Ramotar’s Dilemmas

Donald Ramotar, much like, Bharat Jagdeo, has to be one of the luckiest person in the world. Jagdeo’s luck is that he was placed center stage as part of a PPP triumvirate because the PPP leadership could not arrive at a consensus regarding a replacement for former president, Cheddi Jagan. Subsequently, Jagdeo replaced Janet Jagan when the latter decided to step down as president; in effect the presidency was literally handed to Jagdeo on a platter. Ramotar’s luck is that having been handed the position of General Secretary of the PPP by default, he positioned himself to be favored by Jagdeo, whose influence ensured that Ramotar ended up as the PPP presidential candidate for elections 2011. Both Jagdeo and Ramotar were initially seen as non-threatening. Furthermore Jagdeo’s candidacy was the result of machinations by Janet Jagan, which is likened to Ramotar’s candidacy being the result of machinations by Jagdeo, especially threats to the party leadership – to their jobs, to the jobs of family members and to other privileges they currently enjoy – combined with arm twisting of those who have skeletons in their cupboards and fear exposure.
However, Jagdeo did not emerge from the top echelons of the PPP, was not schooled in the inner workings of the PPP, did not climb the ladder but rather was catapulted from near bottom to the top, had a negligible record of political activism and certainly very little emotive connections with PPP membership or deep loyalty to the party and its structure. Ramotar, on the other hand, did climb a few rungs of the ladder, is a consummate PPP insider, is connected to the membership through years of activism and is considered a hard-core party loyalist. Yet during his stewardship of the PPP he sat idly by and allowed Jagdeo to not only emasculate the leadership (alienating/isolating some the party’s heroes in the process, Nagamootoo being the best example as well as publicly humiliating the person responsible for his (Jagdeo’s) luck, the matriarch of the PPP, Janet Jagan) but also ignoring/isolating the Freedom House old guard and presiding over the decay of the party’s national structure, a structure that kept the PPP alive and active during its more than quarter century of years in the political wilderness.
Thus the obvious questions are: Is Ramotar going to have the unequivocal support of the PPP leadership? Is he going to be able to mobilize and energize the party’s mass base? After all it is already known that the well publicized spats between Jagdeo on the one hand and the Chanderpauls, GAWU/Komal Chand and Moses Nagamootoo on the other would not have endeared Ramotar to these individuals/entities, especially since Ramotar’s voice was silent in the defense of his long standing comrades and for many years, close friends. Where would these individuals therefore now stand? Would Nagamootoo allow himself to be used once again as happened at the last elections? Or would he finally show some backbone and self-independence? Would the Chanderpauls be enthusiastic campaigners for Ramotar? Would Komal Chand mobilize GAWU in support of Ramotar? The fact is that, thus far, the only person from among PPP significants who has hit the campaign trail for Ramotar is Jagdeo. Yet Jagdeo is acting more in his capacity as president rather than as representative of the PPP. In this respect therefore could Ramotar be in a situation akin to that of the PNC’s Granger who has no PNC bigwig campaigning for him? And if GAWU does not give full public endorsement and support to Ramotar, would that mean that many of the GAWU members (who are also part of the core of the PPP mass base) would sit out the elections? It should be recalled that a significant segment of PPP support did stay home during the last elections. And it should also be recalled that PPP has garnered less and less votes at successive elections after 1992, even though it has won all elections since.
But Ramotar’s problems do not end there? With the PPP’s national structure in disarray, the kind of groundwork and house to house campaigning that is the roti and curry of electoral campaigns would be difficult to achieve this time round. This means that the door may be ajar for other political entities to move in and claim some of that traditional PPP ground. How would the PPP combat this? And given that any number of traditional grass roots PPP activists have become disillusioned, if not disenchanted by the PPP’s internal wrangling, the neglect of the groups and the lack of recognition for their efforts, would they be open to overtures from other political entities? At the minimum they could easily decide to sit out the elections and could influence others to do so as well. While it is true that Ramotar’s coffers may be overflowing, anyone familiar with Guyana’s politics knows that simply throwing money at a campaign means very little if supporters and potential supporters are not made to feel appreciated and valued and if there is not an viable, energized network to do intensive and extensive outreach.
Then there is Ramotar, the leader. Until his announcement that he was throwing his hat in the presidential candidate ring, not very many viewed Ramotar as leadership material. Rather he was seen as one of those who was kicked up the ladder as a reward for loyalty and years of dedicated service. Now in spite of having been anointed, Ramotar still continues to display leadership that is lacking in charisma, vision or energy, and in fact, simply seems to be riding on Jagdeo’s coat tails. This has led to speculation, in some quarters, that Ramotar will become Medvedev to Guyana’s Putin and that Jagdeo will be pulling the strings in the background. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Ramotar’s candidacy is a one-term measure to foster a Jagdeo run in 2016, as constitutionally, Jagdeo can then do so.
Besides, in spite of achievements, real or perceived, Jagdeo can very well be a millstone around Ramotar’s neck. Rhetoric aside, how will Ramotar address allegations of Black marginalization; the spate of crime and violence; known nepotism; known lack of governance transparency; incidents of government bullying; the erosion of the professionalism of the police force; politicizing of and chipping away at the rights of the media; problematic awarding of contracts and concomitant shabby work; a drift away from the ideals of Cheddi Jagan; the marginalization of the PPP rank and file as well as the neglect of its structure and grass roots activists; the rise of narco-royalty and their connections with leaders of the Jagdeo regime; the incestuous relationships between political overlords and the rich and privileged; Jagdeo’s micro management (in what is referred to as “his personal fiefdom” by Wiki Leaks) et al. Certainly the PPP’s once powerful and potent propaganda machinery is non-existent and the army of letter writers operating out of the office of the president and the Chronicle are, at best, meant for comic relief. The loss of touch with older/retired stalwarts, both at home and in the Diaspora, means that their energy, enthusiasm, skills and experiences cannot be harnessed, as has been the practice in the past.
Meanwhile the fact that the PPP postponed its constitutionally due congress, ostensibly citing the need to focus on elections, is not only further proof that Jagdeo has little regard for the party’s structure but also an indication that Jagdeo and Ramotar do not want to face the wrath of the PPP membership, most of whom still hold stalwarts like Moses Nagamootoo and Navin Chanderpaul in much higher esteem than Ramotar. The duo may also have feared the embarrassment of Ramotar coming low down the pecking order when election results would have been declared for the Central Committee.
In effect is the PPP at its most vulnerable since 1992? Some analysts think so as do its political opponents. In fact, the AFC is on record as aiming to ensure that the PPP does not win a plurality in the upcoming elections, although many commentators and analysts opine that AFC’s campaign is all about rhetoric with very little on the ground to make this possible. Such a result could mean déjà vu for the PPP a la 1964 although the AFC is on record as not wanting any political accommodation with the PNC. And a Ramotar government in partnership with AFC also does not seem likely since the AFC has stated that it will not entertain any political accommodation with the PPP either. So that leaves a PPP/APNU coming together. Shades of power sharing maybe?

About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.