Is President Ramotar a puppet?
Reading the letter titled “Present PPP strategies full of Jagdeo’s fingerprint” (KN, August 6, 2012), I was blown away by the following statement from Messrs Dr. Asquith Rose and Harish S. Singh: “It’s been six months and we are yet to see President Ramotar being his own man. When will he be his own man? Is this how we will run this country; as a surrogate President fronting for the Guyana’s Putin?… What is wrong with Ramotar? With the Constitution on his side, why is he so spineless?”
This letter raises some brutally honest questions about Mr. Ramotar’s presidency. Are we really seeing a Putin-styled presidential surrogacy at play in Guyana where Mr. Ramotar is really a front for the former President Jagdeo as was the case in Russia when Medvedev was a front for Putin? The only way we properly make a determination is to examine what has happened before and after Mr. Ramotar’s securement of the presidency. Firstly, Mr. Ramotar could not ascend to the presidency without winning the PPP’s candidacy. In order to win that candidacy, Mr. Ramotar required the backing of the majority Jagdeoites who control the PPP’s Central Committee and who have voted to suspend the PPP’s constitutionally-due congress in 2011. Jagdeoites mean those who were loyal or connected to former President Jagdeo, those who gained position, promotion, recognition and power at his behest and appointment and those who served him in close advisory capacities.
Secondly, Ramotar ran on a platform of continuing Jagdeo’s policies. He stuck to that platform even when evidence was streaming into the PPP’s campaign machinery that disgusted PPP supporters were planning to stay away in droves and some were planning of switching to the AFC largely because of the degeneracy of the Jagdeo regime. Ramotar evidently had no clout in the campaign direction and strategy. His campaign was dictated by one of the biggest Jagdeoites, Robert Persaud. Thirdly, even after the fallout from the election and the loss of the PPP’s majority despite incredible campaign spending, Mr. Ramotar has made no firm steps to sufficiently separate himself from the Jagdeo policies. He has maintained that perilous course. Fourthly, any glance at who surrounds Mr. Ramotar reveals his special distinction. He has incredulously managed to surround himself with more Jagdeoites than Bharrat Jagdeo himself. Not only were the Jagdeoites from the previous Cabinet recycled and kept but known Jagdeoites were awarded by Ramotar with ministerial posts. Known Jagdeoites like Ganga Persaud, Alli Baksh, Anil Nandlall, Nanda Gopaul and Juan Edghill could not obtain ministerial appointments under Jagdeo. They did under Ramotar. In Guyanese parlance, some would be very tempted to deem this as ‘eyepass’, particularly when a ‘bishop’ with zero experience in finance and economic policy-making at state planning level becomes the Junior Finance Minister.
Or when a junior lawyer who has not secured silk and who has demonstrated nothing of stellar legal scholarship in his past becomes the Attorney General. One has to wonder if these are Ramotar’s picks or someone else’ picks handed to him to rubberstamp? Fifth, despite his expected sordid performance as the PPP’s campaign manager and his legendary failure as Agriculture Minister, renowned Jagdeoite, Robert Persaud, got the juiciest Cabinet position as new Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment just as offshore oil exploration is taking off and the mining industry has reached new heights.
To add insult to injury, the known incompetent simply did not get this new special position, he took some powers and responsibilities away from the President and Prime Minister.
Sixthly, it looks like those Jagdeoites who voted for Ramotar on the Central Committee to become the PPP’s presidential candidate were rewarded. Only two new ministers, Gopaul and Edghill, were not Central Committee members whereas the none of the fired ministers (Shaikh Baksh, Charles Ramson, Manzoor Nadir, Manniram Prashad) were CC members.
Seventh, Mr. Ramotar has been a nearly invisible leader in the past eight months. Ministers have been more vocal and forceful in dealing with matters which Ramotar’s predecessor, Jagdeo, would have routinely handled and addressed.
Eight, outlandish acts of cronyism are still par for the course such as an unqualified individual being appointed Chairman of a failing sugar industry that feeds 100,000 mouths directly and indirectly. One gets the impression that Mr. Ramotar is being deliberately shielded to project him as weak and vacillating. This will probably be used against him later in a mutiny where he is pushed to resign and to hand power to one of the Jagdeoites. One gets the distinct impression that Mr. Ramotar does not have a choice as to who surrounds him. His Cabinet is now dominated by Jagdeoites. The party’s executive leadership committee is dominated by Jagdeoites who control the majority of the Cabinet. This may be a case of a nice guy who made a terrible choice or a case of someone being targeted, acquired and set up to carry out a plan.
In either case, Mr. Ramotar is stuck. As a dogmatist, an ideologue and one of the PPP’s staunchest party loyalists, he will not launch any resistance for fear of an explosion or implosion debilitating the party that is already reeling from the election shock. Maybe the agitators behind the throne recognized his trait of unyielding party loyalty and realized they could exploit it. Messrs Dr. Asquith Rose and Harish S. Singh are correct when they ask “With the Constitution on his side, why is he so spineless?”
For the constitution offers Mr. Ramotar many outlets to free himself if he is badgered by the Putins. His failure to act knowing fully well he has the constitutional powers as president to change course will confirm his failure. By no means, Ramotar could honestly tell the Guyanese people after what happened on November 28, 2011, that staying the course of mismanagement, oligarchic enrichment, corruption, venality, ineptitude, cronyism, nepotism and immorality is fine.
By no means, he could admit that economic development largely achieved on a rampantly corrupt contracting system that redistributed taxes from all into the hands of a few, oligarchic and plutocratic entitlement and immense criminality led by drug trafficking is fine. The puppet talk will only increase the longer the debacle continues unchanged under President Ramotar.