Guyana Elections: DISCORDANT NOTES – by Ralph Ramkarran


Ralph Ramkarran

Ralph Ramkarran

Posted on March 14, 2015 –  by Ralph Ramkarran

As expected, the events at Babu John attracted wide attention and media coverage. A front page photograph in SN of President Ramotar belting out Bob Marley’s ‘Let’s Get Together’ was in striking contrast to the accusation by Dr. Bharat Jagdeo that during the 2011 elections, the Opposition APNU had sent drummers around calling on their supporters to ‘let’s get the coolies out,’ or words to that effect. Observers heard these two discordant notes, one a plea for unity in song, the other a divisive rant, and several others this past week.

The accusation against the PNCR created a storm and at press appearances, Dr. Jagdeo sought to defend his remarks. The PPP’s complaint is that it is treated unfairly. The media, it claims, focuses on the PPP and ignores the PNC’s historic appeal to racism. The fact is that when either political party appeals to its supporters to vote for its party, in whatever language, it is an appeal that is alleged to be directed to one ethnic group.  

In Guyana the appeal can easily appear to be overtly ethnic or be interpreted as such. It is the PPP that has borne the burden of these accusations. But if the PPP is guilty, so is APNU. Both parties have relied on, and sought to ensure at every elections, its solid bloc of ethnic support, while publicly encouraging cross over voting.

The PPP rightly bristles at the general lack of specifics in accusations and at allegations that race campaigns are carried out at bottom house meetings. I have addressed hundreds of these over the years and not once have I ever made, or have been asked to make, or have heard a fellow speaker make, an appeal based on race. The strategy of the bottom house meeting developed during the dictatorship when permission for public meetings were grudgingly granted, if at all, and if granted were frequently broken up violently.

Permission for bottom house meetings was not required. Even though many were still invaded by police and broken up, they still offered a modicum of safety. By the end of the dictatorship, bottom house meetings had become an integral organizational tool. Because no one in the PPP, including me up to the time I was there, ever thought to invite the press to these meetings, what was said has never been reported and the bottom house meetings have therefore been given a sinister image. The PNC, during its days in power, never had to rely on bottom house meetings as a defensive measure, and consequently this mode of mobilization was never deployed.

Dr. Jagdeo then used the press conference to defend his Cadillac style living in an opulent mansion by the sea by pathetically invoking what he alleges was Cheddi Jagan mansion in Bel Air. In the 1960s, Plantation Bel Air, as it was then known, where Cheddi Jagan’s house is located and where my parents were born, was a poor community of mainly small artisans, farm and city labourers and subsistence cattle and vegetable farmers. Cheddi Jagan’s land, next door to where I was born, grew up and still live, was acquired for $2,000 in the early 1960s.

Around that time Belvoir Court, which had been farming land of which my grandparents from both sides had tiny, rented plots from which they eked out a bare living, was acquired by the retiring Scottish Manager of the Bookers-owned Bel Air Estates Limited. It was surveyed in house lots and sold at moderate prices. It was empty land in the 1960s when Cheddi Jagan got his land.

In any event, the house that he constructed consisted of only an upper flat of three bedrooms, a tiny study, a small living room and kitchen, modest by the standards of that time or any standards. It is there for anyone to see. The impression given by Dr. Jagdeo that Cheddi Jagan built a mansion, at the time comparable to his own, in an existing exclusive area is completely false and disingenuous.

That the PPP allows Dr. Jagdeo’s false claims against its revered leader, dragging the latter down to his level, to go unchallenged is a manifestation of his overweening dominance of the PPP’s agenda and narrative and its destructive character. But is anyone surprised? He publicly attacked Mrs. Jagan and no one came to her defence. When I returned from overseas, where I was at the time, Mrs. Jagan refused to give me permission to respond.

Had Mrs. Jagan been alive, she would have forbidden me to write what comes hereafter, being aspects of her and her husband’s personal lives that she would have wanted to remain private. But I know that this is in the interests of the PPP that Cheddi Jagan left behind in 1997, so I take the liberty.

Throughout the 1970s Dr. and Mrs Jagan were often seen at modest restaurants around Georgetown on Saturday evenings. Dining out was one of their few pleasures. This, as well as Mrs Jagan’s visits to the hairdresser, stopped during the 1980s because they could no longer afford it. When Dr. Jagan was diagnosed with a heart ailment, local facilities were then inadequate and he needed to seek medical attention overseas. He was awaiting a foreign trip that had already been planned so as to avoid the State having to pay for two trips. Unfortunately, his heart unexpectedly gave way before he could travel. But imagine Dr. Jagan electing to go on a private jet trip, even on a free ride, for any reason, including medical attention!  It is a sin for Bharrat Jagdeo to use the example of Cheddi Jagan to justify his mansion, his pension and his Cadillac lifestyle.

Uncomfortably close to Babu John with its approbation of kicking the opposition’s asses, Courtney Crum-Ewing was cruelly gunned down in a barbaric act that many believe could only be politically motivated. While it is necessary for the police investigation to be completed, I join the rest of Guyana in extending my condolences to the Crum-Ewing family, relatives and friends. The call for calm by prominent persons and groups should be supported while voices against this atrocity, committed while a citizen of our country was exercising the right of free speech, must be heard.

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  • Thinker  On 03/15/2015 at 1:15 am

    Seems that Jagdeo has been recognised as the real boss in all this. He subtly criticises a sitting President and former PPP General Secretary, encouraging him to kick asses. The present General Secretary defends him, And he even dared criticise Mrs Jagan publically!!! What is the basis for his rise to power within the PPP? Like Putin he was the anointed one. Why? Or why not Nagamootoo, Ramotar or Ramkarran at the time? Lots more needs to be written about the rise of Jagdeo. .

