Even as Guyana’s already longest serving Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds remains tight-lipped about his future plans, speculation continues to mount that the PPP/C will field a new candidate for the number two spot at general elections and there are said to be several frontrunners.
Analysts and observers told this newspaper that government’s best prospects at this time were current Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett or Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony. However others have noted that given Minister of Education Priya Manickchand’s “in your face” attitude, the PPP/C could likely go with her. In recent months, Manickchand’s public profile has also risen sharply via the $10,000 cash handout to the parents of children in public schools. Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill has also been floated by some as a possibility in an effort for the party to show the ethnic balance that Hinds brought.
Asked by Stabroek News about his availability for another run, the 71-year-old Hinds would only respond by querying from the reporter, with a smile, “Will you sponsor me?”
Pressed on if his response meant no, the Prime Minister repeated his question.
Speculation is rife that given its reduced support in two consecutive elections and at its weakest point in many decades, the PPP/C will pick someone who would give it a real shot at garnering broader electoral support. Rodrigues would be seen as someone who could attract votes from the Amerindian community.
The tightly government-controlled, State-owned Guyana Chronicle editorialized recently on Hinds’ political allegiance to the ruling party and even raised the prospect of him bowing out of the number two post in what might be interpreted as a sign of his possible departure even before elections.
“As the country heads into another general election, forcibly propelled by an Opposition hell-bent on a destructive pathway that will cost this country much taxpayers’ dollars through another truncated PPP/C Government, it is hoped that, even if not in the capacity of Prime Minister, Guyana’s beloved Sam Hinds will not desert the party that he joined decades ago at the behest of a ‘brother in struggle’ and will continue his patriarchal role in the governmental construct through which he has served Guyana and its people so long and so well,” the editorial titled ‘Sam Hinds stayed the course’ stated.
A source close to government asserted that Hinds will not be the Prime Ministerial candidate come next elections and adverted to the top five candidates. “Well that is true Comrade Sam will not be returning and it would be unfair to ask him again…he has given so much so”.
“People you may want to watch are Carolyn (Rodrigues-Birkett), Priya (Manickchand), Frank (Anthony), Ashni (Singh), don’t rule out Ashni and even Bishop Edghill,” the source added.
Political analyst Dr. Henry Jeffrey, when asked to weigh in on the issue, said that while Hinds has served the government loyally over the 22 years maybe it was time for him to go in the interest of appearing fair and not having a person serve in one capacity for too many years.
“Sam has been quite loyal to a point where, as I have argued in my column many a time, he has been able to accommodate the PPP establishment of political/ethnic dominance in a philosophical stance with a solution to our ethnic problem in some distant future,” Jeffrey, who was a longstanding parliamentarian and Minister with the PPP/C, said.
“When (former President) Cheddi (Jagan) died and Sam became president for a short time some might have tried to influence him in a radical direction but the PPP and the Civic had an agreement and Sam stuck to that. Sam was never viewed as any major threat to the PPP,” he added.
Jeffrey posits that the question on if Hinds should be replaced was not particularly relevant, for although he does not bring any support to the PPP he has not been losing them support either. However, he said that Hind has been there a long time which goes against the grain of the modern understanding of how long public officials should remain in office and on this ground maybe it was time for the PM to go. His choice of a replacement was Rodrigues-Birkett.
Another commentator, Christopher Ram feels that replacement or not of Hinds does not make a difference to the party. “I do not think it will make an iota of a difference”.
“Of the three (Manickchand, Rodrigues-Birkett and Edghill) the only one I have any regard for is Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett. I think she is a genuinely decent woman who has been able to maintain that decency because of her portfolio. Ms Priya Manickchand’s capacity to abuse a friendly foreign diplomat is one thing but her role in degrading parents over $10,000 because the PPP/C “cares” was both shameful and shameless at the same time. As for Mr. Edghill, I suggest that he go back and read the Bible and see how Jesus Christ dealt with the state and its excesses, and with the poor,” Ram stated.
Jeffrey said that for continuity the party, particularly now that everyone, including the PPP, is speaking about the formation of alliances, may still choose a Prime Minister from the Civic component. He thinks too that it will still make sense to choose an African-Guyanese.
“If not an African-Guyanese, Amerindians are the next most strategic and here Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett can be useful,” Jeffrey said.
Hinds, a Canadian-trained chemical engineer has presided over the telecommunications, broadcasting, bauxite and electricity sectors during his 22-year tenure as constitutionally the President’s principal assistant. He is also Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly.