Political sketch: Raphael Trotman

Up to the time that this issue of the Guyana Review was published, Raphael Trotman was still the only named Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2011 General Elections
A friend Raphael Trotman’s remarked recently that he felt that while the law was his profession politics was his “real calling.”
The commentator was quick to add that the remark was not intended to call Mr. Trotman’s competence as an Attorney into question, but rather, to make the point that a case could be made for suggesting that he may well be the most thoughtful and enlightened Guyanese politician of his generation.
There is a feeling that that Trotman could not survive within the People’s National Congress/Reform and that his departure was inevitable for two reasons. The first, it is felt, had to do with the fact that his attractiveness as a politician had already begun to pose a problem for Robert Corbin’s leadership and that it would not only become a bigger problem in the fullness of time but might even threaten the existence of an already weakened political party. The other given  reason is that Trotman has acquired a reputation as a consensual politician who is inclined to see the political process as transcending the electoral politics. The preoccupation with the occupation of political office which, historically, has been the focus of both the PNC and the PPP is not a political culture to which he subscribes. In other words, Trotman’s perspective on the role of politics was probably at odds with that of the older political order.

Raphael Trotman

Evidence of this is to be found in Trotman’s most recent interview with the media in which he appears no less preoccupied with the role of the Alliance for Change (AFC) which has named him as its prime ministerial candidate esidential candidate (following the illness of its original candidate, Sheila Holder) in engaging all parties towards national reconciliation in the aftermath of the upcoming general elections than with the outcome of the elections themselves. It is a preoccupation that reflects Trotman’s acute understanding of the fact that, historically, Guyana has struggled to find a consensual political culture and that elections invariably spawn worrisome events that are no good for the country as a whole. He understands, as he puts it, that “the system, the way it was designed, is meant to keep us at each other’s throats and by extension, unable to work meaningfully to solve problems.”
That is why, perhaps, Trotman is no more of an idealist than an ideologue. Dogma is not his cup of tea. He prefers to fashion and articulate his ideas on the basis of what’s best for Guyana rather than ground his political perspective in a particular ideology.
It is the absence of the weighty ideological baggage that so often ties the hands of politicians that makes Trotman a consensus builder; and not surprisingly while the AFC enters this year’s general elections on its own, Trotman is not afraid to rule in what the Stabroek News of October 3 describes as “a longer-term vision that an electoral alliance of bringing healing and development to the country.”
It is, perhaps above all else, his openness that makes him an attractive politician. Trotman rejects the propensity among most Guyanese political leaders for sometimes pretending that things are what they are not, unafraid to concede that the approach of the AFC to engagement with both the PNC and the PPP has been among the issues of contention between himself and his political partner and party presidential candidate Khemraj Ramjattan. Trotman’s disposition makes him amenable of exploring the best possible avenues for fashioning a political option to the present administration. Ramjattan rejects the very idea of any pre-elections coalition. And yet, Trotman in his analysis of his differences of opinion with Ramjattan over the issue bares no trace of bitterness in what he has to say. He talks about “tense moments” and the inevitability of differences but maintains an unbridled optimism about the strength of the Alliance.
The difference between himself and Ramjattan, Trotman says, is that the AFC presidential candidate’s is a pragmatist while he is more of an idealist. That perhaps is just another way of saying that Trotman is perhaps less fettered by hardened positions and more open to such possibilities that might appear to be in the national interest.
If it is hardly surprising that Trotman favors a change of government, he does not, he says, regard the forthcoming general elections as simply a vehicle for a change of government but a process that leads towardas what he sees as a new political order.  That is why he says that a mere electoral alliance would be “an alliance of convenience, a means to an end,” that is unlikely “to produce the longer-term results or realize the vision that we have.”
He concedes a change of heart on the issue of an alliance. It derives, he says, from the view of “a lot of people who voted for the AFC” and who told him to his face that they would have none of it. And if, as he puts it, he was “surprised” by the response he has come to understand and accept their point-of-view, so that there no brooding, no bellyaching.
On the other hand Trotman concedes rthat there were those in the AFC who were advocating a coalition and that the eventual decision did cause some damage within the party. Even that, however, does not get him down. “All of us need to find a way to work together to steer the country forward  And to say to one group I will never have anything to do with you is really not the right approach.” Still, he insists that the damage is not irreparable.
What perhaps makes Trotman different is that he is entirely unencumbered by partisan views and never, it seems, unwilling to reach out beyond the confines of contrived political constituencies. It is as if, unlike so many of his contemporaries he believes that there is only one constituency………..Guyana.