Search for PPP candidate still in initial phase –Ramotar

The process to identify the PPP’s presidential candidate for next year’s general elections is still in the preliminary stages, party General Secretary Donald Ramotar says.

“…We have not pushed the process any further,” Ramotar told Stabroek News, when asked about whether discussions had progressed since the end of last year. “We have been tied up with many other things,” he added.

Ramotar said the discussions remained very preliminary and that he expected they would intensify shortly. He said there is no set timeline for the completion of the process but it was his personal belief that a candidate would be identified by the end of the year.

He had previously explained that traditionally discussions are held at the level of the Executive Committee, with the results being referred to the party’s Central Committee for a final decision that would then be communicated to the party membership. He had also said it was for the party to make a judgment-call about when is the best time to settle the issue and to come public with its candidate.

Speaker of the House and PPP Executive member Ralph Ramkarran, in a recent interview with demerarawaves.com, said the selection process is in line with how the party makes all other important decisions. He also said it was felt that there was no need to depart from the methodology, which was used to select its last two presidential candidates, following Cheddi Jagan’s death.

Ramkarran explained that the issue is first raised at the Executive Committee and, after debate on nominations, a decision is taken which may be the result of either consensus or a vote. “When the decision is taken, that is a decision only to recommend—that would not be a decision of who the candidate is,” he emphasised, adding that the recommendation is subsequently referred to the 40-member Central Committee.

The Central Committee, he said, will debate the recommendation and this process could see the nomination of alternatives, including persons who were previously considered at the Executive Committee stage. While Ramkarran said that with a body as large as the Central Committee a vote could take place to decide the candidate, he noted that on previous occasions the recommendation of the Executive Committee was adopted.

Unlike the last two general elections, there is no automatic presidential candidate for the party, owing to the ineligibility of President Bharrat Jagdeo to seek re-election because of a constitutional term-limit. Ramotar has been identified as one of the possible members who could be the party’s candidate. Others who have expressed an interest in leading the party’s list at the polls include Ramkarran, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee and MP Moses Nagamootoo. Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud has also been mentioned as a possible choice for the party’s presidential candidate.

Ramotar, who has been open about the possibility of his candidacy in the past, said it is “fundamentally a PPP decision” and whoever is identified would receive the support of the entire party to ensure an electoral victory. “…Personally, if the party gives me the nomination and shows that confidence in me for that position, I will try to discharge that duty to the best of my ability,” he said late last year. Since that time, other members have also indicated their willingness to serve as well.
Earlier in the year, Rohee declared that he would not “shy away” from leading the PPP slate and noted that he had so informed the ruling party. “Goat ain’t bite me,” he said, later adding, “You know, once you are an altar boy you aspire one day to become the priest; and then you aspire another day to become the Bishop, and the Pope. Once you are a member of the team, you aspire one day to become the captain. I have been an altar boy. I have been a priest for so many years, and the same thing applies to the team and the captaincy. I would not shy away if the captaincy is entrusted on me.” 

Similarly, Nagamootoo has also made public his willingness to be the party’s candidate but emphasised the need for the selection process to be democratic. He said he believed he had enough of what it takes to be responsible and accountable.

However, Nagamootoo noted 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. “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 said. He also said 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.

Meanwhile, Ramkarran has said he believed his chances at gaining the nomination as the candidate are very good, based on a competitive examination of what all of the candidates have to offer.

 He said if elected as the candidate by the PPP and then elected as the President by the people of the country, the party could be assured that its “positive policies” would be continued. “Most important, the country can be assured that unity will be an important factor, that corruption will be tackled from day one, that transparency will be implemented, [and] that we will work as hard as we can to bring unity. These are policies of the Peoples Progressive Party and we will implement them with the greatest vigour…” he said.

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