President Ramotar and corruption
Dear Mr. President,
I have been thinking for some time to write to you expressing some of my thoughts on your leadership style under the current political dispensation. I have refrained from penning my name for obvious reasons. In order to be economical in space and time my observations are numbered but in no particular order.
I have known you a long time and can say without an iota of hesitation that you are a good person. You care for and listen to others. This is why many placed their hopes on you when you were running for the Presidency of our beloved country.
As a leader, both of the PPP and nation, you are less confrontational than many others. I believe you possess the good will and commitment, and you sincerely wish for national unity.
In spite of the above, you allow your indecisiveness to overshadow all your extraordinary qualities. If one is afraid to make mistakes one will not take action on anything. You have been in office already eight months but you are yet to make an imprint in anything. You have been and are still the General Secretary of the PPP, which has degenerated throughout the last decade.
In my opinion, your sense of self-preservation has surpassed your ability to lead and lead effectively.
With respect to your role as President of the country, I presume you will say that you are restricted by the one-seat majority of the combined opposition in parliament. Let me address this issue.
For 28 years, the PNC ruled this country in an arrogant and dictatorial manner, not to mention the rigged elections, etc. Any and everything proposed in Parliament by the PPP which was in opposition was disdainfully rejected by the ruling PNC.
The PPP/C came to power in 1992 and the tables turned. The PPP/C did exactly what the PNC used to do in Parliament. The condescending manner of the PPP/C MPs and the arrogance with which they used their Parliamentary majority left a lot to be desired.
Now, the balance in Parliament has shifted and we seem to expect that it will be business as usual. One cannot but notice that the combined Opposition is having a field day with “sweet revenge”.
As President of Guyana, you have the unique opportunity (in this new political configuration) of going down in history as the man who has brought unity and harmony in this country. And I have no doubt you would certainly like to see this come to fruition. However, to achieve this goal, you have to be prepared to step on some toes. You cannot perpetually remain the “nice guy”. Here are some suggestions:
Pay more attention to perceptions, for perceptions in many instances constitute a bigger force that propels people into action or non-action.
You are still perceived as being in the shadow of former President Jagdeo, who in his last years as President managed to effectively isolate and aggravate a large section of the media, PPP members and ordinary people. People’s lives are influenced not only by economics. If they perceive that they are being sidelined/victimised because they differ in their views and opinions, they will eventually rebel in their own way. The one-seat minority is testimony to this.
The above point does not negate the influence of leaders on the masses, but it does make it easier, for example, for the opposition to pull dissatisfied PPP supporters into their ranks or at least provide an opportunity for the opposition to make inroads into PPP strongholds by instigating disgruntled PPP supporters to sit on the fence. Votes were lost and this is a fact.
Let me come back to you being in the shadow of Jagdeo. The overwhelming majority of your Ministers come from the previous Cabinet. Only four are new, three of whom hold junior positions. Your rehiring of Navin Chandarpal only exposes your weakness as General Secretary of the PPP. You knew his dismissal from OP was wrong, yet you did not raise your voice at the appropriate forum.
In this new political context, you still surround yourself with PPP hardliners like Roger Luncheon and Gail Teixeira. Their mere presence at negotiations/talks with the opposition is intimidating. If you sincerely wish to bring about unity in our country you ought to cultivate a team perceived to be moderates who will listen and work towards a win/win situation for all. I am, by no means saying that you should sideline Luncheon and Teixeira. On the contrary, they have institutional memory and experience incomparable and invaluable. Just keep them away from the frontline. Remember the power of perception.
It is unfortunate that some of your Ministers behave the same way like when the PPP/C had majority in Parliament. The level of arrogance is pugnacious and repugnant. I am in no way justifying the behavior of the opposition. You ought to meet with your MPs on a regular basis, providing guidance and sense of direction. At the moment, there seems to be disarray and discontent among your MPs.
Mr. Granger is a military man. Therefore, he is observant and meticulous, and is an excellent strategist. Give him credit where it’s due. He took and is taking full advantage of individual and combined weaknesses within the PPP/C.
Some of your Ministers have outlived their usefulness as Ministers. They cause more harm than good. Have the guts to replace them.
As General Secretary of the PPP, you ought to pay attention to the Civic. There is no longer a “civic” component of the government as envisaged initially. You have individuals who do not bring a constituency to the party. On top of that, some of them are extremely politically immature. Decisions ministers make can have serious political implications/repercussions. Both Ministries of Health and Education used to have two Ministers each. Now, they have one each. This is shortsightedness. A lean government ought not to achieved at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness.
You have one Minister running two ministries, which gives the impression that the PPP has a shortage of competent people.
You might not believe that there is pervasive corruption. But perception is strong that there is. How do you counter that perception? Make an example of some found guilty of corruption or under whose leadership corruption was allowed (knowingly or unknowingly) to happen. Deal with incompetence in a decisive manner.
Mr. President, the time is ripe to forge a unity never experienced since independence. You have the space and the opportunity to do so. All you need is the courage to be decisive and not be afraid to make mistakes.
I hope I have not offended you in any way. I have the greatest respect for you. I implore you to move beyond self-preservation, which in turn, will bring you your rightful place in history. I would want to believe that our future generations will read in our history books that Donald Ramotar was the man who rid our country of distrust and confrontation and created an environment for peace, unity and harmony.