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.
Public rage in Georgetown continues to grow and expand as last Thursday’s massive demonstration shows, even as the Government has finally been forced to intervene in the parking meter fiasco. But it is too little too late. Boat gone a’ fall. The demand is now for the rescinding of the flawed agreement between the City Council and SCS.
The Government faltered when it allowed the City Council to proceed with the parking meter secret project, with charges that were outrageously high – 37 percent of the average monthly salary in Guyana as compared with a high of 13 percent of the monthly salary in the US. After the meeting between the Government and the City Council, the Government did not call for the release of the secret agreement. That is a telling omission.
Last Monday General Secretary of the PPP, Mr. Clement Rohee, reacting at his press conference to questions about that morning’s SN’s headline “PPP executives jockeying for top position – Jagdeo, others seeking to consolidate support before crucial congress,” deemed the media as “stray dogs, going by the smell of things and rummaging the PPP neighbourhood for new and old juicy inaccuracies and speculations.” The article in SN and the questions from the media obviously touched a raw nerve.
It would be unprecedented for a PPP Congress to be postponed except if an issue of national importance gets in the way. For example, Congress was not held in 2011 because of elections year, nor in 2012 because the PPP’s minority government was under siege. There might have been other cases in the past but there have been no postponements of Congress for purely internal reasons.
The City Council announced last week that it would take the traffic situation in hand. It is unlikely that the City Council would have known that funds would be allocated in the budget for this purpose. After disastrous past experiences, the City Council should not be allowed to preside over parking arrangements for mini bus and taxi parks in the city. The Municipal and District Councils Act gives it no such power. It is a Police function, which appears to have been abandoned, as the City Council assumed jurisdiction.
Starting from the core area outside Stabroek market, occupied by the yellow Motor Transport buses between the 1950s and 1970s, mini bus and taxi parks expanded. Between Avenue of the Republic and Water Street they occupied from Hadfield Street to Regent Street, from the National Assembly to the Bank of Baroda with the bulk in the Stabroek Market/Demico House and the Regent Street/Commerce Street areas. About ten years ago the City Council decided to further expand these areas for use by mini buses and taxis.
‘Arrogance and complacency cost the PPP last year’s elections,’ screamed the headline in Stabroek News of January 1, reporting on the year-end press conference of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, now Leader of the Opposition. He is reported to have said that ‘there was a severe disconnect between the party and its supporters on the ground’ resulting in APNU and AFC ‘gaining footholds among PPP supporters.’ He attributed this to the PPP’s complacency and arrogance and vowed to work hard to strengthen the party by going ‘house to house to people right across this country and rebuilding a connection between them and the party.’ Mr. Jagdeo spoke about the youth being enticed by the coalition because they lacked knowledge of the PNC’s past and the need for the party to work ‘vigorously to incubate a new generation of youthful leaders.’
The single-minded support by Mr. Jagdeo of Mr. Donald Ramotar as the presidential candidate in 2011 was one of the worst displays of contempt and political arrogance in Guyana’s political history. The compelling obsession to continue to exercise governmental authority and control was the sole motivating factor. The PPP leadership, in thrall to Mr. Jagdeo, mistakenly felt that its supporters would accept anything thrown at them.