Why not a female Indian prime ministerial candidate?

Dear Editor,

In an excellent website political analysis on August 5 titled ‘APNU contemplating Rupert dilemma’ SN discussed the controversy of WPA leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine becoming that coalition’s prime ministerial candidate. The analysis highlighted the perception that the hard core PNC leadership was not too thrilled with their presidential candidate’s (Mr David Granger) preference for a female candidate for that slot. Wouldn’t selection of a female prime minister candidate derail Guyana’s age-old preoccupation with race-based politics? Especially if it were an Indian female?

Why are Mr Granger’s views not being entertained in his own party? The  answer seems to again place preference for ethnic showmanship in Guyana’s politics. The selection of Dr Roopnaraine to trump Mr Granger’s preference for a female prime minister only because he is ‘Indian’ will not bring in the desired results. It would be good to know what makes Dr Roopnaraine a vote-catcher amongst Indians? How does the predominantly skeletal African WPA resonate with the Indian electorate? Apparently the PNC is yet to learn it can pioneer racial balance and even more, surmount it. It can select an Indian female who has impeccable credentials for the prime minister’s job. It can kill two birds with one stone. Unless it is consumed with putting on a show rather than sincerely achieving positive results, it will just be more of the same.

Even when both Dr Jagan and Mr Burnham dominated Guyana no one predicted the political rise of intellectual giants Rodney and Ravi. They came from nowhere. But they had quite a seismic impact on Guyana. Undoubtedly there also exist ‘unknown’ Guyanese females who can face the challenges ahead. No doubt we will also hear of those who are also qualified. Democracy will require this. But where is she?

The SN analysis made a significant point when it reminded us that Guyana has not had an Indian prime minister in 45 years since independence in 1966. None was even considered for the spot. Mr Granger wants to commendably change this. The fact that the PNC never had any political influential Indian compared to Dr Jagan’s confidence and trust in compatriots such as Mr Ashton  Chase, Mr Brindley Benn, Mr EMG Wilson, Mr CV Nunes, Shirley Edwards, Philomena Sahoye Shury, Cyril Belgrave, Eddie Rodney and Dr Roger Luncheon, etc, does not speak well of that party’s history. Dr Jagan even proposed the widely respected Dr Lunchen to become the first  PPP President. The WPA and others killed that idea just as they are killing Mr Granger’s desire for a female PM candidate. This growing perception that Mr Granger is not in control of his forces is evident in the rejection of his attempt to make significant changes. Even in his own PNC he is unable to prevail.

At least the PPP/C can boast about its African Prime Minister even as the WPA refused to accept the same job in 1992. That still says something of the PPP’s sensitivity to the racial divide. With the PPP/C’s selection of the first Amerindian woman as Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister without any experience (just as the PNC selected Mr Fred Wills also without any such foreign affairs experience) that party has acted boldly and consequently attracted massive political dividends. Why does APNU (actually the PNC) bother itself with a WPA which absolutely has no proven track record of winning votes? When it was alive and kicking it couldn’t even capitalize on the sympathy vote after the legendary Dr Rodney was assassinated. Can an emaciated, homeless woman ever win Guyana’s political beauty contest?

Mr Granger’s advocacy for a female Prime Minister is outstanding even if he tries to emulate the AFC. It speaks very well of him. In every Guyanese home it is the female who ensures that the house budget is balanced and all get fed. Which Guyanese would not rejoice with a female prime minister who would assuredly temper the historical constant squabbles of our male politicians? She knows what must be available for her family in the mornings.  Guyana cannot lose in such a scenario where they are half the population. Selection of the best female candidate as Guyana’s next prime minister will definitely cut across all racial  barriers.

With all this hushed talk of the PPP/C considering its Ms Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett as their running mate, no one should be surprised. But the Amerindians already vote heavily for the PPP/C due to the massive development which they were getting.  With the PPP’s presidential candidate Mr Donald Ramotar coming from a mother who is a mixture of black, Amerindian and Portuguese, and an Indian father, he can justifiably claim he is Guyana personified. Which serious current political candidate can outdo this racial combination?  How much more massala can anyone add to this candidate’s cook-up?

Yet they also can do with an expert ‘cook’ to ensure they do not burn the pot or damage their battered cup. A female prime minister who is a known PPP outsider will be their game-changing asset. And the PPP/C has an outstanding enviable record of elevating women and outsiders (eg  Manzoor Nadir, Dr Jennifer Westford, Desiree Bernard, Dr Kenneth King) to prominent government positions.
No doubt the PPP/C will seriously attempt to address the massive dissatisfaction and apathy in their Indian core base. Neither President Jagdeo nor Mr Ramotar can explain their inability to counteract massive dissatisfaction and the non-functioning of many countrywide PPP groups even when they are in power. Selecting a new untainted popular Civic or civil society Indian female as their prime minister candidate may be their trump card to reenergize and regain their apathetic, dissatisfied base.

Why shouldn’t a female become Guyana’s next prime minister? Are any such candidates around who can fill the slot?  With all their academic degrees WPA politicians have proven to be totally out of touch with Guyana’s reality and sensitivities. The WPA neither brings any money, membership, or political machinery to the table.  The WPA demanded “equality” from the predominantly Indian PPP/C in terms of half of the ministries in a cabinet when they subsequently squandered Dr Rodney’s legacy and were unable to translate this into votes. Now the WPA demands something similar in an APNU cabinet from the PNC. Does that speak well of the WPA’s grounding in realty?

Guyana’s female voters must get their due in this man’s world. Both parties can kill two birds with one stone. No one is more qualified as a certain prominent female who resonates with the Indian community. As modest as she is, this Indian female political intellectual goes about her life without fanfare. She currently belongs to civil society. She never seeks the limelight and any party presidential candidate would feel comfortable with her. She has been both critical of the PPP as she has been of the PNC in the past. Undoubtedly her patriotism and commitment to

female rights are unquestionable. She comes across as very flexible and would be an incredible asset to either the PPP/C or APNU. With no evidence of political or moral corruption in public life she is likely to energize whichever group she chooses to join. Who is she?

If the PNC and a President Granger were to appoint the leading lady from the defunct ROAR as prime minister he would score a knockout punch such as when Mr Burnham picked a Chinese judge, Mr Arthur Chung, as president. Ms Ryhaan Shah would be an incredible selection indeed. It would dent the PPP/C as she undoubtedly resonates with Indians.

This potential possibility from ROAR was critical of both the PPP and the PNC. But she is yet respected across the board. Being a female and proud of her Indianess she will be a shining star to make even me a convert. She will bring more results compared to Dr Roopnaraine who only brings demands.  But the PPP/C could shock us all and instead make her their PM candidate. Since she does not belong to any political party she would be their Civic to reform the gender gap in Guyana’s political power vacuum.

Coming as she does from a respectable, dignified background it will enliven Guyana’s politics,  highlight the elevation and acceptance of an Indian, a female and a minority religion (she is of Muslim background) in either party. They will boast of enhancing unparalleled equal opportunity, democracy and religious freedom. The PPP/C will effectively destroy those critics who paint it as a Hindu government. Her selection by APNU may give them the edge which they so desperately seek by the ballot box. Guyanese women can then boast that they are now the neck which turns the government’s head. Either way Guyana wins!

Yours faithfully,
Sultan Mohamed

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