PPP to name PM candidate on Sunday

-Persaud downplays presidential debate

The ruling Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) will name its prime ministerial candidate tomorrow at the party’s third major election rally, to be held at Linden.

PPP/C campaign spokes-man Robert Persaud told a press conference yesterday that the announcement would be made by presidential candidate Donald Ramotar. “By Sunday, we will have completed the selection… and our presidential candidate will be in a position to make an announcement,” he said.

Persaud declined to say whether the PPP/C would retain current Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, a member of the Civic component of the party who has held the post since 1992, except for a brief period when he became President following the death of President Cheddi Jagan.

Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett

In all the elections the PPP and the Civic have contested as an alliance, the PPP nominee has always been the presidential candidate while a Civic member has been the prime ministerial candidate. However, names from both the Civic group and the PPP are being mentioned as possible prime ministerial candidates. Among the names being put forward from the Civic are ministers Robeson Benn and Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, while a possible candidate from the party is Dr Jennifer Westford, the current Public Service Minister, who is said to be getting support from several persons, including some Civic members. Another name being put forward, this newspaper was told, is that of Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, although he joined the PPP/C government as a technocrat minister and is neither a member of the PPP nor the Civic.

The full list of candidates would be unveiled on Nomination Day, when all political parties are expected to submit the names to the Guyana Elections Commis-sion (GECOM) for the November 28 general and regional elections.

Persaud emphasized that Linden was selected to make the second biggest announcement because the administration places a lot of emphasis on Region 10.

Jennifer Westford

Evidence of the administration’s emphasis, he said, included subsidizing the electricity sector at a cost of over $200B annually. Also, revitalization of the bauxite industry through privatization in a struggling global economy was another major achievement claimed by Persaud.

In giving an overview of what the party says “will be the biggest political gathering in Linden’s history,” Persaud said that Lindeners can expect a myriad of not only political presentations but also cultural presentations from a cross section of entertainers. Some of the entertainers he, added, returned to Guyana just to perform for the people of Linden. “Come to linden on Sunday at five o’ clock and you don’t have to ask any questions,” he said.

Further, he said the electorate can expect to hear of the PPP/C’s strategic economic plan for Linden, which includes job and wealth creation and business investments. When asked about the timing of the rally, which will be held a day after the opposition coalition APNU’s rally in the mining town, Persaud said, “We are not worried at all.”

‘Riding on our fame’

Persaud, meanwhile, yesterday downplayed the importance of a presidential debate, while suggesting that the opposition candidates wanted to “feast” off of the popularity of Ramotar for their own gains.

Samuel Hinds

“I don’t want them to be riding on our fame, to be gaining publicity at the expense of our candidate…The only way they feel they can get some attention is by standing up besides Donald Ramotar. They got to wait long for that. My candidate will stand up anywhere and discuss and interact.  Their strategy is they hope now people will listen to them now standing next to a giant,” he said.

When asked about the party’s current position on the issue of a presidential debate, Persaud noted that it remained committed to participating in a discourse involving the other candidates organized by the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Social Sciences. “We are interested in a presidential debate but… we have already given our commitment to the University of Guyana,” he said.

When it was pointed out that the faculty’s engagement was not a debate, Persaud said it was a matter of semantics. “What is a debate?  You look more at the substance rather than the format. at the end of the day it’s the content that matters. To me that is a debate,” he said.

He said Ramotar’s participation in any other debate, including the one being organized by Merundoi Incorporated, would be constrained by scheduling during the busy election season. He further went on state that he was not sure why the sudden fuss about presidential debates, since it was not a prominent feature of our political culture and the last one was held many years ago.

Last week Merundoi announced that it will be holding a 90-minute debate early next month at the Theatre Guild. So far, only APNU’s David Granger, AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan and TUF’s Valerie Garrido-Lowe have confirmed their participation.

Last month, the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) said Ramotar had declined to participate in a presidential debate it was organizing involving the candidates of the three major political parties. At that time the PPP/C had pointed to the engagement being organized by the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Meanwhile, Steve Ninvalle, who accompanied Persaud at the press conference, reiterated the party’s concerns about vandalism of its PPP campaign paraphernalia and damage to vehicles being used by volunteers.  Three vehicles, the officials said, were damaged recently.

The matter was reported to the police and letters of concern were sent to the Guyana Elections Commission.  Persaud urged the police to take the complaints and concerns by the PPP/C seriously. He also appealed to the opposition to sign the code of conduct aimed at binding all to a peaceful election-period.

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