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.
The word ‘Pharaoh’ and other abuse reverberated around downtown Georgetown a week and a half ago, directed to an embarrassed Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. He was doing a ‘walkabout’ in support of vendors who had been displaced from around the Stabroek Market area. He may not have expected the vendors’ hostility because the last time he would have walked around Georgetown while President, with head in the air, chest puffed up and a phalanx of bodyguards, vendors would have given him a polite response, partly out of curiosity, partly out of respect and partly out of fear of the gun-toting bodyguards. Having fallen from grace, and not yet realizing it, the master practitioner of the politics of abuse expected applause but was instead on the receiving end of what he regularly dishes out to others.
The vending industry in downtown Georgetown has grown to massive proportions. For 23 years PPP/C governments did little to slow the growth of vending. No additional accommodation, save in Water Street, was provided. No rules to protect vendors, customers and the general public, were promulgated. Vending had become chaotic and posed serious environmental, health, traffic and other hazards. The inconvenience to the public and other business people was massive and growing.
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.
‘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.
An uncharted situation faced the new government after the 2011 elections. Having decided to go it alone as a minority government, a plan for governance designed to create some consensus was expected to unfold. An unstructured tripartite committee was announced but it lost credibility because the government refused to have serious consultations on the 2012 budget, the AFC was left out of the discussions relating to the Linden electricity issue and has thereafter refused to participate in discussions because of alleged Government recalcitrance on other matters. No structure to generate trust and confidence existed by the time Amaila came around.
In an effort to convince the Opposition and critics on Amaila, discussions took place with President Ramotar and Minister Ashni Singh. Mr. Winston Brassington and his advisers also had discussions with critics. Documents were handed over. The chief public spokespersons for the government defending the project and answering critics were President Ramotar and Minister Singh, although others, including Mr. Brassington weighed in occasionally. There was no organized public information campaign or effort to supplement, expand and define on a daily basis what they had to say. On the other hand, the Opposition and other critics were in the media every day.