Merit, not race to guide AFC’s picks for President, PM

Nigel Hughes

The AFC’s selection of its presidential and prime ministerial candidates for future elections would be based on merit and not race, according to party leader Khemraj Ramjattan, who yesterday revealed that the ethnic rotation formula used for the past two general elections has been abandoned.

“I have to emphasise that there is no ethnic commitment, but rather a meritocratic commitment‎ that will guide future recommendation and election of the AFC’s presidential and prime ministerial candidates for general elections,” Ramjattan told a news conference.

He said the ethnic rotation principle was abandoned since 2011, after it was heavily criticised by members and a decision was taken during the AFC’s National Conference to dispense with the rotation entirely leading up to the general elections of that year.

Ramjattan recently endorsed party executives Moses Nagamootoo and Nigel Hughes to be the AFC’s presidential and prime ministerial candidates respectively at the next general elections. Afterward, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee said the ruling party would expose the skeletons in Nagamootoo’s closet. Ramjattan said that this was the reason why there has been an effort to stress the ethnic rotation formula and the party was now being accused of abandoning its principles. “They can’t find skeletons in Moses’ closet so they now have to say we are abandoning our principles. Well I say to that, ‘yes, we have.’ And we did that in 2011 because it was never meant to be a long-term guiding principle,” he explained.

Based on the principle, Raphael Trotman and Ramjattan ran as presidential candidates for the AFC in 2006 and 2011, respectively. “If either were to have won the presidency in those two campaigns, then halfway through the said term there would be a voluntary sharing of the said term through a rotation of the president switching to be the prime minister and the prime minister becoming the president. Both these aspects of the rotation principle were with the substantial purposes to meet the ethnic polarisation‎ of Guyana’s electorate and to build trust,” he explained.

20130810nigelhughesRamjattan said he was aware of the criticisms that by endorsing Nagamootoo as the party’s presidential candidate that the party was attempting to attract Indian votes.

“The fact that I, as leader of the party, have endorsed Moses is not only to capture PPP votes. It is to capture votes across the entire spectrum so that we can win an election.

Khemraj Ramjattan
Khemraj Ramjattan

must never compete electorally thinking that PPP has a transport or title over Indo-Guyanese voters or that PNC has such a property right over Afro-Guyanese voters. We are here to break that tradition and to even test the ethnocentricity of the voter too,” he said.

“It must never be seen that the AFC is only after the votes of that candidate’s ethnic grouping. Absolutely not! We want all voters to vote reason and not race! And so we have to put up excellent candidates as president and prime minister to ensure that that happens. I believe that a Moses/Nigel duo is of that high quality and can do it,” he added.

According to Ramjattan, his endorsements are not meant to exclude nominations by others or influence the decision-making process of others within the party. “To the criticism that I am attempting to influence the decision, I say, ‘what the hell’? That is exactly what a leader must do! Be magnanimous and influence the best decisions for his organisation,” he said.

Ramjattan added that during the party’s upcoming National Conference in October all party members will get a chance to nominate who they believe to be the best candidates for both the presidential and prime ministerial positons. He said that a popular democratic vote will determine if his endorsement of a Nagamootoo/Hughes ticket will prove to be the winning combination.

Moses Nagamootoo
Moses Nagamootoo

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