The GAWU/Guysuco saga took an interesting turn of event when Guysuco indicated that it would derecognize the union. President Jagdeo subsequently stated that this would not happen under his government but some are of the view that he was actually testing the waters as he attempted to support presidential aspirant Donald Ramotar, whose recent remarks got him in hot water with sugar workers. But this attempt quickly backfired and so Jagdeo then presented himself as the good guy, confident that he would not be contradicted publicly. But he needed a scapegoat and that person was Navin Chandrapaul. The result is that the rift lines have been deepened.
As is well known, the PPP hierarchy had recognized that Ramotar was not presidential material when they foisted the Secretary General position on him. Naturally, given who and what Ramotar is, Jagdeo recognized the scope to do a Putin and in keeping with that strategy may well have decided that he needed to support his Medvedev (Ramotar) re the latter’s article in the Mirror, late November, in which Ramotar touched a raw nerve among sugar workers by opining that sugar workers should not have gone on strike. So while Jagdeo may have been behind the short lived move to derecognize GAWU, he would have believed that he had emerged smelling like roses by subsequently categorically stating, ‘not under my gov’t’. Of course Jagdeo was merely reacting to the backlash avalanche but as far as Ramotar is concerned the damage may well have been done.
Also this entire episode is yet one more battle in the ‘war’ between Jagdeo and Freedom House. Additionally it intensifies the PPP dilemma of having to choose a presidential candidate from among Ramotar, Ramkarran, and Nagamootoo (for all practical purposes Rohee is already see as an also ran) and may have provided an opening for Nagamootoo to reinsert himself into the conversation. For as much as Jagdeo may wish, Nagamootoo will not disappear and as Jagdeo’s tenure draws to a close his capacity to use coercion as a weapon to bring party stalwarts in line is diminishing. Meanwhile Nagamootoo’s popularity among party rank and file grows stronger and should others, victimized by Jagdeo, such as the Chanderpals – Navin and Indra – as well as those who would have been chafing at the bit under Jagdeo’s tenure, (mostly the ‘castrated’ old guards), decide to begin to cut loose the chains that bound them to Jagdeo, then Nagamootoo may well fancy his chances; chances that can only improve if Ramkaran’s call and subsequent argument that the presidential candidate should be chosen by secret ballot if there are two or more candidates, gains acceptance, as it should.
Indeed Ramkarran is correct in stating that secret ballot is a traditional PPP practice at almost every level and certainly so for election of members of the Central Committee, the highest decision making organ of the PPP, although it is well know that delegates to Congress are presented with slates of candidates whom they are instructed to support by their respective organizers/certain leaders and other slates whom they are instructed not to support. Also, one wonders whether secret balloting was used when discussions centered on a replacement for Cheddi Jagan, especially since evidence seems to suggest that Janet Jagan imposed herself after no candidate was able to win consensus support in the EXCO, supposedly claiming that Cheddi had mandated her as successor. At that time Nagamootoo thought he was robbed. This time round, the question is who determines candidate eligibility and how does that process work? Nagamootoo would hope that this process is not arbitrary and that not only will secret ballot will be allowed but that it would not be compromised.
From a PPP perspective it would make a lot of sense for Ramotar to gracefully drop out of the race not only so he can save face, but also because it is becoming clearer with each passing day, that as a presidential candidate he is becoming a millstone around the neck of the PPP. Since announcing his candidacy, Ramotar has developed a track record of putting his foot in his mouth. The latest example is his emphatic assertion that parliament would not accede to an AFC request to debate the sugar industry. Does Ramotar not know that such a decision lies in the forte of the Speaker and not within the ambits of the PPP General Secretary?
In effect, Ramotar’s tactical withdrawal will ensure that the PPP close ranks around one candidate – either Ramkarran or Nagamootoo – and eliminate the fault lines between the government and the party’s old guard, fault lines that have become more pronounced by the GAWU/Guysuco saga. In fact I would venture to declare that Donald Ramotar candidacy would cost the PPP the elections and so too would any move to declare Moses Nagamootoo ineligible. As a matter of fact, all things considered, it seems clear that the PPP’s best shot at returning to office lies with Moses Nagamootoo as presidential candidate. Among other things, Nagamootoo is the only contender who is grounded in the party’s base and who has cross over appeal.
For the political opposition and particularly so the AFC, can this disenchantment of sugar workers with the PPP be transformed into a paradigm shift away from Jagan’s party? Some would seem to think so although not only does Guyana not have any history of disenchantment being transformed into mass political support but also such transformation would necessitate a change in ethos and psyche and one wonders whether there is enough time to achieve this psycho-social goal, though it certainly is worth a try.
But back to the GAWU/Guysuco drama: the Guysuco board, through its chairman, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, claimed that the de-recognition threat was a tactic, never meant to be enforced. If so, this would indeed be the first time anywhere in history that a threat of de-recognition has been thus used, even though the current industrial climate worldwide is becoming more and more anti-union. Besides, how can a threat never meant to be enforced, achieve the desired result? Indeed such a strategy makes little sense given the dynamics of union/management relationship.
Also, the Guysuco Board, through Donald Ramotar, claimed that the de-recognition threat was not issued by the board but that it appeared to have been a management decision”. Does Ramotar think the Guyanese public is a set of dunderheads? How can a state entity management issue a de-recognition threat without seeking the board’s input, especially given that the board answers to the head of state? And, as a member of the board, should Ramotar not definitively know who issued the threat and how this came about?