A new dawn for Guyana

Guyana’s new president, 69-year-old retired army general David Granger has been sworn in after his multi-ethnic opposition coalition won the South American country's general elections. The Jesuit Superior in Guyana, which is a Region of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, says he prays the result will mean an end to the racial politics that Guyana has experienced under the previous administration.

Guyana's elections commission rejected a demand for a full recount from former President Donald Ramotar, saying that Granger's Partnership for National Unity-Alliance for Change Coalition (APNU + AFC) won 207,200 votes, compared to the People's Progressive Party’s 202,674 votes. The U.S. Embassy has dismissed allegations about irregularities and said that Monday's election were "free and fair".

David Granger's coalition has pledged to end racial divisions that have long marked politics in Guyana. Its population of nearly 746,000 people are mainly of Indian and African descent and last week, the Regional Jesuit Superior, Fr Paul Martin SJ urged the people to “move beyond the racial tensions that have marred the electoral process since independence,” saying that “true progress and development for the nation can only come by including the Amerindian people with their traditional wisdom in the decision-making process".

A better life for all Guyana's people

On being sworn in on Saturday as Guyana’s eighth president since independence from Britain in 1966, David Granger said that he viewed himself as "a president for all of the people". He called for all sides to work for unity - including the PPP - and said his government would strive to improve living conditions for the country's women, the elderly and young people.

Fr Martin pointed out that the Jesuits have traditionally had a strong presence among the Amerindian communities in Guyana: they have been serving the Catholic Church there since they first arrived in the country in 1857. “I pray that the coalition can truly mean an end to the racial politics,” he said. “Our challenge - for the Jesuits and the Church - is to reflect along with the indigenous people as to how they can enjoy a better life, respecting their traditional culture but at the same time integrating the benefits of the modern world. We must also reflect along with all the people of Guyana as to how the natural resources of the country, especially the vast rainforest, can be managed in a sustainable way rather than plundered for the short term profit of a few.”

Photo: President David Granger addresses the crowds after his election victory. Credit: Stabroek News