The letter published by Mr. Raphael Trotman in yesterday’s newspapers is worth reading. If it does not shock you to your vitals, you are not living in Guyana or you have never heard of Mr. Trotman. Mr. Trotman has been in the public eye for decades and, since the formation of the AFC in 2005, has presented himself as one half of the equation, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan being the other half, to bring about ethnic healing in Guyana’s politics.
Mr. Trotman status back in the day as the ‘boy wonder’ of PNCR politics was attained by accelerated promotion to the top leadership while still a very young man because he had impressed Leader Desmond Hoyte. His perch at the top came to an end when his exalted status, gained exclusively by patronization, encouraged his belief that he was ready for leadership. Announcing that he would accept nomination for leadership of the PNCR, Mr. Hoyte felt that he was dealing with a young man whose ambition exceeded his capacity. Mr. Hoyte would have believed, as we say in Guyana about forward people, ‘he had no manners.’ His career in the PNCR lost its sheen. As his ambitions were brought to an abrupt halt, he began to look for other avenues to become ‘Leader.’ He found kindred spirits in Khemraj Ramjattan and Sheila Holder, all MPs, who left their respective parties and established the AFC.
In the ten years between 2005 and 2015, Mr. Trotman felt that, along with Mr. Ramjattan, he would sweep the old parties aside and ride a wave of multi-ethnic support to power. As a consequence, at no time during the ten years did the AFC or Mr. Trotman call for ‘winner does not take all politics.’ As the WPA, which advocated a similar form of multi-ethnic politics, found out in 1992, the people of Guyana are deeply wedded to their ethnic politics and there is nothing on the horizon that appears likely to weaken that entrenchment.
In 2015 the AFC joined with APNU to become the APNU+AFC to contest the elections. Upon establishing the coalition, the AFC notionally converted to ‘winner does not take all politics’ because it signed up to the manifesto which undertook that an APNU+AFC government would amend the constitution to provide that all parties winning more than 30 percent of the votes would share in the Government. While the AFC neither articulated nor campaigned for ‘shared governance,’ it was committed.
While in Government, neither the AFC nor Mr. Trotman did anything to promote that manifesto promise. The Government did appoint a committee headed by Mr. Nigel Hughes to make recommendations. The report was passed to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reform for consideration. Thereafter the Government’s disingenuous complaint, through then Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who was responsible for constitutional reform, was that the PPP was not cooperating and the Committee was not meeting. At the time I urged that the report be removed from the Committee, laid in Parliament and a motion for its adoption be tabled. Nothing happened. APNU+AFC, with the clear support, or at least acquiescence of the AFC, had decided to abandon constitutional reform and shared governance, the same as ‘winner does not take all.’ Mr. Trotman was silent.
So what is Mr. Trotman, now finding his voice, speaking from the other side of his mouth, with a surprisingly faulty understanding of the constitution for a lawyer who has been around for decades, that winning elections does not give a mandate to govern for all, now saying? Let’s quote him. “In simple terms, one cannot govern with a ‘winner take all’ mindset and constitution, while simultaneously speaking about ‘inclusivity.’’ Why should this be so? Mr. Trotman explains: “If there is one thing recent experiences have taught, it is that one government, or one party alone, cannot effectively rule Guyana….In truth, those of us living in Guyana, or living in similarly polarized countries, or have studied this phenomenon, know that at any given time one, and perhaps two of the several nations will not like another, accept another or give the other the legitimacy it needs and deserves to effectively govern….the APNU+AFC discovered this from 2015-2020.” What an admission! Mr. Granger repeatedly advocated that APNU+AFC was multi-ethnic and represented shared governance.
If I did not know that Mr. Trotman, I would have assumed that he was asleep between 1977 and recently. As a seasoned politician, he must know that Cheddi Jagan made a similar analysis in 1977 in the PPP’s paper “National Patriotic Front” and proposed a detailed formula for a National Patriotic Front Government based on ‘winner does not take all’ politics, which was rejected by Burnham. At least he could have nodded in the direction of Cheddi Jagan.
Those who, out of power, now seek to jump on the bandwagon of ‘winner does not take all,’ have missed it. ’Inclusive governance’ has now been embraced by the President Ali and Mr. Trotman’s coalition leader, Mr. David Granger. ‘Winner does not take all’ is for another time although we must keep fighting. If this is the real Mr. Trotman, I welcome him to the fight and hope that if he ever achieves office again, he will remain standing.