Within “a matter of days,” the 35-member Central Committee of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will be casting their votes for a presidential candidate to lead the party into the next general and regional elections, General Secretary and Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.
Asked at a press conference when the voting will take place, Jagdeo said, “I am not saying anything.”
Nevertheless, he added that each of the five hopefuls have said that if they were not chosen they will work and support the candidate who is selected.
The five candidates are Irfaan Ali, Dr Frank Anthony, Anil Nandlall, Dr Vindhya Persaud and Gail Teixeira.
Once the presidential candidate is chosen, he said, the prime ministerial candidate will be chosen and that person will most likely come from the civil society.
Jagdeo also stressed that the PPP is not about a candidate but it was about a programme of inclusive governance designed by the party.
“We have not been criticising any of those parties that are being formed because we want to leave room for inclusion,” he added.
The party hopes, he said, that the new parties do not go in a direction in which the PPP will have to defend its record.
At present, the PPP is open to including civil society, he said, while noting that many people have been going to the party asking to work with it to remove the current administration.
“We are leaving room for everyone. If we cannot get APNU to engage formally, we are going to create this big tent for everyone in the next government and that is what the approach is. Every candidate would have to pursue that programme,” he added.
Despite outlining proposals on the subject, the PPP has been criticised for failing to sincerely pursue inclusive governance while it was in office and Jagdeo’s attempts at cooperation with the then opposition during his tenure as president did not yield much success.
He also said yesterday that if the PPP/C wins office, its government will reverse a number of taxation initiatives taken by the current administration. “We will zero rate the VAT [Value-Added Tax] on equipment for the miners. We will remove the fee they have to pay at the gold board. Whichever candidate gets it will have to do that. We will reopen the three sugar estates and work with them to try to get private involvement to get people working. We will restore benefits to pensioners and the children. For me it is party programme,” he noted.
As head of the manifesto committee, Jagdeo invited persons to submit ideas.
Asked if he will take a back seat once the candidate is chosen, he said, “I will not take a back seat until we win the elections.” As General Secretary of the party, he said, he will be working even harder every day throughout the country until the elections are won.
Asked about the role he played in overseeing the Donald Ramotar administration, Jagdeo said he had no formal role to play in Ramotar’s administration and that Ramotar was not his “puppet” as some people would have said.
“I said, this time around I will play a formal role and every candidate said, unsolicited, that they want me to be part of the government,” he added.
He noted that he had also heard that he himself was Janet Jagan’s puppet and now he is hearing that some of the candidates will be his puppet.
He said, “I make no apologies for struggling hard, working day and night to get rid of this corrupt, incompetent useless cabal that has abandoned all of the people, including APNU supporters.”
He said he believes in the PPP, which he called a party for all Guyanese. “I work hard to make sure that the face of the PPP changes. I am passionate about that,” he noted.
Asked about presidential candidate hopeful Irfaan Ali’s academic qualification being a subject of discussion, Jagdeo said what bothered him was that the timing of it on the night before the presentations were to be made, the issue hit the public domain and the fact that some people claimed that he was supporting Ali as the candidate.
“Therefore, I believe it is contrived. That matter would be dealt with. He issued a statement. He has released his certificates. He is awaiting his transcripts, which he will release. That will be fair game. The timing of it was critical. I wonder where it is coming from,” he said.
In relation to ads and jingles being played in favour of a candidate, he said the candidate has written to the Executive Committee of the party and indicated that he did not endorse them.
People were doing things to create confusion in the PPP, he said.