Home > Columnists, Commentary, Diaspora News, Guyana, Politics > Problems with opposition parties in Guyana – PPPR may continue to govern

Problems with opposition parties in Guyana – PPPR may continue to govern

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean

By: Oscar Ramjeet

Opposition parties in Guyana, inspired by the merger of forces in Trinidad and Tobago, which now form the government of the twin island republic, and the coalition in Suriname, are hopeful that, if there is unity, the Bharrat Jagdeo government can be defeated at next year’s general elections. However, instead of co-operation there is further division and chaos.

Like the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), there is leadership problem in the relatively new and upcoming force, Alliance for Change (AFC), since one of the leaders, Khemraj Ramjattan, an attorney and former People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) member of parliament, is keeping away from the party he formed with Raphael Trotman, also an attorney, who broke away from the PNCR. The reason being is that Ramjattan was sidelined a week ago in a promised agreement for him to lead the party.

Reports from Georgetown state that Ramjattan, who hails from the Corentyne in Berbice, but has been living in Georgetown for two decades, has been boycotting meetings of his party, obviously disenchanted because his party failed to keep its promise. Under a commitment to revolving leadership, Ramjattan was to have taken over last week from leader Trotman. It is understood that the rotating agreement has been set aside because Trotman is touted to be the AFC’s presidential candidate for next year’s elections

The party failed to resolve the leadership impasse after a prolonged meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) two weeks ago, when it was decided that Trotman would be the AFC’s presidential candidate.

Ramjattan has not been seen at AFC meetings recently and was prominently absent from talks the AFC has initiated on a possible coalition with the PNCR and other parties for the 2011 general elections.

A large section of the Guyanese community, mainly in the capital city Georgetown, was supporting the AFC because it cut through racial barriers with afro and indo Guyanese and reminded them of the 1950s with Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, when they jointly fought the might of the colonial masters Bookers, Reynolds, and other powerful expatriate corporations.

Trotman is a former senior PNCR member and parliamentarian who defected to form the AFC with Ramjattan, who defected from the governing PPPR following friction with its leaders, especially President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The AFC is hoping to woo voters both from the PPPC and PNCR, but instead of making progress it now has insurmountable problems. The leaders were hoping to take the place of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) but, unlike the WPA, which had a dynamic leader in Walter Rodney when it was formed in the mid 1970s and was poised to topple Forbes Burnham when Walter was assassinated on Friday, June 13, 1980,

The PNCR is not without problems also. The current leader, Robert Corbin, who grew up with the party, and served in several senior positions is not in full control of the party. He was challenged three years ago for leadership by another popular and hardworking member who also grew up in the party, Vincent Alexander, who had the backing of several senior members, including Deborah Backer, who is a vice president of the party. Last year Corbin was also opposed by former Health Minister, Richard Van West Charles, son in law of the founder leader of the party, Forbes Burnham, who later withdrew his candidacy and supported Winston Murray, a Indo Guyanese, and a former deputy prime minister for leadership of the party, but Murray was defeated in a landslide.

The PNCR has been experiencing leadership problems ever since the death of Burnham. Desmond Hoyte, who succeeded Forbes, joined the administration as a technocrat since he was not a hard core party member, and his elevation angered strongman Hamilton Green, who served as the party’s first secretary and was known as the party’s vote getter and stalwart.

After Hoyte’s passing there was scramble for leadership, and Robert Corbin succeeded, but there was dissatisfaction from a few frontline members like Vincent Alexander, Aubrey Norton, Richard Van West Charles, Hamley Case, Joe Hamilton, Andrew Hicks and others. It was only last year that an indo Guyanese, Winston Murray, who was deputy prime minister in the Hoyte administration, challenged Corbin for leadership, but lost, and a year later Corbin announced that he will not be his party’s presidential candidate for next year’s elections.

I find this very strange for Corbin not to run for the No. 1 position but wants to remain as leader of the PNCR and argues that it is not mandatory under the party’s constitution for the leader to be the presidential candidate. I had already indicated in a previous article that, if Corbin wants to remove the PPPC from government, he should resign as leader and allow his successor to work out strategies for next year’s general elections.

It is almost certain that the PPPC presidential candidate will be the next president because, under the Constitution, the candidate from the party that polls the most votes in the elections will be the president of the Co-operative Republic. If, however, the PPPC secures less than 50% of the votes, it cannot form the government unless it merges with another party since the formation of the government requires more than half the votes cast.

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