The new Cabinet, which was announced on August 5th, represents a changing of the ‘old’ guard of the People’s Progressive Party. A new generation of political leaders has emerged within the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Those within the ‘old’ leadership, who are alive and who guided the party from 1992 onwards, have been effectively put out to pasture. Many of the PPP’s stalwarts have passed to the great beyond. Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Reepu Daman Persaud, Feroze Mohamed, Navin Chanderpal, Cyril Belgrave and Komal Chand have all died.
The sole survivor of the ‘old’ guard in the Cabinet is Gail Teixeira and this is based mainly on the institutional knowledge which she possesses on parliamentary affairs and governance reforms. Kellawan Lall, Harripersaud Nokta, Clinton Collymore, Clement Rohee and Indranie Chanderpal are among the living stalwarts who will not be part of any Cabinet. They also are not likely to be named on the PPP/C’s parliamentary slate.
The winds of change and the winds of time have swept the PPP. From all appearances Bharrat Jagdeo – not too far away from being an ‘old’ guard himself – took a conscious decision to inject new blood and vibrancy into the party. The results have been impressive. He has managed to attract a fair number of young professionals into the party. Some of them have been chosen to be part of the new Cabinet.
Cheddi Jagan during his long vigil as Opposition Leader had struggled to attract intellectuals and young professionals into the party. Given the rigging of the elections from 1968 to 1985, there were few prospects of him gaining power. When you have little chance of getting into office, invariably there is no sugar to attract the ants.
Times have changed since the Jagan era; society and the country’s politics have changed and Jagdeo has also been receptive to these changes. He correctly assessed that young professionals constituted a crucial bloc of voters and he deliberately set about trying to woo some of them to his party. A number of young, qualified and skilled individuals came on board the PPP/C’s campaign. Among these were Sonia Parag, Susan Rodrigues, Hugh Todd and Oneidge Walrond. They have been rewarded with Ministerial appointments.
The young professionals made a difference during the elections campaign. They injected new life into the campaign. They also helped to recreate a new image for the party, distancing it from the old, lackluster guard of whom many had become tired. The PPP/C rebranded its image as a result of the new blood.
A remake had been necessary. The blame for PPP/C’s defeat in the 2015 elections had fallen heavily on the shoulders of Jagdeo. As President, his policies were widely and sternly criticized as being primarily responsible for the PPP/C’s loss of power after 23 years. His administration had been assailed by allegations of corruption.
Jagdeo had by then gained a firm grip of control on the PPP/C. And he used that power to marginalize the ‘old’ guard from the party and take full control. He successfully piloted a candidate of his choice as the party’s presidential candidate. There can be no doubt that he is now the Maximum Leader of the People’s Progressive Party and most definitely, the power behind the Presidency.
In order to complete this feat, however, he needed to sideline the ‘old’ guard. He did this by comfortably winning the post of General Secretary. The ‘old’ guard was neutralized and those who were belligerent were sent out to pasture.
A new guard has emerged not only within the PPP/C. To survive they will have to become beholden to Jagdeo. There are many willing supplicants within the PPP/C who call him “Champion” and “The Boss”.
The change in guard also represents the final rites for Marxism and communism within the PPP/C. The ‘old’ guard was attached to this ideology, more out of supplication and reverence to Cheddi Jagan rather than to any real conviction of left wing praxis.
The new guard is likely to see a different approach within the PPP/C and within the government. The party has become more vibrant and appealing to younger persons, particularly young professionals who had long spurned the PPP/C. The government is likely to become more technocratic in its approach.
The ‘old’ guard has been swept off its pedestal within the PPP/C. This has happened because of natural attrition and because of a new thinking within the party, one which could not have coexisted alongside the ‘old’ lieutenants of Cheddi Jagan.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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