I was hesitant about doing this piece. The last time I compared Guyanese presidencies was at an academic conference in which some thugs, centrally directed, tried to destroy the event and I ended up getting sued for libel by then President Bharrat Jagdeo, a court case that is still going on.
Let’s hope, no courts papers are filed after this column hits the vendors’ stands. I did show it to three lawyers though.
In political theory, there is a huge difference between a transactional leader and a transformational personality. The former is your run-of-the mill politician that essentially conducts policies based on day to day thinking. At the end of the tenure there is no legacy.
A transformational character is a history-maker. He/she sets out to transform given possibilities and limitations within a certain space and time. Space would not allow for a long elaboration of the concept of transformational leadership but in my analytical framework, I think Desmond Hoyte is Guyana’s only transformational president.
Can Donald Ramotar become Guyana’s second presidential-history maker?
It would be unfair to Ramotar to dismiss that possibility but the antecedents in the evolution of the career of both Hoyte and Ramotar do not look good for Ramotar. Any human being can become a fantastic legacy-maker but one must look at possibilities that may prevent such an occurrence.
There is a gargantuan difference in the respective careers of Hoyte and Ramotar. There is hardly anything written on Hoyte but his political life was very interesting. Few people in Guyana know that Hoyte was a maverick in the PNC. Hoyte was involved in the PNC but his context was always Forbes Burnham. In other words, he wasn’t your quintessential party man. Burnham was Hoyte’s strength in the PNC.
Secondly, Hoyte was one brave soldier in the PNC – he was never afraid to disagree with socialist economics. Hoyte had contempt for socialist economics. When he was Vice President for Economic Development he crossed swords with many of the PNC’s Marxist economists. Elvin Mc David told this writer that Hoyte was openly against the socialist thrust of the PNC Government. Thirdly, Hoyte never established a network of friends within the PNC.
These three characteristics are totally absent in the career of Donald Ramotar. Ramotar is your quintessential PPP baby – born and nurtured inside the house of the PPP. He worked at the business arm of the PPP – GIMPEX on Regent Street. Next he was shifted to GAWU. He went to Eastern Europe to help edit World Marxist Review.
And then there was the long journey into Jagan’s seat as General Secretary of the PPP. What Ramotar is missing, Hoyte was full of – front seat position in running a government.
Before he became President, Hoyte held many portfolios, including Minister of Home Affairs and Vice-President for Economic Development. It was Rupert Roopnaraine, more than any other opposition politician, during the election campaign who emphasized that the major shortcoming of Ramotar inside the PPP was that he never had a public service job. Roopnaraine’s chant was that the PPP had “no place for Donald.”
My assessment of the pre-presidential Ramotar was that he never had the courage, like Hoyte, to speak up inside the PPP. I mean nothing personal, (and I say this sincerely) but Ramotar always came across to me as a PPP leader who was not interested in carving out a name for himself.
From my understanding of PPP politics, he was always the type to go along with majority opinion. He never stood out or wanted to be one who stood out. People like Clement Rohee, Gail Texieira, Navin Chandarpal, and Feroze Mohamed were the leaders behind Cheddi Jagan. Of course the maverick in the PPP was always Moses Nagamootoo.
Against this background, the prospects do not look bright for Ramotar, eclipsing Hoyte as Guyana’s greatest president. The factors are just not there. And Ramotar himself has given us a gigantic indication of the type of politician he may turn out to be.
Even the most ardent campaigner for the PPP during the November elections must have anticipated that Ramotar would surprise every Guyanese citizen with some Cabinet members that were fresh faces. I believe all ordinary PPP members and supporters wanted this.
There aren’t words to describe what Ramotar did with his Cabinet. It was a terrible mistake. It must have deflated the entire country. The existentialist philosopher would say that humans are capable of any type of greatness. Let’s hope Ramotar is one of them.
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