Should they be chosen as the PPP’s presidential candidate and win office, contenders for the post Anil Nandlall and Irfaan Ali say that former president Bharrat Jagdeo will play a major role in their administration.
Nandlall and Ali are among five who have indicated their interest in vying to be the PPP’s presidential candidate for the next general elections. The others are Dr Frank Anthony, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, and attorney at law Charles Ramson Jnr.
“I consider him to be a national asset and he has a most pivotal role to play and contribution to make,” Nandlall, a former Attorney General under the PPP government, told Stabroek News of Jagdeo.
Ali, who believes that “it is not about the individual but the collective” in governing the country, said the PPP has the best collection of skills to take Guyana forward. Those skill sets include Jagdeo, who he described “as a most important asset for the party and the country, who is by far, the country’s most popular, competent and experienced politician.”
The PPP in its current form, Ali said, “has great experience in governance and tremendous leadership and I am proud to be a part of that.”
With regards to his credentials for the presidential candidate post, Ali, a former Minister of Housing, said that he has been in government and in the national policy arena for more than 20 years functioning at various levels as a technocrat and as a politician.
“I believe strongly in a team approach to management. In this country and in the diaspora, we have enough skill set to take Guyana forward,” he said.
As a state planner, Ali said that working on major projects that fell under the Public Sector Investment Programme which were funded by the Caribbean Development Bank, made him see the opportunities and challenges that face the country and also helped to develop his capacity to understand macro development issues. Among the projects were the national development strategies, the Low Carbon Development Strategy, and the Poor Rural Communities Support Project. He was also selected to head the Depressed Communities Needs Committee which was approved by both Jagdeo and former president Desmond Hoyte when he was the Leader of the Opposition.
On the issue of the emerging oil and gas sector, Ali said that without oil, Guyana weathered economic crises and the economy grew without it. While oil is a great asset, he said, it should not be viewed as the only source of revenue given that the price of oil is very volatile. He posited that oil revenue should be used to stimulate the economy by strengthening traditional sectors and creating new ones.
And according to Ali, national unity is critical to achieving medium and long term development. He said it is not a slogan but has to do with putting in place strong policies to promote the economic and social well-being particularly for communities in distress.
Meantime, reasons cited by Nandlall as to why he will seek to be the presidential candidate include that he thinks he enjoys the support of the party base, he can attract crossover votes to take the party over the 51 per cent needed to form a majority government, and he can attract the respect of even those who will not vote for the PPP.
As a lawyer, he said, he appreciates how government should operate in a democracy, has a sound understanding of how the executive should operate with the legislative and judicial arms of the government and respecting their independence in a functional democracy.
According to Nandlall, basic human rights are essential to the Guyanese society. More particularly from a perspective of building national unity, he emphasised the importance of putting mechanisms in place to ensure no form of discrimination, moreso on political, ethnic, racial or religious grounds because national unity is paramount to the nation.
Having walked and worked the ground for many years, Nandlall said, he has an appreciation for the pulse of the people, he knows their grievances, and is aware of the mistakes made by previous governments.
While oil and gas is a new powerful economic sector, he said, “our economy will remain agricultural based. Guyana can become not only the breadbasket of the Caribbean but of South America.”
While there are many policies he would want to expound, he said, of primary importance is revitalising the moral and social fabric of society.
“I have served my party well, dedicatedly over the years, represented the cause of the party’s leadership and membership when called upon to do so,” he asserted.
Nandlall said that he is grateful and fortunate to be a member of the party of Cheddi Jagan. “I remain steadfastly committed to carry out the ideals of Cheddi Jagan and the founding pillars of our party which are to forge racial and ethnic unity in the country and to advance the cause of the working people, the poor and the underprivileged,” the attorney said.
According to Nandlall, all the policies he conceives will have those ideological and philosophical underpinnings.
Meantime, Ramson told Stabroek News that once he is allowed to, it is his intention to contest. “The Executive Committee of the party is defining the process by which members will be able to contest and there is a possibility that based on the criteria laid down for members, I may or may not be able to contest,” he said.
Of his credentials for the presidential candidacy, Ramson said that he has been a member of the party for ten years, he has good standing and was chairman of the PPP Campbellville group, one of the largest groups in the country and chairman of the Georgetown PPP District.
“From a party standpoint, after ten years of being an activist, I would like to think that I qualify,” he said.
In terms of experience, the soon-to-be 35 year old said that even though he has never held a position in a Cabinet, that does not disqualify him as several young leaders of large and powerful democracies around the world were elected to the highest offices. He said that US President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron were all leaders without Cabinet experience. Obama was a senator for a few years before he became president, he recalled.
As far as executive experience is concerned, Ramson said that this ought to not be an issue. “Former President Donald Ramotar had no Cabinet experience. Why all of a sudden Cabinet experience becomes an issue,” he questioned.
Jagdeo has expressed a preference for someone with Cabinet experience.
According to Ramson, being a former member of parliament, working at the Office of the President with parliamentary responsibilities under both Jagdeo and Ramotar, and running his own law firm in the private sector, gave him some experience. “I straddle a lot of lines and I bring these to the table,” he said.
The candidate matters and the lesson learnt from the 2015 elections in which young people feel betrayed by the leaders of the APNU+AFC coalition, he said, “is that the majority of voters want a candidate who has appeal, who is young and fresh and who does not have baggage.”
The local demographics, he said, show a young population of a discerning group “that you cannot race bait.”
Anthony was not available for an interview and Teixeira could not be contacted.