution – another 20,000 Guyanese residing there legally.
Further, there might be, perhaps, a minimum of another 10,000 legal and illegal Guyanese who are in neighbouring Suriname. Even further, it is likely that, because of the ethnic composition of these two neighbours, Indian Guyanese are more likely to feel welcome and at home in both places, and there is a strong pull factor. It is not unreasonable to extrapolate, therefore, that combining Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname could present a figure of some 55,000 Guyanese (25,884+20,000+10,000) living in those two societies, most of whom are Indo-Guyanese. Using the same range of 60-80%, as before for the US could translate to another 30,000 Indians existing outside of Guyana, and not voting. When added to the US figure, this means there could be somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 Indians who are not here. This is a not inconsiderable figure; in fact, it is significant and representative of a concerning percentage of voters no longer in the fold.
In the interests of fairness, it must be said that Afro-Guyanese have also departed, but nowhere near in the numbers of their Indian brethren. Also, some of those leaving would be children, but that is offset by not counting any departures for Canada, Venezuela, and other parts.
In addition, there is the Jagdeo factor: He is both magnet and repellent. As magnet, those Indians were already there and accounted for; they are still there. But those Indians repelled by his actions, policies and standards are a growing number and not going back to the party.
The ruling PPP is more than aware of where it stands. It is desperate, and is scrambling through appeals to capture every Indian vote. Even if this were to happen, the party might still be short, and it is why it needs non-Indians to regain its hold on power. Appeals notwithstanding, the PPP appears to be a day late, and many votes short. Remember: The numbers don’t lie.