Ramson most likely interrupted a “carefully orchestrated selection process” for PPP presidential candidate – Ramkarran

Ralph Ramkarran

Ramkarran, a former long-standing member of the PPP, made his view known in his most recent column.

There, he acknowledged that Ramson recently announced publicly that he would seek the PPP’s nomination to be its presidential candidate for the 2020 general elections. But, Jagdeo chided Ramson and said that he deviated from party principles.           

Ramson’s announcement was made immediately after the CCJ ruled that the two-term presidential limit did not violate Guyana’s constitution, thereby ruling out former president Bharrat Jagdeo for a third term.

Ramkarran said that Ramson made the move because he “clearly wanted his name to be placed among those under consideration before an anointment is made. He joins Irfaan Ali, Frank Anthony and Anil Nandlall, who have been identified by observers as being the persons from whom a ‘choice’ will be made. While no one has yet emerged as a ‘front runner,’ it could well be that one among the three has already been identified. If this is so, then Ramson may possibly have been seen as an intruder, prematurely disrupting what might have been a carefully orchestrated selection process.”

“Memories are short,” said Ramkarran as he reminded that public announcements were made in the past but saw no such reaction from Jagdeo and other PPP big wigs.

Ramkarran said however that the reason the previous announcements were condoned and even encouraged was because it was all a façade.

“In 2011, the candidate did emerge from internal discussions. But Donald Ramotar and I had long before publicly announced our candidacies. Later, Clement Rohee and Gail Teixeira announced theirs. There were interviews, press reports, speculation and subtle campaigning. We were not criticized because everyone knew that this was, apart from my efforts, a fake campaign. The candidate was already anointed and the choice was a foregone conclusion.”

Further, Ramkarran revealed that the PPP has no special rules for the selection of a presidential candidate. He said that it has decision-making rules under which the executive committee of 15 recommends and the central committee of 35 decides. He said, “The latter invariably follows the ‘recommendation’ of the former.”

Ramkarran said that the few “rules” for selection “are archaic and have long outlived their usefulness.”
He posited that in this era of liberal democracy, the public would like to see and hear the candidates before one is selected by the party, especially having regard to the powerful position the president holds under the constitution. “And the selection process for all parties in Guyana, not only for presidential candidates but also for officials, should be determined by members.”

Ramkarran said that party supporters are becoming wary of candidates being foisted upon them with barely a nod to the application of democratic principles.

Ramkarran revealed, “I had to make a public appeal for a secret ballot for the election of the candidate in 2011, which former presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar publicly opposed. The executive committee members were made to state their preferences openly. They unanimously supported Donald Ramotar. This time around it may not be so easy and both the executive committee and central committee might be forced into secret ballots.”

Ramkarran said that there is now a sense that both the public and the party are beginning to frown on secrecy and “anointment.” He said, “They would like to see candidates engage in public debates. Far from such debates being divisive, they enable the candidates to present themselves, their credentials, their policies and their visions.”

Ramkarran said that a debate, and a choice being subsequently made in a democratic and transparent manner, results in the enhanced acceptability of the candidate to the whole party and the public. Mobilization by a party behind such a democratic choice is then easier to accomplish. It is not a surprise that in both 2011 and 2015, the PPP complained that its supporters did not turn out to vote in their numbers. The anointment of the candidate, prior to the official selection by the party, may well have had a negative effect on mobilization of supporters.”

He said that as it is, the public does not know whether the same process as in 2011 is likely to be played out again by the PPP. Ramkarran said that it certainly seems as if this was the intention.

But, he explained that it is not so easy now. “The PPP is no longer in power and the capacity of a dominant leader, or a section of the leadership, to ‘persuade’ members to accept a designated candidate may have diminished now that the party is out of power.”

Ramkarran recalled that much emphasis has been placed on encouraging young leaders. “As Mr. Ramson told the PPP, if it is inviting young people to join and play leadership roles, it must be prepared to accept that young people also have different ideas of how things should be done. It appears that for Mr. Ramson, public debate by candidates and an open election process, by secret ballot, would be the preferred methods.”

Ramkarran said that Ramson brings fresh air into the “musty decision-making” corridors of the PPP. “He has brought focus on the PPP’s method of selecting its presidential candidate. He has issued a challenge about the way in which things are being done. He has paved the way for himself and those who come after him to speak publicly about their ambitions and hopes for Guyana and for an open election process by party members. His public announcement is also a reminder that in 1999, the PPP gave a 35-year old member a chance. In 2020, Ramson will be 37.”

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