End of Chand’s tenure as GAWU head in sight – Ramkarran

Komal Chand

With the PPP leadership irked at his attendance at a meeting with President David Granger on the sugar crisis, the end of the tenure of Komal Chand as head of the union, GAWU is near.

This is the view of former long-serving PPP member and commentator Ralph Ramkarran who in his column in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek entitled `What’s going on in the PPP?’ also asserted that the PPP leadership is in transition and unless they depart in orderly fashion, older leaders in the party will face increasing questions.

Addressing reports of a rift between Chand and the PPP leadership, Ramkarran said that former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s incumbency as General Secretary of the PPP and Opposition Leader makes him the most authoritative figure within the PPP.

“The ease with which he swatted away the dominant influence of (former President) Donald Ramotar, (former General Secretary) Clement Rohee and Komal Chand in serious decision-making within the upper reaches of the PPP after the loss of the 2015 elections, testifies to his now enduring control of the direction of the PPP, last manifested when he secured the nomination of Donald Ramotar as the presidential candidate in 2011”, Ramkarran said.

He stated that Chand had always been a vocal and independent minded leader within the PPP which derived more from his inclinations than from the power base he held as General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU). Noting that the need for restructuring of the sugar industry arose at around the time of Jagdeo’s accession to office in 1999. Ramkarran said that Chand’s positions in debate, particularly in relation to the sugar industry, became more pointed and vocal as time went on, especially during the 2006 to 2011 period when serious problems began to arise.

“But the problems which have been emerging in the sugar industry and the length of time for which Mr Chand has held leadership office in GAWU ? since about 1985 ? have weakened his grip. Thus, he lost his position as a member of the executive committee of the PPP after the 2016 congress of the PPP. Composition of this body is determined by a select few a day or two before the vote and a sufficient number of members of the central committee, which elects the executive committee, are given the word as to whom to support. Mr Chand’s orchestrated loss would have told him that his time in the leadership of the PPP and GAWU was drawing to an end”, Ramkarran said.

Ramkarran, who was a member of the PPP for nearly 50 years, said the first salvo against Chand appeared in the Guyana Times of January 23 which he said is believed to reflect the views of Jagdeo. An article headed ‘Sugar Workers call on Komal Chand to Resign,’ said that sugar workers felt betrayed  following the meeting with Granger and were calling on Chand to resign.

“GAWU is not quite outside the control of the PPP executive because it would normally take cognizance of those decisions. But while Mr Chand is the head of GAWU, it is not fully under the control of the PPP.  By meeting with President Granger, perhaps without consultation with the PPP leadership, and taking a position which may not have been cleared with the leadership beforehand which runs counter to the campaign of the PPP against the closure of the estates, thereby demonstrating a modicum of independence, it has clearly attracted the ire of the PPP leadership. The end of Mr Chand’s tenure as the head of GAWU is within sight”, Ramkarran posited.

Ramkarran noted that he had previously stated that the PPP leadership is in transition.

“Some know when to leave.  In early 2011, already knowing that I would not secure the nomination of the PPP, I indicated to several people, one of whom was in the leadership, that I would retire from active politics from the Party Congress after the elections. However, I was forced to resign before the Congress”, Ramkarran said.

He added that unless older leaders seize the opportunity to exit in an orderly fashion, they will face and have to defend complaints that changes in the demographics of the country are being engineered against the PPP by the forced migration of Indian Guyanese stemming from the closure of sugar estates.

“In this regard the PPP will also have to anticipate its response to migration from the Caribbean when the oil economy brings about a severe labour shortage. These new concerns and analyses will have to be reconciled to the still existing Marxist-Leninist orientation of the PPP”, Ramkarran said.

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