On October 19, 2017, President David Granger invoked presidential powers under the constitution that allowed him to supersede a provision requiring nominees from the opposition leader, and autonomously appointed former Guyana Supreme Court Justice, James Patterson, as Chairman of the Guyana Elections.
The November 22, 2017 edition of Demerara Waves online reported that in an email to Alliance For Change (AFC) party leaders in Guyana, in reaction to Justice Patterson’s appointment, Dr. Rohan Somar, head of the AFC New York Chapter, said, inter alia, that “This unilateral appointment by the PNC Executive President of an Afro Guyanese GECOM Chairman, whether right or wrong, rips open the scars of PNC rigging the election. You have just thrown red meat to the notion of ‘PNC rigging election’ which, in my view, will cause to forever lose Indo-Guyanese support at the polls.”
The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) deems the comments attributed to Dr. Somar to be racist and offensive, and strongly condemns them. Dr. Rohan Somar is the head of the New York Chapter of the AFC and was apparently communicating with the party’s leadership in that capacity. His suggestion that an African-Guyanese Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission will automatically cause the multi-ethnic coalition government to lose Indian votes is the text book definition of racism.
There were three Chairmen of the Elections Commission over the last twenty years. All three were of East Indian descent. No one judged their performance or competence based on their race. That would have been equally condemnable. Dr. Somar’s discernible prejudices apparently make him oblivious of the fact that no one ethnicity or race has an inherent right, or is more competent, to govern Guyana or hold any particular constitutional office, over the others.
The AFC, of which Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is an executive member and Vice President and Minister of National Security, Khemraj Ramjattan is chairman, is a part of Guyana’s ruling coalition government. Dr. Somar’s statements have tainted the party and its leadership, which has remained silent on the matter. This is a moment for leaders to stand for principle in the interest of Guyanese national harmony. The AFC’s silence can be interpreted or misinterpreted for tacit support of these reckless remarks. If the AFC does not support Dr. Somar’s comments, then CGID calls on the party to repudiate them.
Director of Communications
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy