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 Donald Ramotar, 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.
Komal Chand had always been a vocal and independent minded leader within the PPP. This was derived more from his inclinations than from the power base he held as General Secretary of GAWU. The need for restructuring of the sugar industry arose at around the time of Mr. Jagdeo’s accession to office in 1999. Mr. 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 surface. 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 who 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.
A recent exchange of six letters took place between Tacuma Ogunsaye and Clairmonte Lye, contributed to by Mansoor Nadir, in SN between the June 22 and July 2 triggered by Mr. Ogunsaye’s claim that Dr. Roger Luncheon’s alleged withdrew an offer made by Dr. Cheddi Jagan to Professor Clive Thomas to be the Minister of Finance. Much of what is below is already well known and some of it has been in the public domain.
Prior to the elections of 1992 discussions on a joint slate for the elections took place between members of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) of which the WPA, PPP and DLM, and others, were members. Agreement could not be reached on the composition of the list of candidates and post-election allocation of seats in the National Assembly. In addition the WPA and forces outside the PCD, insisted that Dr. Jagan should not be the presidential candidate. It was alleged that he would not receive the support of African-Guyanese. Dr. Jagan’s offer of Dr. Roger Luncheon as the PPP’s presidential candidate was rejected.
As expected, the events at Babu John attracted wide attention and media coverage. A front page photograph in SN of President Ramotar belting out Bob Marley’s ‘Let’s Get Together’ was in striking contrast to the accusation by Dr. Bharat Jagdeo that during the 2011 elections, the Opposition APNU had sent drummers around calling on their supporters to ‘let’s get the coolies out,’ or words to that effect. Observers heard these two discordant notes, one a plea for unity in song, the other a divisive rant, and several others this past week.
The accusation against the PNCR created a storm and at press appearances, Dr. Jagdeo sought to defend his remarks. The PPP’s complaint is that it is treated unfairly. The media, it claims, focuses on the PPP and ignores the PNC’s historic appeal to racism. The fact is that when either political party appeals to its supporters to vote for its party, in whatever language, it is an appeal that is alleged to be directed to one ethnic group. In Guyana the appeal can easily appear to be overtly ethnic or be interpreted as such. It is the PPP that has borne the burden of these accusations. But if the PPP is guilty, so is APNU. Both parties have relied on, and sought to ensure at every elections, its solid bloc of ethnic support, while publicly encouraging cross over voting.
The annual Babu John memorial rally for Cheddi Jagan is to be held on March 3. At this time of year Jagan’s life, work and ideas are promoted by rallies, lectures, seminars and discussions. Athletic events and essay competitions are held in commemoration. While he was alive and the PPP was in opposition, there was usually a small, internal, annual birthday event in his honour. After his passing, numerous public lectures were delivered on his work and ideas both at Freedom House and at his home. Many comrades spoke to the work and legacy of Cheddi Jagan. This continues today.
The legacy of Cheddi Jagan has been lost or abandoned by the PPP. It is one of the main reasons why the Party fared so badly at the last general and regional elections. This is not a secret and it is not something that has gone unnoticed. It is discussed with dejection among Party members all over Guyana and with resignation among Party leaders. Except for the courageous few, it is not a matter which many would dare to raise officially. To do so would imply criticism of the recent past, not a career enhancing move, rather than be seen as the collective failure that it is.