A strange thing happened in the PPP a month ago
Freddie Kissoon column
February 11, 2007
There are four distinct periods of the Jagdeo presidency. The first interval is called the surrogate phase. This was when Mr. Ralph Ramkarran and Moses Nagamootoo squared off for the right to succeed Janet Jagan after Mrs. Jagan felt that the burden of the presidency was endangering her health. Both lost out because the backers of the two gentlemen had harsh things to say about their respective candidates.
Nagamootoo was vehemently opposed to Ramkarran. He persuasively argued that Ramkarran since 1992 preferred his law practice to a cabinet position which he was consistently offered. Nagamootoo told the meeting which was called to decide the issue that Ramkarran excluded himself from the presidency by virtue of not wanting to serve. Though his listeners bought his argument, Nagamootoo didn't stand a chance against the opposition Mrs. Jagan put up against him. Like George Chalmers in Trinidad who became a compromise candidate after the bigwigs in the PNM couldn't agree as to who should succeed Eric Williams, Jagdeo had a huge amount of luck bestowed on him.
From 1999 to 2001, Jagdeo was basically a football to be kicked around by Freedom House. He was not his own man. The PPP's executive committee, particularly Mrs. Jagan and Roger Luncheon, ran the presidency. Jagdeo didn't like it. I know this from speaking to him. He knew that there could not be a fight for the presidential candidacy for the 2001 election, so he took his humiliation and waited for his chance.
It came after he was elected in 2001. But he didn't rush it. There was no time to stamp his authority on the presidency because the crime spree occupied him and the PPP leadership was preoccupied with assembling a strategy to counter Buxton.
Jagdeo treaded cautiously refusing to endorse a motion at the August 2002 congress of the PPP in Port Mourant that would have made the President, the leader of the PPP. Jagdeo voted against the resolution tabled by the Campbellville group headed by Khemraj Ramjattan.
When Buxton was tamed, Jagdeo began to make policy independent of Freedom House. He stood up against party decisions he didn't see as workable and stuck to his conceptualisations whenever a disagreement arose between him and the executive committee.
This second period is called the manhood phase. Jagdeo had achieved political self-confidence and felt he was now his own man. Somewhere along the line, he read a few books on realpolitik and started the politics of subtlety and astuteness.
He elevated his own mandarins and formed his own coterie. Robert Persaud, his nephew-in-law, became his right-hand man. He began to dish out immense favours to those in the PPP leadership that may have wanted to confront him. One by one he bought out his detractors in the executive committee. This was when the Nagamootoo crisis developed. Nagamootoo felt that Jagdeo had now become independent of the PPP leadership and sought to curtail his expanding power. He found an ally in Khemraj Ramjattan and Navin Chandarpal in the central committee.
At the close of 2004, the gang of three - Nagamootoo, Ramjattan and Chandarpal - had become casualties of Jagdeo's well-laid out chessboard moves.
This marked the third section in his rule which I called the hegemonic phase, meaning that Jagdeo had triumphed over the PPP leadership and had assumed total control of all the levers of power. The great floods of 2005 made him invincible inside the PPP.
From 2005 until the present time, Jagdeo runs the government of Guyana in a way that no other president has ruled this country, not even Forbes Burnham.
No president has so stamped his authority on the state machinery like Burnham. In this context, the Burnham governorship and the Jagdeo rulership cannot be compared. Burnham was synonymous with Guyana . But there is a crucial distinction. Burnham was a highly intelligent man that understood the complexities of power. Jagdeo doesn't.
Under Burnham, Harold Davis ran Guysuco, not Burnham. Carl Greenidge ran the Finance Ministry, not Burnham. Dr. Shahabudeen was in charge of legal affairs, not Burnham. Vincent Teekah controlled the direction of the educational system, not Burnham. Give Burnham a learned man with top class qualifications, and Burnham would have given him political and administrative authority.
Bharrat Jagdeo micro-manages every aspect of high policy in his government. It is a fascinating manifestation of modern politics anywhere in the world. One wonders if Jagdeo's health will stand the burden. This man doesn't sleep. He is a workaholic. He keeps a commanding eye on all aspects of power. He controls the Finance Ministry. He supervises the direction of Guysuco. He overlooks the University of Guyana . At one time, the Attorney-General handed in his resignation because of what Jagdeo wanted to have included in the legislation on procurement.
No one has political and administrative space under Jagdeo. Jagdeo will not give it to anyone no matter if they come from Oxford , Harvard and the Sorbonne combined with ten doctorates to their names. It was Jagdeo that had to tell the Education Ministry and the Council of the University that he approves of the advertisement for a new Vice-Chancellor.
It was Jagdeo that insisted he wants VAT to begin at 16 percent despite advice to lower it. Jagdeo doesn't listen like Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte, Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan did.
With just four more years left of his presidency and no one to challenge him, except the leadership of the security forces which would not depart from the tradition of the Westminister system of obedience to civilian rulers, Jagdeo perhaps has more control over Guyana than any leader in the past ever had. (The Winston Felix saga was an exception to this rule).
We now come to the fourth part of his presidency. I call it the resurgent phase. It would appear that there is a nascent move in the PPP leadership to demand that Jagdeo accept some of the wishes of the party's collective-decisions. The fear is that the PPP is the party that won the 2006 election but has no say in government.
Last month, Jagdeo agreed to appoint an aging party leader to a very senior cabinet position. He will be named in the coming months. This person also signaled his intention to contest for the presidential candidacy in 2011. I do not agree with this demand.
The PPP is turning its back on the young talent it has. Trust the PPP to do something backward. I urge Jagdeo not to resist this appointment. On this one, I am siding with Jagdeo. But should I? Absolute power scares me. It should also scare anyone.