New faces in Parliament:Desmond Trotman – APNU

This is the fifteenth in our series on new parliamentarians

A veteran politician but a brand new face in the National Assembly, APNU’s Desmond Trotman believes that the partnership’s central focus should be the development of a government of national unity, and he feels that is how the populace voted in the November 28 elections which resulted in the PPP/C becoming a minority government.

“Unfortunately the PPP/C doesn’t feel that’s the way to go, but we believe that we should continue to focus on the mandate which people gave to us…” Trotman told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview.

Desmond Trotman

In Parliament Trotman is part of the partnership’s team that is looking at regional and local government elections, hinterland development and tourism. He said that the nation wants improved security conditions and citizens want to work for better wages and have social programmes in place to address their needs. He criticized the meagre increases included in the recent budget for public assistance and old age pensions.

He is a member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which teamed up with the PNC and other parties to form the APNU.

His accession to Parliament could have happened several years ago as he recalled that in 2001 following the alliance between the WPA and the Guyana Action Party (GAP) he was asked to share the parliamentary seat with the late Sheila Holder, but he had just finished a nine-year stint on the Regional Democratic Council of Region 4 and felt that someone else should serve, so he refused the offer.

Trotman has spent most of his years working as a politician and since 1998 he has been working solely in the interest of the WPA while being supported by members of the party.

“I do believe it is important for people who aspire to be politicians to understand what makes people tick, what hurts and what advances their interest and to work to ensure that you can address their concerns in the most profound manner,” Trotman said.

The 67-year-old Trotman was born and raised in the La Penitence area, and revealed that he grew up in “improvised circumstances” becoming aware at a very early age that political developments were impacting the nation.

He was not quite eight years old in 1953 when the country’s constitution was suspended by the British, but his first sense that something was going wrong was the tramp of the soldiers’ feet.

“You as a citizen really felt ostracized from… what was taking place and I think people might ask how is it you can be affected like that at such early stage of your life. But I think because of my own circumstances… you [become] aware of what is taking place around you,” he said.

It was living through that period of occupation that Donald Trotman the politician may have been born, and the new parliamentarian said that he began to hope for something new and  remembered in the 1953 elections his mother staying up the entire night praying for a PPP victory.

Owing to circumstances Trotman said he was forced to leave school early and began working just shy of his fifteenth birthday, and since then he has been working all his life.

His political work may have begun when he joined the Clerical & Commercial Workers’ Union (CCWU) while being employed at Wieting & Richter Ltd, and was one of the founder members of the union’s branch at the company. And even though in later years he changed employment Trotman said he remained a member of the union as workers at his other workplaces were members.

Later he joined the PNC in 1961, since according to him the “excesses” of the PPP government at the time “militated against the interest of black people.”

“It was important for me to identify with an organisation which stood in defence of black people and in fairness to the PNC it really did that kind of work,” Trotman recalled.

While he remained with the PNC for a number years, Trotman said he eventually left and joined the WPA because he felt the party at the organizational level did not allow the free flow of ideas.

“I thought it was more surface appearance than actual reality and I had ideas; I felt very strongly about issues and I wanted to express my ideas and deal with issues in the way I always believe… and I came to an awareness that the PNC at that particular point in time didn’t allow for that free flow of discussion,” he told the Sunday Stabroek.

He said the discussions at that time amounted to persons paying lip service, and he is not that kind of person, since as a child his mother always taught him to express himself and not to compromise on what you believe in.

Even before he joined the WPA Trotman said he was accused of being a member of the party, and recalled that he was one of the 82 persons dismissed in 1979 from Guyana National Shipping following a strike. He was the CCWU’s branch chairman at the time, and he and the union’s secretary, who was a PPP member, were dismissed and he said he was very vocal and challenged “things that needed to be challenged and the word had gone around.” He said at that time the ruling party had a “kind of spy organisation” that weeded out persons from certain public organisations.

During that period the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) had taken industrial action and had withdrawn the services of its members, and Trotman said the PNC felt that the way to deal with the issue was to recruit voluntary cane cutters.

“I felt that to volunteer, to be part of that exercise was to undermine… the industrial process. I thought that the sugar workers had real grievances and [these] needed to be addressed. I felt that the way in which they could not be addressed is by workers attempting to undermine the militancy of the sugar workers,” he said.

In his organsiation at the time Trotman said he was the only person who refused to be part of the cane-cutting exercise and “perhaps that was held against me.”

According to Trotman since the formation of the WPA it was felt that to properly address the political concerns of all in Guyana an amalgamation of forces would be required, since no single party had the solution to the problem. He said the party’s emphasis has always been on the development of broader alliances with the intention of addressing the wider concerns of the nation.

He said the party’s relationship with APNU is not the first time the party has sought to enter an alliance with other political forces,  and he pointed out that it was different organisations which came together to form the WPA. In 1997 the party contested the elections in alliance with the Guyana Labour Party led by Dr Nanda Gopaul – now a PPP member and government minister – and a civil society grouping of which the late Sheila Holder was a part. There was also the alliance with the GAP in 2001, and Trotman said that in entering alliances the party is more concerned about finding solutions to the larger problems rather than finding power.

Talks between the PNC and the WPA had begun in 2006 when the leader of the former party had approached a number of parties to form an alliance, but Trotman said at that time his party felt that there were more important issues to be agitated for before agreeing on a political alliance. One of those issues was a new elections list, as the one which was being compiled for the then elections “was massively flawed and we felt it was important to have that list cleansed.”

There were other issues relating to the elections that the WPA was concerned about, and in the end the party did not participate in the 2006 elections. The party maintains that the results of that election process were “faulty” as there were a number of “grave anomalies.”

And so it was in 2010 that the alliance talks continued and Trotman describes Robert Corbin’s decision not to be the presidential candidate for the PNC as a “momentous” one as it made alliance among the groups much easier.

“There were a lot of organisations who were very suspicious of him, and I thought that the decision that he made was one of the most important decisions to the political landscape of this country and he ought to be complimented,” Trotman said.

Asked about criticisms of the WPA joining hands with a party that is accused of being responsible for the murder of its founder, Walter Rodney, Trotman said that the people who make the criticisms seem to have forgotten that there was a motion in parliament for an inquiry to be held into Rodney’s death.

“The motion was moved by the PPP and they abandoned their own motion even though the PNC voted in support of the motion, and I thought that was very important,” Trotman said.

He said also that in 1985 the WPA had laid down certain conditions for dealing with the PNC, and among those conditions was the PNC allowing “democratic elections to be held.” This happened in 1992 with a poll which the PPP won, and the WPA had said if the PNC accepted those results it was prepared to speak to the party, and this was done.  In 1990 Eusi Kwayana had moved a motion in Parliament for the development of a broad-based government that would have managed the affairs of the country until all the arrangements for the next election were in place.

Trotman stated that the persons now criticizing the WPA had made some of the most “grievous statements” against Rodney, ones which were intended to hold him up to “public ridicule.”

Desmond Trotman is married with “several” children and one of his regrets is not being “the best father in the world.” He said he did not work towards the development of his children in the way he should have, but instead placed that on the back burner while he remained committed to pursuing his political agenda.

“I want to say to all fathers that it is important for you to take on board your children’s future and to work towards their advancement while you do the other things. I worked in interest of the political agenda while as it is I did not address my children’s future,” he admitted.

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