Calls for transparent voting and democracy rang out on the front steps of Schenectady’s City Hall building on Sunday afternoon, as part of the city’s Guyanese population gathered to demonstrate against the preliminary results of the country’s recent presidential election, which have been fraught with allegations of voter fraud and election rigging.
International observers, as well as members of Guyana’s opposition party, have since Monday decried attempts by incumbent president David Granger to declare victory in an election that, according to reports from national news outlets all over the world, has presented many major, and yet unanswered, questions about how exactly results were calculated.
Across the world in Schenectady, members of the Guyanese community in Schenectady have been watching the fight over the results, mostly over social media outlets such as Facebook escalate and devolve into violence in some cases.
Most people present at Sunday’s rally still had family members in Guyana, and were imploring local elected officials to bring more attention in the United States, and the Capital Region, to the issues Guyana is facing.
Steve Ram, who served as an organizer of the event and is also the organizer behind the highly attended annual Guyana Day in Schenectady, said the idea to gather as many people from his community as he could to talk about the election came to him late on Saturday night.
Using the extensive list he has on file to send out the yearly notifications for Guyana Day and announced that he would me meeting people at City Hall on Sunday to make a peaceful, non-political condemnation of the violence and instability that is affecting so many of his own, and his friends’ relative in Guyana.
Everyone, he said, still has family in the country who could be put at risk, and everyone living in Guyana has the right to fair elections, he added.
“Let us make sure that this is fair, and this is open,” he said. “We’re not here as a political party. We are here because we want to see free and fair elections in Guyana.”
Bharath Arhoom, another Schenectady resident who was present on Sunday, explained how the ongoing unrest after an election, while not a new sight to Guyanese people in America watching from abroad, is concerning, especially when there is a lack of mainstream coverage of the issues. Citing a battle for control over recently discovered supplies of crude oil on the country’s coast, he said it is crucial that the local community be vigilant in spreading word about what’s happening in Guyana.
“That makes you think something is going on. Something nefarious,” he said. “What’s going on in the country is lawlessness.”
Schenectady City Council member John Mootooveren also spoke to the assembled crowd on Sunday, and suggested, with support from Ram, that the peaceful demonstrations and call to action become a regular event that the city’s Guyanese community hold.
Citing his own family members still in the country, he noted that its critical that everyone present on Sunday make a call to their local elected official to try to get the issue on the mainstream radar, both in the Capital Region and beyond.
“Let’s join together,” he said. “Because all of us, including myself, have family there.”
“We are asking all of you here to make a call to your congressman,” Ravishan Kar Ishmale, another one of Sunday’s speakers and local resident, said.
He then led a chant with the crowd, and as he called, “What do we want?” to his gathered community, they called “Democracy: back to him, waving the green, yellow red and white of the Guyanese flag.
“That is the right of the people of Guyana,” he said. “We want democracy in Guyana, for the people.”