Amid accusations that he had not criticised the party while he was in it, former PPP stalwart Ralph Ramkarran has released excerpts of a March 2006 presentation at Freedom House in which he expressed grave concern about the security situation in the country and the need for multiple views on matters of public interest.
In his column in the last Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran noted that critics in and out of the PPP have accused him of only recently finding his voice. He cited a ‘source’ in a newspaper (a reference to the Guyana Times) which promotes (former President) Dr (Bharrat) Jagdeo, whose identity can be easily discerned, and more recently PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee in his letter on April 3 in SN, in defence of Jagdeo. Ramkarran contended that Rohee’s letter did not say a word about the belittling of President Ramotar in a supposed poll reported in the Guyana Times and the Guyana Chronicle, “reinforcing my contention about Dr Jagdeo’s grip over the PPP.”
He said that the unjustified criticism, proven to be erroneous from what follows, relieves him from any further obligation to retain confidences of the PPP leadership. He adverted to a 4,275-word presentation to a Central Committee meeting of the PPP on or about March 25, 2006, which he said that Rohee saw in draft and changed before he (Ramkarran) read it.
“It demonstrates that the accusation that I never spoke out is false and known by Mr Rohee and Dr Jagdeo to be false. I spoke out and responded in writing on many other occasions on many issues. These will be revealed and other appropriate responses made from time to time in self defence, or whenever Dr Jagdeo chooses to ‘have the last laugh,’ as predicted by Mr Rohee (in his letter),” Ramkarran said.
The excerpt pointed to the importance of a multitude of views being expressed on national issues and how the expression of those views in the party were perceived as attacks and sparked angry recriminations.
“The expression of different views does not harm party unity; it is, on the contrary, vital to the maintenance of party unity and the building of consensus. It is only when members have the opportunity of fully expressing their views without being quickly dismissed or responded to with hostility that they can be satisfied that they are being heard and their concerns addressed. Only then will they sign on to a decision and defend it willingly and gladly…
“[This is not the case] today. Criticisms of or questions about policies or positions, however mildly expressed, are often conceived to be ‘attacks’ which are sometimes responded to with angry ‘counter attacks.’ As a result some members of the party leadership and others refrain from open debate or from raising concerns for fear of being insulted or humiliated in the presence of others or of being ‘pilloried’ which one Minister was publicly threatened with. Many, like the Minister, take the silent way out…,” Ramkarran had said.
Ramkarran then addressed the security situation in the country at that point which had been grave as a result of continuing bandit attacks on the East Coast and East Bank. He had also raised concern about whether leaders of the party would be at risk. Weeks later, then Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, several of his family members and a guard were murdered in a still unsolved crime.
Ramkarran’s presentation then had said:
“The security situation is uppermost in peoples’ minds. Everyone is terrified out of his/her wits because of the gruesome violence in Agricola, the massive theft of arms from the army, regular killings allegedly by the Buxton terrorists and weekly, wanton killings by armed robbers…
“A report [on the Agricola violence] was given by Cde Gail [Teixeira] which revealed no information or analysis of any significance, so we are none the wiser. One member requested that the President should speak to the issue but he declined to do so. The newspapers or private individuals involved in speculation are the only source of information and analysis available for the executive leadership of the party…
“Our party and its leaders need to know the real situation so that we can assess if the party or individuals are in danger so that contingency plans can be made, if possible, or comrades warned or reassured. I absolutely reject the notion that a tiny coterie of comrades in the government can determine for the leadership of the PPP, what information we can or cannot have when the existence of our party and the lives of our leaders may be in issue. If for want of information our party or any member is harmed, those who are responsible for withholding it would have to bear the responsibility…,” Ramkarran had said.
Ramkarran, who quit the party after nearly 50 years of membership, said that Sawh, who was present at the meeting, was assassinated, along with other relatives, on April 22, less than four weeks after the presentation was made. Ramkarran said that the matter of responsibility has never been discussed or admitted. He added that no explanation was offered to the minister’s family or relatives for the failure of the PPP’s leadership to “heed the potential dangers which I raised. All that happened after I finished speaking was, as expected, an irrational torrent of abuse from then president (now Dr) Jagdeo. I have notes of what he said which I will publish while he is having his ‘last laugh.’ Had there been a serious discussion and assessment, based on information, and all leaders alerted to the dangers and steps taken to enhance security, the latter of which happened afterwards, could this tragedy have been avoided?
“Consultation has always been the cornerstone and foundation of the party’s method of work. I get the impression that in the recent past consultation is seen as a tedious and unnecessary humbug or worse. Extensive consultation has never failed us and has kept us on a firm and steady path which has helped us to maintain internal party democracy, unity, regain political office [and] do wonderful work for the people of Guyana. But we will lose it all if we jeopardise the most basic and fundamental tenets of our party. I urge introspection and the return to tried and tested principles of organisation…”
Ramkarran then went on to discuss the lack of accountability of the government to the party on the crime situation.
“The attitude of the government to the party on the crime situation which I referred to above is a prime example of lack of accountability…If we allow this situation to continue we will lose our self-respect and worse, the respect of our members and supporters and justifiably so.
“Executive (government) control of matters with political implications without the party being fully engaged will result in continuing harm to party/government relations and mistakes, like the occasion when the party abstained on a motion, and its own motion at that, to hold an inquiry into the assassination of Walter Rodney, which is an issue we are still to hear about. There can be more serious mistakes resulting in dangerous consequences…,” Ramkarran said.
In his presentation, Ramkarran noted there was no good time to raise difficult matters but that he would be failing in his duty unless he spoke up now on matters which ought have been raised a long time ago.
Aside from crime, Ramkarran had also listed other issues which required urgent attention. These were the threat to democracy, the dialogue process, building trust, ideological questions, alliance policy and others which Ramkaran had said in 2006 was “no longer given attention by the leadership when in fact these matters are now more vital than ever before…”