I write to pay tribute to Lord Avebury, the British peer who helped to focus attention on fraudulent elections in Guyana, who died last month at age 87. He and fellow peer Lord Chitnis, as well as several other British officials and dignitaries from the Commonwealth, provided the Guyanese freedom fighters in the diaspora much support and encouragement in our struggle for free and fair elections in the former homeland.
We remain eternally grateful for his exposè on electoral fraud in our former homeland and some of the atrocities committed on the nation.
Several Guyanese met the esteemed gentleman in England and lobbied his assistance to take a mission to Guyana to observe the December 1980 elections.
Without his exposure of electoral fraud in Guyana and without his lobbying of UK government officials, pressure would not have been mounted on the Hoyte regime to allow a free and fair election that allowed the PPP to return to government.
Lords Avebury and Chitnis deserve much credit for their work and should have been so recognised by the PPP government.
In New York, we formed the World Union of Guyanese (with Sir Fenton Ramshaoye, the former distinguished AG and current Queen’s Counsel) as the international Chairman; the great Ravi Dev, Baytoram Ramharack, Vassan Rramracha and myself were all part of that group.
In fact, we hosted Sir Fenton who was tasked with meeting officials in the UK (where he lived) and the Caribbean (where he practised law) to advocate for free and fair elections and to urge governments to pressure the PNC dictatorship to hold free and fair elections.
Dr Ramsahoye met with Lord Avebury and other Lords as well as British government officials to solicit support for our cause for the return of democratic rule in Guyana.
Mike Rahman, who was terrorised by Burnham’s henchmen, now a AFC supporter, accompanied Sir Fenton in several of those meets. Rahman may wish to amplify on the proceedings of those meets. Mike Rahman did a lot for the struggle while he lived in England, and like Sir Fenton and those of us who did so much to restore free and fair elections, were not credited for liberating the homeland.
As recounted to me, Lord Avebury related how he personally was beaten by thugs and bloodied in Guyana and thrown in a stink drain as he travelled around to observe the December 1980 fraudulent elections campaign.
Other members of his Observer Mission were also beaten but they persevered in their mission, accepting the brutal assault as part of a cause so they can expose the fraud taking place in our homeland. It helped our mission.
I note that while Lord Avebury was documenting the electoral fraud in Guyana, a handful of us picketed the Guyana Mission at the UN and Consulate in NY on 39th Street and 2nd Ave over several days to expose the fraud and atrocities meted out o the observers and activists and the rigging of the election as we did during the rigging of the July 1978 referendum.
In his report on the 1980 election as well as in his conversation with Sir Fenton, as related to me, Lord Avebury made reference to the fraudulent Burnham constitution and the rigged referendum of July 1978 as well as the rigged elections of 1973 and 1968.
Lord Avebury considered the constitution a fraud that gave unlimited powers to Burnham. Lord Avebury said Burnham felt he was God and the constitution gave him God-like powers to tower over everyone.
Dr Jagan had opposed the Burnham constitution but embraced it when he was elected President, unwilling to change it or even pass a bill in parliament saying the 1978 referendum giving rise to the Burnham constitution was a fraud; Jagan led the campaign against the rigged referendum and the constitution.
There has been much debate on interpretations of clauses and Sections of the Burnham constitution. Since the constitution is a product of fraud, as documented by observer missions, should it not be considered as null and void and should efforts not be made to replace it ASAP?
The legal doctrine of “fruits of the poison tree” applies here – proceedings from an illegal or fraudulent act are considered to be illegal. Lord Avebury supported such a conclusion.
And in fact, in the US, evidence obtained from illegal acts are considered as unacceptable in jurisprudence. Also, anyone who becomes an immigrant or a citizen through fraud can have same nullified. It cannot be understood why the Burnham constitution cannot be dumped.
During the campaign, the coalition said it would replace the constitution if elected. It is now safely ensconced in office. What is preventing it from replacing this fraudulent constitution? The constitution should be replaced with powers being given to the people and taken away from the executive. Power belongs to the people not the parties and power and resources should be shared among the ethnic groups.
As we observe the 50th anniversary since Independence, the government should consider giving honours to men like Lord Avebury, Sir Fenton, Mike Rahman and others who contributed so much to restore democracy in our homeland.
We owe much to Lord Avebury’s work, his credibility, and his international reputation as a decent and fair-minded person to restore democratic rights to our homeland.