Oct 30, 2019
From the time Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham headed their own organizations, Guyana’s political culture has been shaped by one-person domination. It has been no exception even among smaller parties without muscles.
Even in the WPA, no one would dare question Walter Rodney’s judgement. After his death, WPA had two co-chairmen but one of them, Rupert Roopnaraine was the WPA and the WPA was Roopnaraine.
Every political party inculcated and accepted the maximum leader syndrome. Hamilton Green became the cruelest victim in Guyanese history of the hegemony of one-person rule in Guyana’s political culture. Seen by every PNC supporter as the main plank behind Burnham, Green stood like skyscraper in the PNC.
He was the most popular person in the PNC after the PNC lost power. But in challenging the PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte, Green found out much to his mental stability that whoever heads a political party in Guyana controls and commands it; the membership understands that and acts on the directions of the maximum leader whether those edicts are legal or illegal.
Hoyte used his absolute power to expel Green. Corbin used his hegemony to oust, his challenger, Vincent Alexander. In both situations, the fight against Green and Alexander were not done without subterfuge and Machiavellian cunning. In the PPP, the iron rule was you don’t question Jagan. You just follow what decision Jagan decided on.
But each maximum leader had a “side-kick” that had persuasive powers. With Burnham, it was Ptolemy Reid. Only he could have caused Burnham to stay his hand. Only Mrs. Jagan could make Cheddi change his mind. Because of that aspect of political culture in Guyana, Jagdeo and Granger will not be challenged. As president, there is no one in the PNC that will want to disagree with a major direction of Granger and do so consistently. The answer is that the rule is understood and must be adhered to.
In an interview recently, President Granger did not use direct language but his semantics were clear enough if you have a little bit of mental understanding. He said that he has the authority to choose his running mate for the 2020 elections and he will not relinquish that power. In other words, he is saying I will choose my PM candidate and no one should choose one for me. This is a done deal. Unless there is someone that performs the role of Ptolemy Reid in the PNC, Granger’s position will not change
But this is a front. Granger could not have arrived at that decision without analysis. My belief is Granger has used the principle of having the right to select his running mate in order not to be harsh with the AFC and give his reasons why Ramjattan will not be the PM candidate (see my column of, Tuesday, October 8, 2019 titled, “President Granger wants to see a victory then retire later.”)
Inside the PNC, the analysis I believe went like this. And I believe either Granger himself advanced the theorizing or it was of such a compelling nature among PNC leaders that Granger accepted it. First, the AFC’s electoral strength has diminished so badly that it may not bring that crucial number, no matter how small, to take APNU over the 50 percent mark. PNC analysts would know about the polling stations results throughout Guyana in the 2015 poll.
Secondly, armed with that knowledge, the PNC favours strong outreaches among Amerindians, the youth and mixed race community to reach beyond the 50 percent. Thirdly, the emotional and political arguments on the Ramjattan candidacy were intense because of the nature of life itself. What happens if Granger retires or slows down? In life you never know what can happen.
PNC leaders have pontificated on the definite wrongness of a small party leader becoming the president of Guyana when in morality, law and politics the president should always come from the major party that was responsible for victory. It is this conceptualization that has hardened the mind of every PNC leader.
The AFC has advanced an argument to the PNC even if life throws up that scenario it will not become reality because the AFC is willing to sign a legal paper that surrenders the presidency to the PNC in the event that the president cannot continue.
The AFC must have known what the reaction was in the PNC war-room. It brought comical cynicism and derisive laughter. One very influential PNC leader told his colleague, “you expect Ramjattan to abide by that” to which there were loud laughter. The Ramjattan PM train has passed. Time the AFC accepts that.