    • Thinker  On 03/15/2015 at 1:39 am

      Now that I think again, could it all have been largely due to the fact that Jagdeo was a (Soviet-style) trained economist and had had training/preparation under Asgar Ali, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Jamaica and a one time friend of Cheddi? There were no other trusted PPP economists at the time, perhaps. His youth might have also been in his favour.

      • de castro  On 03/15/2015 at 4:17 am

        My understanding
        Janet jagan was jagdeo s mentor.
        Her endorsement was reason /s for his appointment.
        Et tu jagdeo

  • albert  On 03/15/2015 at 1:09 pm

    “My understanding
    Janet jagan was jagdeo s mentor”

    Mr. Ramkarran must have known but does not write about the unflattering private side of Janet Jagan, or clarify whether or not she was a nursing school drop out. She wrote some pieces years back in, I think the Mirror. Nothing of them comes to mind so any effort to recall what they were about may not be wortwhile.

    Jagdeo may have work for a while,in a middle level position, at some Govt Planning Dept. under Clarence Ellis, a one time Deputy Governor of the Bank of Guyana. If Janet was his mentor it clarifies much about.

  • Thinker  On 03/15/2015 at 1:46 pm

    It is of course completely irrelevant whether Janet dropped out of Nursing School. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard(?). The republican front-runner doesn’t have a first degee. So what? The question is what Janet saw in Jagdeo that made her favour him as the PPP Presidential candidate.

    • de castro  On 03/15/2015 at 3:14 pm

      1. Youth.
      2. Interlectual.
      3. Ambition.

      Three ingredients that impressed her I suspect.!
      Was she mistaken ? Some will say ‘yes’ !
      The arrogance of power distorts/destroys.

      Am sure she realised her mistake before her exit.
      We can but speculate ! But the evidence is alive for us to decide.

      RIP janet

    • albert  On 03/15/2015 at 7:52 pm

      Nursing school drop out (if true)
      Minister of Health
      Prime Minister or was it President
      Mentor of Guyana’s President Jagdeo
      A screw up Guyana.

      Interesting resume. Wonder if there is any kind of connection.

  • de castro  On 03/15/2015 at 10:38 pm

    Even if it was so….what’s wrong with ‘education drop outs’ ?
    Many ‘drop outs’ go on to become successful ‘citizens’….
    Entrepenurs et al….
    Unless you have a ‘superiority’ complex.
    Class consciencousness…Victorian era.
    Which modi of India is faced with…his dilemma…
    India although democratic is still a ‘classfu’l society today…
    If born in a class you are more likely to die in that class.

    My vision/politics is for a ‘shoe shine’ boy to become president…cite
    Lula of Brazil….what’s wrong with that !

    My opinion is not imbedded in stone …it can/will change as our world
    changes/progresses. Our world is ‘mobile’…my concerns
    It is more volatile also.

    Que Sera Sera

  • de castro  On 03/15/2015 at 10:56 pm

    If I am correct…comrade jagdeo finished his education in Russia …
    Russian economics is not only ‘outdated’ Putin s dilemma…its out of touch.
    Chinese economics much more ‘updated’ (respected)….100% employment !
    GDP 6\7% ….thought they were ‘communists’ ?😇
    Corruption and class their dilemma….

    Sorry if I strayed into the ‘ideological’ perspective
    but our world is changing
    Has changed
    Will change

    We can but hope for the better !😇


    • albert  On 03/16/2015 at 12:24 pm

      Why do you have to be sorry for writing what you want. Do what you enjoy doing and enjoy life. Its all you have.

      Back to the subject. Never knew the Chinese had 100% employment. Last I heard they had a massive pool of unemployed cheap labor like the capitalist.

      .Incdentally, it just struck me maybe Janet wanted to try someone as President she believe is gay. You know he lock his wife out of the bedroom on their honeymoon night. Did you ever read her lenghty piece online of their life together.

      • Thinker  On 03/16/2015 at 1:05 pm

        Let us keep all this at the level of political analysis. Whether Jagdeo is gay or not it’s no one’s business. The Guyanese people are strill backward when it comes to dealing with issues of sexual orientation. Let us not feed superstition and ignorance.

  • albert  On 03/16/2015 at 1:06 pm

    Just for the record. My mother work closely with Janet for many year. She was wonderful and what I know is not written.
    Guys I have to stop posting for a while. The stock market is sinking and this gets me into an angry mode, especially on anything relating to an anti capitalist flipping marxist.

  • de castro  On 03/16/2015 at 1:32 pm

    Hope it has not crashed..😇…we are due for a tsunami sooner than later.
    Why is pound so strong …and dollar also ?
    Or is it Euro weakness ?

    Money crazy world 😈

    Unemployment must be explained… China if not in work no welfare.
    In USA EURO if not in work ‘welfare’…..guess that makes me a markist/lenninist.

    Today in UKPLC if unemployed you receive ‘help’ from the govt…
    but if offered job and you refuse it you loose your unemployment benefit.

    Communist ?


    Capitalist country 😈

    😀😊😀😊😀😊as for gay boy jagdeo …it is not the first gay president
    some say Michelle Obama is also gay….Putin ?

    Gossip is so unkind.

    Sir kamtan of Spain UK Guyana by appointment HRH QE2 UKPLC

  • Thinker  On 03/16/2015 at 6:17 pm

    Rivers claimed in her book “Diary of a Mad Diva” that Michelle was transgender. In the preface she also said that anyone who takes the book seriously is an idiot.

  • de castro  On 03/17/2015 at 1:19 am

    And the author …. ‘lunatic’
    Reading ‘trash’ is not ‘idiotic’…believing it ‘stupidity’

    Que sera

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