Guyana Resource Center
Set like a gem in the crown of South America, nestled on the North-Eastern shoulder, defying the raging Atlantic Ocean, Guyana's many waterways reflect the source of it's name "The Land of Many Waters"
Image hosting by Photobucket Image hosting by PhotobucketKaieteur Falls, the world's highest single drop waterfall (741 feet).Image hosting by Photobucket Image hosting by Photobucket
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The Amerindian vote
Stabroek News

The 2002 census showed that the Amerindian population had risen from 46,772 in 1991 to 68,819 by 2002. In percentage terms it had risen from 6.5% to 9.2%. Given the fact that by and large the Amerindians are the only section of the population not emigrating it would be reasonable to surmise that in the four years since the census the Amerindian percentage would have risen to well over 10%.

As we noted before the previous elections, if any political party could command a large percentage of the Amerindian vote this would be worth several seats in Parliament. Indeed given the well known existing ethnic voting patterns the Amerindian population is clearly potentially the core of what one might describe as the floating vote. Given the fact that the largest ethnic group, the East Indians, are now only 43.5% of the population according to the census it is clear that no party can hope to obtain an overall majority of the vote without substantial Amerindian support.

Though these facts are widely known the only party that seems to have factored this in to their game plan, so to speak, is the ruling party. Of course as the incumbent government they have an enormous advantage and they have been making full use of it. In the first place, the Minister of Amerindian Affairs is hard working and has a reputation as an effective administrator. But more than that, efforts have been made to introduce modern legislation, to give out land titles and to build more schools. And in the last few months the pace has stepped up. A casual perusal of the newspapers for the last two weeks reveals headlines dealing with the issue of land titles, flood assistance, an announcement of a new secondary school, Region 9 communities to get $47.5 million, skills training, the posting of Cuban doctors, a Linden/Lethem road plan being prepared, flood assistance for region One distributed by Minister Nokta and $77 million for hinterland school uniforms. When it comes to campaigning, the PPP does not lack focus and energy.

Of course the opposition parties have no largesse to distribute. Moreover, campaigning in the interior is notoriously difficult and expensive given the prevalence of relatively small, scattered communities and the difficulties of travel. But they have to address this problem seriously at some stage in some shape or form. Whether the elections are postponed or not the necessity to campaign seriously for the Amerindian vote cannot be avoided if there is to be any hope of winning an election. This will demand a commitment of time and personnel and a programme to offer that could include, for example, more assistance with the development of agriculture in Amerindian areas. Those who have been reading Mr Jerry La Gra's series of articles in Stabroek Business on the peanut project will have some idea of what is possible.

There can be little doubt that despite all that has happened, including the floods, the PPP still has the fairly solid support of the bulk of the Indian community, and the ability to get that vote out on polling day. But the new census figures make it clear that that is no longer the end of the elections game. Though that party may be the favourite to win the presidency with a plurality of the vote, it will need to win at least 10% of the non-Indian vote to secure a majority in parliament.