Current Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon in 1997 had wanted to be the presidential candidate for the PPP but this gained no traction and eventually the late President Janet Jagan was selected.
This was disclosed by former PPP stalwart Ralph Ramkarran in his column in the Sunday Stabroek yesterday. Ramkarran recalled that in 1991, having failed to structure an electoral alliance with the PCD and later with the WPA, the late former President Dr Cheddi Jagan offered to sacrifice the top spot to Luncheon to satisfy demands by Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD) that he was not a suitable presidential candidate. GUARD rejected the offer. Eventually, in an alliance with GUARD, Cheddi Jagan became presidential candidate and GUARD’s leader, Sam Hinds, the prime ministerial candidate, Ramkarran wrote.
He said that with the passing of Dr Jagan in 1997, the effort to compromise in the interests of national unity, or internally in the interests of party unity, ended. In 1997, Ramkarran said that Luncheon rejected several independent private initiatives suggesting a Ramkarran-Luncheon ticket for the elections of that year. He offered to support instead a Luncheon-Ramkarran ticket, Ramkarran wrote while adding that he learnt of these initiatives after they were made and rejected.
“After his response gained no traction, he became one of the most ardent and articulate spokespersons for a Janet Jagan-Sam Hinds ticket instead of the Ramkarran-Hinds ticket, proposed by Mrs Jagan herself, who pointed out the several reasons why she disqualified herself, and why the ticket she proposed was the most suitable,” Ramkarran, a former Speaker of the National Assembly, wrote. However, Ramkarran said, Mrs Jagan succumbed to “disingenuous and shortsighted blandishments” and the rest is history.
According to the former Speaker, Luncheon’s progressive instincts relating to Guyana’s ethnic and political dilemmas, “unknown because he had to suppress them after 1997 in the new dispensations,” would have flourished as prime minister and later as president. “He would have encouraged the PPP towards significant measures enhancing national unity. But after 1997 he was entrapped in a party, rocked by public unrest, which soon after lost its ideological moorings,” Ramkarran asserted.
“This loss shifted the party’s focus away from any notion or perspective of working class and national unity by meaningful alliances as necessities for national development. Worse, Dr Luncheon settled for a career in public relations and administration and serving in secretarial capacities after losing, gradually from 1997 and conclusively from 2001, any significant influence over party or government policy,” he said.