Former president Bharrat Jagdeo was yesterday elected as General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), thereby consolidating his hold over the party.
Jagdeo already leads the PPP in the National Assembly as Opposition Leader and his election as General Secretary would cement his status as the effective leader of the party in the march to the next general elections, which are due in 2020.
Jagdeo won the post after he received the votes of 24 of the 35 members of the party’s Central Committee (CC) at the election yesterday.
A party source told Stabroek News that Dr Frank Anthony, the only other nominee for the post, was able to attain 11 affirmative votes after his nomination by the incumbent, Clement Rohee. Rohee withdrew himself from consideration for the post before the meeting.
Anthony’s nomination was seconded by former president Donald Ramotar, while Jagdeo was nominated by Dr Roger Luncheon, with Irfaan Ali seconding the nomination.
In a press statement issued yesterday following what was the first meeting of the CC after its election at the party’s 31st congress last month, the PPP explained that the election was conducted via secret ballot.
Jagdeo, a two-term president, has never held the post of General Secretary of the PPP. His election caps his return as the public face of the party leadership after its loss at the 2015 elections. Following the polls, Jagdeo, who left office in 2011, returned to lead the party in the National Assembly as Opposition Leader.
Observers also see his decision to contest for the post as an attempt to further secure himself in the face of a number of investigations that the APNU+AFC government has launched into the activities of former PPP/C administrations, including the one pertaining to the Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme, where Jagdeo was a direct beneficiary.
Return to power
Jagdeo yesterday told Stabroek News that he will work within his new post to ensure the party’s return to power even as he works to decentralise the PPP’s power base.
“We will be working to promote the growth of local leaders and decentralise our power structure so that we can strengthen the party and return to power at the next general and regional elections,” Jagdeo said.
Referring to his speech at the December, 2016 congress, he stressed that his party will be welcoming to the young and disillusioned.
“Youth, women, the disillusioned and disenfranchised; anyone who needs representation will be welcome at Freedom House, whether they voted for us or not,” he said.
At the congress, held at the Cotton Field Secondary School, Essequibo Coast, Jagdeo secured the most votes (718) for the CC, in which 35 members were elected.
Jagdeo came out 98 votes ahead of the second placed Anthony (620), giving him a mandate to take the reins of the party if he wanted it. Long-serving executive member and current opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira emerged third in the voting with 583 votes.
Rohee, who had been serving as General Secretary since 2013, told this newspaper that while the post was challenging, he believes that he has left the organisation “up to scratch.”
“I believe I have left the organisation up to scratch and I would hope we continue to bring it to great heights,” he said.
Asked why he chose not to contest for the post and to nominate Anthony instead, Rohee said: “We have been talking a lot about change and young people and talking about making sure people are properly prepared to take up the reins in the future. I felt I needed to step aside for someone younger. He [Anthony] is much younger than I am, he is bright, well spoken, a people’s person with a profession and he gained the second highest vote at congress. All of these made me believe that he would’ve been a good leader of the party,” Rohee explained.
Other secretaries elected yesterday by the CC were Zulfikar Mustapha as Executive Secretary; Ali as Finance Secretary; Anil Nandlall as Public Relations Secretary; Hydar Ally as Education Secretary; Bheri Ramsaran as International Relations Secretary; Teixeira as Mass Organisation Secretary; Rick Ramraj as Organising Secretary; and Nigel Dharamlall as Trade Union Secretary.
Additionally, the new executive committee members are Nandlall, Rohee, Ali, Luncheon, Teixeira, Mustapha, Ramotar, Anthony, Neil Kumar, Shyam Nokta, Clinton Collymore, Collin Croal, Dharamkumar Seeraj, Pauline Sukhai and Ramsaran.
Vickram Bharat, Dharamlall, Fizal Jaffarally were also elected to the PPP Executive Committee as candidate members.