– former PNCR MP joins campaign
The incumbent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday launched its re-election bid at Albion with less than the mammoth crowd that was expected in the Berbice sugar belt that has been its traditional stronghold.
There were hardly any new and specific plans, but the cross-over of opposition Parliamentarian Joseph Hamilton added spice to the rally.
The Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar trumped up the PPP’s record in office, vowing that if things are good now, they will be even better with him as President. The outgoing President, Bharrat Jagdeo, also trumped up the accomplishments of the party in office, and, in typical style, sought to vilify the Kaieteur News and Prime News, as being part of ‘an incestuous circle’ to bring down the PPP.
Hamilton, who once represented the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform, took to the stage and announced that he will work for the election of Donald Ramotar as the next President, as he peppered the other two main presidential candidates.
He said Khemraj Ramjattan of the Alliance for Change comes with too much envy, enmity and malice. When it was time to talk about David Granger, who leads the opposition coalition APNU, Hamilton labeled him ‘ a reluctant politician’, saying that at age 65 he has just awaken and does not have the fire in his belly or the politics in his veins that is required for the job.
Less than 10,000 persons turned out for the rally, and that included those who had travelled from other parts of the country.
Many from Albion itself and other neigbouring communities simply stayed home, expressing disenchantment with the PPP’s handling of the sugar industry that has been their source of livelihood, and other issues.
For example, 53-year-old Bacha from Fyrish Village said he has worked at the sugar estate at Albion since 1977, but says the pay these days hardly could make ends meet.
“All the big ones fulling dem pockets while the small man working hard and getting little,” he told Kaieteur News while relaxing in a hammock at his friend’s home at Albion just a stone’s throw away from the rally.
“This hay is from sugar,” he said, talking of his cap to show his bald head, “But we are like the little fishes in the sea being eaten up by the big ones.”
His friend, though, who has worked as a security guard at the estate for years and is due for pension next year, is a die-hard PPP supporter, and left early to attend the rally. There, he passed another die-hard PPP supporter, who said the government is not perfect.
“I iz a die-hard PPP,” said the elderly Kamal, “who else meh go vote fah?”
The Chairman of the programme, Region Six Chairman Zulfikar Mustafa, first announced the crowd at 20,000, and persons braced to a fence just off the Albion complex road giggled and shook their heads in disbelief.
When he later came back and added a further 8,000, he was further laughed at as persons could see that that was hardly the number in attendance. He never did muster another calculation even when the main speakers took to the podium.
Warren Barlow was the first speaker. He praised the PPP for allowing people to enjoy “complete peace and happiness.” His comments drew irritation from a woman who was seated on the ground with her daughter.
“A wah thing he a talk bout?” she grumbled. When asked why she decided to come to the rally, she blurted out, “To watch the madness hay, nah.” She left even before the main speakers took to the podium.
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee said the PPP is getting better and stronger, and encouraged Berbicians to come out and vote.
He said that the opposition is in shambles, and lacks direction. He hailed President Jagdeo as the “giant called BJ” and said that the party was now going with “the giant called DR,” referring to Donald Ramotar.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said it was appropriate that the first PPP rally for this election season was being held at Albion, not far from Port Mourant – the birthplace of party founder Dr Cheddi Jagan.
Hinds said that Guyana has improved tremendously, and changed over the year, and he expressed hope that Dr Jagan’s dream of the Guyanese people being united like they were in the elections of 1953 would be fulfilled this year.
Hinds said that when Forbes Burnham (who later became leader of the PNC) wanted a party to join, he joined the PPP, and he therefore called for other old comrades to “come home” to the PPP, as Joseph Hamilton has done.
Hinds said that it was an honour and pleasure to serve as Prime Minister and to be part of the “tremendous development of Guyana.” It sounded as his farewell speech, but he did not expressly say he was not looking to be called as Prime Minister if the PPP chalks up its fifth consecutive victory at the polls. Ramotar has not yet declared who will be his running mate.
When President Jagdeo took to the podium, he urged his listeners not to forget the past of struggle under the PNC.
He told older persons to inform young people, who talk ‘silliness’ about forgetting the past, about the times gone by, saying that it was important that they have a perspective of the past to appreciate how much progress has been accomplished.
Jagdeo said that the investments in the Berbice Bridge, the Skeldon Sugar factory, and the building of roads in the county, add up to 15 years of the taxes that Berbicians have paid. He said that investment was made not because Berbice is important to the PPP, but because it is important to Guyana.
He held up the troubled Skeldon Modernisation factory, for which an estimated US$200 million was spent, as the means to maintain the sugar factory and ensure sugar remains competitive, even if the factory is not yet operating at its real potential.
Jagdeo told Berbicians that despite “the nonsense” that the Kaieteur News is pedaling, the Amaila Falls Hydro Project would get off the ground unlike when the PNC attempted to construct such a project and spent $300 million only to have the project lost away in the jungle.
He accused APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger of having plans to go back to the past and not to offer any alternatives to working in the rice and sugar fields, such as a career in information and communications technology.
When it was Ramotar’s time to take to the podium, he reiterated old plans, such as building a deep water harbour in Berbice.
However, he spoke of having co-generation plants at all sugar estates, as is with the case of Skeldon, to ensure a reliable supply of energy. Earlier, he referred to the Amaila Falls Hydro Project, with prospects for cheap electricity, as being important to taking Guyana to the next level.
Ramotar said that if oil is found just off the Corentyne River, then that would be sold to bring in money.
He said that the PPP would also explore the possibilities of bio-fuels and wind power.
Ramotar dismissed those who are critical of the Low Carbon Development Strategy , saying that it would restrict mining.
He said that the party is committed to young people and would seek to create opportunities for them, and cited the agriculture that is pursued in a scientific and “exciting” way as one means to getting youths not to shy away from the sector.
The next big PPP rally is scheduled for Kitty next Sunday.
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