Kaieteur News – I was 16 years old when I began knocking around the PPP. Shortly after, I got to know Clement Rohee. This means I have known Rohee a very long time but my knowledge of him was cut short after he became a minister in 1992. There was a drastic and abrupt disconnection after 1992. For most of the seventies and eighties, I would say I chatted with Rohee in our common meeting place – the trenches.
I lost complete contact with him after he became a minister. I didn’t know Rohee any longer. But naturally as part of my work I had to study him. So I continued to analyse his politics. I am yet to read his expensive autobiography which is available on Amazon for a deterring price of $63 American dollars. That price is simply crazy.
I would say Basil Williams would be the closest fit for Rohee in the PNC. Williams and I entered UG as freshmen the same year – 1974. I have known him since then but not in the way I knew Rohee. I had an ongoing political relationship with Rohee. I never had such with Williams. It was during the long years of the PNC in the political wilderness – 1992 – 2015 that I got to know Williams better.
There was one striking difference in the way both men related to me. It had to do with their ideological training. Rohee was deeply communist. He, along with Donald Ramotar, spent eight years in what was then known as Czechoslovakia as the PPP’s representative on the editorial board of the journal produced by the world communist movement – World Marxist Review.
Rohee would never offer an objective criticism of wrong-headed people in the PPP, no matter how flawed they were. Three reasons explained that. Rohee’s training as an apparatchik would prevent him from ever mentioning a harmless criticism of any of his PPP comrades. He was an extremely insecure person and this would have prevented him from speaking too freely. Thirdly, he had an intense loyalty to Mrs. Janet Jagan.
Williams on the other hand has always been a self-assured person, always armed with his self-conceptualisation that he is brighter than any other Guyanese politician. He had the West Indian politician characteristics in him, so open words of disagreement with his PNC colleagues would come naturally to him.
Both Williams and Rohee have ridden away into the sunset. Their careers are over. Williams did not contest any leadership post at the PNC congress. His chance of being in the general council of the PNC is through the route of being selected by the leader. Effectively we have seen the end of his PNC career given his age of late sixties.
Rohee spends his time at the Cheddi Jagan Library at Red House. He has done the right thing – published his memoir. Given the direction the PNC is heading, it is doubtful the new PNC leadership will reclaim Basil. Given the direction the PPP government is heading, it is doubtful Rohee will become a minister or high state official again.
Why would the career of both men not be refurbished by their respective party? Both men have a trait in them that the current hierarchy of both parties will not take a chance with. Williams and Rohee have an ingrained proclivity to alienate people rather than attract them.
From the time Cheddi Jagan became leader of the PPP and Burnham the PNC, no other high-level leader in the PPP and PNC have failed to get people to admire and embrace them as Rohee and Williams. This is what my long years in politics have taught me. I say in all honesty, from 1992 to 2015 when PPP supporters spoke to me, they put Rohee down last on their list of PPP ministers they like.
PPP aficionados and civil servants had nothing positive to say about Rohee. All, PNC supporters, without exception, found Williams to be the PNC minister they least wanted to have a relationship with. I am not writing this because it is my interpretation. It is what people have said to me.
I give you one example. Rohee and I were arrested outside Parliament in 1989 when we were protesting what the WPA called Hoyte’s vampire budget. I heard from the picket line, a leading big-wig of the WPA made a nasty statement that was tantamount to schadenfreud. Rohee was the least popular figure in the PPP for WPA leaders. I know AFC leaders put Williams down as the least preferred minister from the PNC. No one has explained it but the fact is these two politicians generally turned people off.
(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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