At its recently concluded congress, the PPP made much about the need to rebuild its decaying structures and shore up its neglected arms. Naturally, two questions require answers: why did it take the PPP so long to realize that it had fallen into disarray and who is responsible for this state of affairs?
As someone who was intimately immersed in the trenches during the seventies and eighties, I can vouch for the fact that it was the PPP’s enviable structure that kept it viable during the dark days of dictatorship and rigged elections. It was the many groups, districts and regions that ensured that funds kept flowing, that the party’s messages reached every nook and cranny, and that activists were cultivated to carry out the party’s outreach every which way and keep the party grounded in the masses. Organizers and grass roots activists were the key to this process, people like Lionel Peters, Rick Sakawat, Devo Girdharry, Khemraj Ramjattan, Rohan Singh, Rishiand Bijulee Moti, Joe Boodram, Sandra Baldeo, Swasi Deola and umpteen others.
However, the passing away of Cheddi Jagan and the ascension to the general secretary position by Donald Ramotar, followed by the rise to the presidency of Bharrat Jagdeo, saw the beginning of the demise of the party structure and the decapitation of the operations of the various arms – especially the Pioneer, PYO and WPO. Automatic blame for this state of neglect and disrepair lie squarely at the feet of both Mr Jagdeo and Mr Ramotar. And given how the politics has played out since, it may not be inaccurate to conclude that there was some deliberateness in this policy of disrepair.
The process of disrepair began with Donald Ramotar’s ascension to the secretary general position, which was by default, as no one else wanted it and it was the general feeling that Mr Ramotar posed no threat to the aspirations of the more ambitious. Thus he was moved up to what, for him, would have been an unimaginable dream. Ditto for Mr Jagdeo’s ascension to the presidency – a compromise candidate who was initially a placeholder, outmanoeuvred the more seasoned party leaders to take control of the party machinery and to make the older heads beholden to him via economic dependency and strategic use of their children who were given plum jobs. Also it is alleged that dossiers were opened on many of the PPP’s old timers and hardliners, and these became swords of Damocles hanging over their heads. Those whose dossiers were almost bare were forced out – Khemraj Ramjattan, Moses Nagamootoo and now Ralph Ramkarran. Meanwhile it became an open secret that Mr Jagdeo’s New York, Toronto and UK jaunts were mostly backyard BBQs and social hob-nobbing with the boys – prominent businessmen and professionals – rather than the mass public meetings, to inform and interact with ordinary Guyanese, that typified the visits of Cheddi Jagan.
When Mr Jagdeo’s push for a third elected term came up against the constitution, Mr Ramotar assumed strategic possibilities, because he would have been seen as more malleable than any of the more deserving aspirants. As has been mentioned many times before, he was Guyana’s Ramotar/Medvedev to Jagdeo/Putin. The fact that the two notched up first and second places, at the usually orchestrated Central Committee elections, is seen by some as proof that the Medvedev/Putin dynamic is still in vogue. However, others argue that congress deliberations, especially as it relates to public acceptance that the party had fallen into disrepair (a historic first for the PPP), proves that Mr Ramotar is beginning to emerge from under Mr Jagdeo’s shadow and that while he may not be the party’s candidate in 2016, he wants to ensure that he remains in the party’s good books afterwards.
Mr Jagdeo, of course, does not have that need since it would seem that he has already achieved his goals.
The third goal, of course, was a benefit that shaped his post-presidency status. By running with the ‘Low Carbon Development Strategy,’ which, contrary to what the PPP has propagated, is not Mr Jagdeo’s brainchild at all, Mr Jagdeo secured the international stature that has made him a jetsetting leader on environmental sustainability and its economics. Some argue that he’s quite comfortable with that status, but others opine that he yearns again for the trappings of power and thus his positioning at Congress would be a step towards that end. Thus there is talk that he’s gunning for The PPP’s general secretaryship, as a jump off point to another presidential term in order to be able to install another Medvedev, from among the many acolytes that he has catapulted into party.
So which would it be – Bharrat Jagdeo’s second coming or a reawakening of the old guard at Freedom House? Perhaps the process of repairing the party would be the bellwether. But however this plays out, the increasing concern for many has been the absolute refusal of the PPP and Ramotar’s presidency, to acknowledge, much less tackle, the massive corruption that straddles the social and political landscape.
Ditto for bribery that is eating away at the nation’s entrails.
But what about the opposition? Can David Granger move beyond his Afrocentric positions to win enough Indian crossover votes to claim the presidency? While Mr Granger has been able to energize the PNC’s base, he has neither been able to either display visionary leadership nor a national conciliatory approach to politics that should have accompanied APNU’s call for power sharing.
Can the AFC finally reach into both major ethnic groups to decimate the race-based behemoths and chart a new national path? The AFC’s alignment with the PNC, in APNU, was the first in a series of actions that increasingly alienated many supporters, some of whom were already disenchanted by the lack of transparency and accountability during the last electoral campaign. The latest in this series is the Hughes saga. New politics would have dictated that Nigel and Cathy Hughes sever all ties with the principals of the Amalia Falls Hydro Project or resign from the AFC, since yesterday.
Neither has happened and as result the AFC’s politics increasingly reflects same old, same old.