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The “jumbie jamboree”


By Indranie Deolall

Towards the end of her life, my elderly mother’s favourite musical refrain was adapted from the classic calypso “Jumbie Jamberee,” and she would ruefully admit, “Nora gal, you done dead already.”

A now-forgotten Tobago musician, Lord Intruder is credited with originating the famous standard. He first performed the composition live in 1953, at the Old Brigade Calypso Tent in Port of Spain, Trinidad., with the entertaining lyrics about a Carnival gathering of “jumbies” among them “great calypsonians…together in bacchanal in a cemetery,” featuring the catchy chorus, “Back to back, belly to belly, I don’t give a damn, I done dead already.”

Unaware of the laws and the need to register and protect his intellectual property, the calypsonian, Winston O’Conner had the lyrics printed in a booklet but he never copyrighted the piece. Through the years, the song would be taken up and amended by others ranging from “The Charmer” Louis Farrakhan, King Flash, Harry Belafonte, the Kingston Trio and Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and The Wailers, to cappella groups including from Yale University.

Moko Jumbies

As every superstitious West Indian knows “jumbies” are usually evil spirits, for the term is derived from the Kongo language word for fetish “zumbi,” but researchers also link the term to associated Bantu tonal dialects. In Trinidad, Lord Intruder’s song is associated with the towering “Moko jumbies” the lithe spirit protector figures portrayed by wild stilt walkers and exuberant dancers.

In the midst of a pandemic, nervous Guyana is having to face its fears of the present, past and future, with the frightening ghosts of election rigging, emerging once again, in multiple human forms to haunt the country that is some 85 days late with an official winner of the March 2, 2020 polls, which is still to be declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Claudette Singh.

Inflated Numbers

The recount exercise at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre is repeatedly confirming that the Returning Officer (RO) of the largest constituency, Region 4, Clairmont Mingo inflated numbers for incumbent President David Granger’s A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition dominated by the People’s National Congress (PNC) and deflated numbers for their main rival the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) during the tabulation process. Twice in March, Mingo used a doctored spreadsheet and unverified results to announce the coalition as the winner, with GECOM refusing to release its original Statements of Polls (SOPs).

Justice Singh has again gone silent, this time, on what happens after Saturday. The nation waits on whether there would be the expected extension into June, with just days remaining for the mandated 25-day recount exercise, monitored by a three-member team of CARICOM observers and authorised party representatives.

According to figures from The Citizenship Initiative’s (TCI) public service website 1,382 boxes of ballots were counted up to Wednesday evening with only 1,337 of 2,339 boxes tabulated representing just over 57 percent of the total.

No more work stations

Just two more counting stations were added to the initial ten and there will be no more. A statutory and supposedly independent body, GECOM requested extra stations over a week ago, but permission, from Guyana’s powerful COVID-19 Task Force headed by the former Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) Joseph Harmon, was denied on Thursday.

Earlier, this week, the masked Harmon stepped up his party’s ongoing public relations and disinformation campaign declaring in a one-man video broadcast on its Facebook page that the governing APNU+AFC had won the elections, even while stating there was major fraud, claiming that a preliminary report by the party has now unearthed “qualitative irregularities” in a staggering 86,387 votes, the privately-owned Stabroek News reported.

Daming evidence and denial

Ignoring the damning evidence from the recount, and in denial that his party’s numerous representatives had unearthed no such conspiracy during voting and counting, he charged, his party agents have only now noticed “an alarming number of discrepancies that lead us to conclude from our preliminary reports that the results from the initial tally of votes are not credible.”

“The declarations made and on record at the Guyana Elections Commission is that the majority of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 elections were cast in favour of the list of candidates for the APNU+AFC. Questions of the credibility of the process arose and it was agreed that a recount of the valid votes will be done in all ten electoral districts. APNU+AFC made it pellucid that any recount will reveal significant irregularities committed by the PPP amounting to electoral fraud and that the result should put into serious doubt the fictitious statements presented by the PPP and shared with the international community,” Harmon insisted.

Fraudulent attempt

Among these irregularities are missing poll books, and voting for dead persons and those residing out of the country, he contended. “Our investigations have revealed that the electoral theft has been unravelling and over 86,000 votes cannot be accounted for. This goes directly to the credibility of the elections. The unaccounted votes are evidence of a fraudulent attempt to suppress the will of the majority of the Guyanese people who voted for the APNU+AFC,” Harmon raged.

The PPP shot back, “Although the National Recount Exercise is proceeding slowly, with every passing day it establishes not only the magnitude of the fraud committed (for APNU+AFC) but also confirms the accuracy of the Statements of Poll that the PPP/C made public. As a result, the picture is becoming clearer that the PPP/C won the March 2nd Regional and General Elections.”

Seven party conspiracy

It pointed out, “These allegations range from migrant and dead people voting, false ballots, unstamped ballots, missing list of electors, missing poll books, and a host of other irregularities, all of which he dumps at the doorsteps of the PPP/C. He accused the entire GECOM machinery that worked on Elections Day, APNU+AFC polling agents, and the seven other Political Parties that participated in the elections of being in a conspiracy with the PPP/C to enable the PPP/C to rig the elections. Yet in the end, he said that the APNU+AFC has won those very Elections…”

“GECOM can no longer remain silent on this matter,” the party reiterated, calling on Justice Singh “to respond to this devious and malicious attack…on GECOM’s integrity and the integrity of thousands of Guyanese who worked honestly and diligently to deliver free and fair elections-day activities which have been so certified by all the accredited Local and International Observers Teams. Even the president endorsed election-day activities as free, fair, and orderly.”

“Don’t give a damn”

In other words, Guyana is locked in ongoing election bacchanal with its two main political actors, in a “Jumbie Jamboree” and one side again ominously indicating, “I don’t give a damn, I done dead already.”

ID wishes some Guyanese “jumbies” would simply stay embalmed and buried. She notes Mr Granger’s recent statements, that the media should explain “the process embarked upon by Justice (Claudette) Singh is a lawful process and stop using words like ‘rigging’ which means nothing.”

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