Long-serving PPP member Moses Nagamootoo says he is willing to serve as the party’s presidential candidate at next year’s general elections, if he is selected by party members through a democratic process.
Nagamootoo, a member of the PPP since 1961, told Stabroek News in an interview on Friday that these were still relatively early days in the process of selecting a candidate to lead the party in 2011. “For me, I’ve said I’m always available to my party and the people of Guyana. And I think that I’ve had enough of what it takes to be responsible and accountable and I believe that there are others… who equally could lay claim to these attributes,” he said. “But I would withdraw from any process that is not fair and in which the membership of the party…[is] not included in the broadest possible consultation,” he added.
Noting that some persons had already publicly announced their interest in being the candidate, Nagamootoo stated that the selection of the person was an internal party matter that should involve all its membership. He said a system needed to be put in place where potential candidates could declare their interest and their availability and submit data that could be circulated to the party members. “I feel that the question is not who, the question is by what process,” he said. Further, he explained that he had deliberately declined to make any such announcement, since he did not believe that the party had these mechanisms in place as yet. “Hopefully I can declare [my intentions] in good form, in due course,” he stated.
However, Nagamootoo also noted that if he did not receive the party’s nod he would support another candidate, once the selection was done in an open and democratic manner. “If I could not become President, that does not mean that I would not endorse someone who is spawned by a process that is democratic and fair,” he stated, while adding that “a leader cannot be created or manufactured.”
President Bharrat Jagdeo is constitutionally barred from contesting the presidency again and there has been much interest about who would be the ruling party’s candidate. So far, General Secretary Donald Ramotar, Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran and, more recently, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee have indicated an interest in being the PPP’s presidential candidate. Nagamootoo has long enjoyed strong support among party members, although he has fallen out with its leadership in recent years.
‘A PPP man’
On the popular social networking site Facebook, there is a group canvassing for Nagamootoo to be President in 2011. The group has so far attracted just over 60 fans. When asked about the group, Nagamootoo said he was aware of it but he was not involved in its construction since he did not have a Facebook account. He said he knew the person responsible for the group and disclosed that he currently resided in Canada. According to him, he saw the individual as someone freely expressing himself.
Asked if he would consider running for president as the leader of an independent party, Nagamootoo said that this was “a non-issue.” “I’m a PPP man, that’s all the party I’ve known in my life and some people say I am predictable, that it is because of my being and loyalty… I find it the most daunting prospect in my life to think I could go up against myself in that sense,” he said. “So far, I have exercised my independence within the PPP; I’ve been controversial; I’ve been contentious; I’ve been cantankerous; I’ve been confrontational; [and] maybe I’ve been different, but I did so all within the PPP,” he said.
Quizzed as to what his current role was in the party, he said that he had been “in a sense fettered from making contributions that could help realise the possibilities for Guyana.” Nagamootoo, who currently serves as a backbench MP in the National Assembly, noted that since 1976 he had been a member of the party’s Central Committee and was subsequently elevated to the Executive Committee in 1978, where he served in an unbroken capacity until 2005. He said that although he was validated through the vote of the 2008 party Congress, he was not selected to the party’s Executive Committee. He said that this decision unfortunately led to him being cut off from an important forum that made policy for the PPP. He added that given his vast experience, he “could bring to the governance of the country the advantage of that experience and wisdom that would come from mistakes.”
Asked about the likely challenges that a PPP election campaign minus the presence of a Jagan would encounter, Nagamootoo said that whatever the challenges, they could be overcome. Further, he noted that it was inevitable that the time would come at some point. “The PPP to its credit has a body of leaders who have all learned from [Cheddi] Jagan. They are a group of capable people who collectively can fill the void of Cheddi Jagan. In that regard, I harbour no fear if we can harness the collective energy and talent of all those who have shared the Jagan ideals,” he stated. If these ideals were embraced, Nagamootoo believed that the party would be in a good position. “It’s not that we’re going into the future without the general; it is that we’re armed with both the sword and the shield of the general.” He said that the party needed to address the issue of political unity in a creative way and said that the country’s politics needed to become “low carbon.”
He also stated that the policy of “lean and clean” had to be embraced more strongly and that waste and extravagance should be curtailed. Corruption also needed to be shut out as well as abuse of power by officials holding public office, he said. Nagamootoo noted that the PPP’s preparation for local government elections was crucial and he thought the poll would serve as an “eye opener.” According to him, as a result of elections not having been held since 1994, “a lot of lethargy has seeped into the system.” He said “what used to be “grass-root democracy has gone into retreat” but the new systems being put in place would reveal a lot about what was happening in the country.
Meanwhile, when asked to assess President Jagdeo’s time in office, Nagamootoo opined that Jagdeo had performed “satisfactorily.” “The Jagdeo era could be characterised as satisfactory,” he said, “I cannot behave like a schoolteacher and give pass or fail marks in all the subjects… meaning in all areas of performances, but I can say overall he is proven to be focused, energetic and without seemingly bothered by repercussions and interventionists…” Nagamootoo further said that Jagdeo “gets into the issues and perhaps because of that he lends his own personality into things that are happening and things that have happened.”
It is Nagamootoo’s belief that Jagdeo should now focus on promoting his legacy. He said given human nature, people would tend to focus on what “he has not done or not done adequately” and that Jagdeo should realise that the work is not over. “I personally would not wish to see him removed from helping the promotion of some of his policies,” Nagamootoo explained. He noted that generally the impression was that when someone concluded their tenure in office, he or she removed themselves and migrated.
But according to him, Jagdeo should not do this, since he was still young and had gained useful experience, which could be used to develop the country.
Meanwhile, questioned about permitting overseas voting, Nagamootoo strongly rebuffed the idea and said that there should not be any representation without taxation. According to him, those who did not live here “should be saved from the burden of running its government.”