Kaieteur News – A number of former executive members of the AFC have indicated that they would like to reflect on their roles in the AFC so that their participation in what they consider a historical moment that went terribly wrong could become part of Guyanese history.
Today we start with the reflections of Rajendra Bissesar (RB). A student contemporary of mine at UG, Bissesar spent a long time with the PPP, then with the formation of the AFC he became an executive, and was one of the negotiators in the composition of the Cummingsburg Accord of February 2015. We sat down under a huge tree in the National Park while my dog slept in my car. The interview follows.
FK – Given your political background and vast work experience, you were not assigned any substantial position after 2015. What happened?
RB – Here is an opportunity to tell my story. We met at the AFC head office to choose our ministers. The leaders called a certain woman and offered her the portfolio of the environment. After she declined, I asked to be considered. Moses Nagamootoo told the gathering that he has me in mind as junior minister for agriculture. There was consensus and that was that.
But I never got the job because Nagamootoo reported that President Granger did not want me. The AFC did not pursue the matter, months and years went by, and I was left without any substantial offer.
FK – You need to explain to readers why with your status in the AFC, a position for you was no longer tenable.
RB – I am going to say things here that need to be part of our country’s political history. The AFC announced itself as different from the two historical giants – PPP and PNC – but were worse. As soon as we took power, I began to critically look at some mistakes and wrongdoings of the government. I have always maintained an independent mind even when I was with the PPP and an aide to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Ramjattan would insanely confront me each time I spoke up. His sermon was the same on each occasion – Bissesar wants to break up the coalition. So excessive was Ramjattan’s fulminations against me that I would like you to publish what Nigel Hughes once asked me – What was wrong between me and Ramjattan?
FK – So no one stood up and openly said – “We can’t treat Bissesar like this.”
RB – That is absolutely right. You have to be in the leadership of a political party to see how a core of leaders conspires with each other to silent independent minds. They are incestuous. The second tier leaders were afraid to speak out because they were looking for their opportunities.
FK – Tell readers more about the conspiracy and the incestuous behaviour.
RB – I’m glad you ask so these notes here can be used by researchers. Here is what this core group of leaders did. In between meetings of the national executive, decisions are made by the management committee (MC) that met weekly. But the edict was laid down that government business cannot be discussed by the MC only party matters. This was not only asinine but undemocratic. How can you have a party in power and when its executives meet they cannot discuss what government is doing.
But there is more. At the 2017 congress, a group of us got the congress to endorse a decision to expand the MC. First, the core group did not act on it and when they did, they expanded it to include ministers and parliamentarians thus shutting out independent minds. I can distinctly recall Raphael Trotman proposing two more ministers to sit in the MC.
Here is what the core group did at the AFC’s retreat at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre in April 2016. They chose not to invite people who were not parliamentarians and ministers. So the leadership of the party – the national executive – was not contacted. I know this because at the time I was on the executive and the MC.
FK – Were AFC ministers corrupt?
RB – Just look at that oil contract and you have your answer.
FK – Time is going, you have to go and my dog is in the car. How do you feel about that period, 2015 – 2020 and that core group?
RB – Four things need to be said. One is that Ramjattan chopped down any Indian with a high profile in the AFC because he lived in fear of being challenged by such. Secondly, I cannot bear to even look at people like Nagamootoo, Ramjattan and Trotman. Thirdly, I think these three persons are among the worst this country has produced. Finally, the AFC betrayed this country in ways that has affected its future.
(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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