PPP General Secretary Donald Ramotar yesterday said that he was humbled by his unanimous selection as the party’s presidential candidate and said he will stand by the party’s record of achievement.
“With hard work, I think we can have a big victory at the polls,” Ramotar told Stabroek News following his selection. During over four hours of deliberations by the PPP’s Central Committee at its Freedom House headquarters, the three other candidates withdrew and Ramotar emerged as the Presidential Candidate. The other candidates were Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee and Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira.
“This consensual choice reflects the party leadership’s commitment to maintaining party unity, continuing progress in Guyana and building stronger unity at all levels of the Guyanese nation,” said Chairman of the Selection Process Dr Roger Luncheon, reading from a prepared statement at Freedom House yesterday. He said no voting was required as the three other candidates all withdrew.
Ramotar’s selection is to be formally endorsed by the membership of the party at three County Conferences. The meetings will be held on April 9, 10 and 11 in Esse-quibo, Demerara and Berbice, respectively.
The decision yesterday capped weeks of deliberative sessions initiated at the level of the PPP’s Executive Committee. The selection process was consistent with the agreed procedure which received the full support of both the Central and Executive committees, Luncheon said. “The Central Committee agreed that in the interest of complete transparency, if there was ultimately a contest involving more than one interested candidate, members would exercise their choice of Presidential Candi-date by secret ballot voting,” he explained.
“Every member of the Central Committee at the meeting was given an opportunity to express his or her views on the candidate and the process, which was consistent with the party’s constitution and democratic norms,” Luncheon said. “Members were confident that there was a full and unimpeded opportunity for the potential candidates to reach out and make their case to the Central Committee members,” he added.
Emerging first after the marathon meeting, Ramkarran did not respond to reporters’ questions. Asked whether he was happy, he asked why he was being asked a leading question. Asked whether he was going to join the party on the campaign trail, he said that it was a long way from now.
A beaming Rohee emerged from Freedom House and said he was very happy but when questions were posed he said that reporters would have to wait on a statement from the party. Teixeira slipped quietly away.
Luncheon said that at yesterday’s meeting Rohee and Teixeira withdrew from the contest and pledged their support to Ramotar. Their decisions were well received by the meeting, he noted. Subsequently Ramkarran withdrew and recommitted himself to working for another victory of the PPP, Luncheon said. “The magnanimity and political astuteness of the candidates who withdrew was hailed,” he told reporters. Sources say that Ramkarran had come under intense pressure to withdraw following the exit of Teixeira and Rohee from the race.
During yesterday’s deliberations, Luncheon presented a report to the Central Committee on the Executive Committee’s extensive deliberations on the selection process. Presentations made at the Executive Commit-tee by the candidates were also circulated prior to the meeting. The leadership, including all the persons vying to be presidential candidates, recommitted to working together “to ensure another victory and reinforcing party unity,” Luncheon said.
However, the selection pro-cess saw popular party veteran Moses Nagamootoo essentially withdrawing himself, after he had urged that the decision be opened to the wider PPP membership. Nagamootoo, who had declared his interest in being the candidate, had advocated for a system 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. 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.
‘My very best’
Ramotar had been one of the front-runners from the very start and was believed to be the choice of President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is constitutionally-barred from seeking another term. Ramotar’s closest rival was seen to be Ramkarran. There was a heated debate over the method of selecting the candidate with Ramkarran favouring a secret ballot, which it was believed would have been to his advantage, while Ramotar and Jagdeo favoured an open vote.
Contacted yesterday for comment on Ramotar’s selection, President Jagdeo said that he would respond to issues raised at a press conference. He had indicated last week that he would hold one shortly.
Ramotar told Stabroek News yesterday that he was humbled by the process and thanked his comrades who expressed confidence in him and gave him their full support as well as those who urged him to step up to the challenge and supported him all the way. “I will try to do my very best… not to let them down,” he said.
Ramotar also expressed confidence in another PPP victory at the polls, saying that the party has all the better programmes and better plans for the country and the capability to carry them out. “I will stand by our party’s record of achievement,” he said, while adding that they have demonstrated that they can get things done. While he noted that the whole process is still to be completed, Ramotar said that the PPP’s manifesto is being worked on.
Questioned on when he was going to hit the campaign trail, Ramotar said that this will depend on the election date. He said that as far as he was aware the Guyana Elections Commis-sion has said that it will be ready by September and elections should be held between then and December. Whenever the date is set, the party will be ready, he said.
In a comment on Ramotar’s selection, Agriculture Minster Robert Persaud said that he was proud that the process resulted in a unanimous selection. He said that the party has depth, “given that there are several competent persons fit for the Office of the President of Guyana.” The identification of Ramotar, he said, will certainly position the PPP/C for another victory and continued progress in Guyana. “As a young leader of our party and someone who supported Ramotar, I can assure the young people that their issues and agendas will continue to be advanced as we continue the transformation programme in our country,” said Persaud.
Meantime, on the question of the Prime Ministerial Candidate, Luncheon had said that the matter would be undertaken at “some subsequent discussions of the stakeholders” while Ramotar said that this bridge will be crossed when it is reached.
With his selection, Ramotar will join the PNCR’s David Granger and the AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan, who have been identified as their parties’ candidates to contest for the presidency.
Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar, according to a biographic sketch provided by Freedom House, was born on October, 22, 1950, in the village of Caria Caria on the Essequibo River, to Sam Ramotar and Olive Constantine. His father was a Timber Grant operator and his mother a housewife. He has eight siblings.
Ramotar is an economist by training. The sketch said that he received his primary education at Caria Caria Congregational School and the St. Andrew’s Primary School. He later pursued studies at the Government Technical Institute and went on to become a graduate of the Department of Econo-mics, Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Guyana. He also pursued studies in what was then the Soviet Union.
He began his working career on his father’s timber grant. Between 1966 and 1975, he worked at GIMPEX, the commercial arm of the PPP. In 1975, the sketch said, he was appointed Manager of Freedom House—a position that he held for eight years.
Having joined the PPP in 1967, Ramotar has been in the leadership of the party since 1979, when he was elected to the Central Committee. The sketch said that he became a member of the Executive Committee of the PPP in 1983 and assumed the position of Executive Secretary of the party one year after the PPP was restored to office in 1992. He became the General Secretary in March 1997, when late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan passed away.
Ramotar has had extensive experience within the party and has represented it on numerous occasions overseas. According to the biographic data, he was also a member of the ACP- EU Joint Parlia-mentary Assembly and a Bureau member of that organisation and a serving member of Guyana’s National Assembly since 1992. Ramotar has also served on several Corporate Boards, including that of the Guyana Sugar Corporation since 1992.
Ramotar is the husband of Deolatchmee Ramotar and the father of three.