by Rakesh Rampertab

“The elitist practice of a selection of the presidential candidate by a few leaders, rather than the larger party membership, of such an important position is an outmoded, undemocratic mechanism. Long gone are the days when the rank and file membership must simply be informed of the decision; rather, they should be consulted and be part of the process in deciding this issue.”

                                                 —Anonymous PPP official to Stabroek News, July 14, 2002<< Page X                                                                        Page X>>>                       

“The PPP government does things that are so undemocratic, so unfair, so morally questionable, so bullying that you wonder if they aren't self-destructive and are inviting assault on the state.” 

                                                Dr. Frederick Kissoon, UG professor, Kaieteur News, July 14

Something is clinically wrong with the upstairs of the PPP. This, I am convinced of. The PPP recently made a public declaration that its 27th Congress, held in Port Mourant, was a success. No, let me correct myself; it was “highly successful.” So said its General Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramotar, even after having knowledge of the Rose Hall Town siege by one dozen gunmen.

I do not expect intelligence from the PPP; want I want is the truth—after all, they love to tell people they are “Jagan’s party” (whatever that means). I expect honesty from the PPP because the PPP occupies the seat of government in Guyana and is, therefore, obligated by law to tell the people the truth.

How could this Congress have been “highly successful” if four people (including a PPP activist-attendee from the meeting) were killed on the very night the meeting concluded, in the same locale? An entire town (Rose Hall) came under siege for 2 hours by a well-armed posse that apparently was heading to the Congress fete. The never got there because they were given the wrong directions by two fishermen who became suspicious—the PPP leadership ought to be grateful for their lives.

Much-Needed Democratic Reforms Rejected by PPP Leadership

First, in an unprecedented and dangerous move, the Section “K” Campbellville Group, led by prominent attorney-at-law and PPP Central Committee (CC) member, Mr. Kemraj Ramjattan, attempted to bring democratic reform into the archaic and obscure PPP constitution and practice—only to be rejected. The four motions raised were:

1)     That the terms “Marxism/Leninism,” “Socialist/Socialism,” and “democratic centralism” be replaced with  “national democratic,” “constitutional and national democratic principles,” and “transparency, accountability, equality and the rule of law” respectively.

2)     That the PPP select a Leader, Chairman, and General Secretary instead of only a General Secretary.

3)     That 16 of the 35 seats of the CC be allocated to Berbice (9) and Essequibo (7) constituents, instead of having a CC dominated by party people residing in the city/G/town/Demerara (as is the case now).

4)     That 7 or 1/3 of the 35 CC members be women.

The public is told that these proposals were rejected overwhelmingly, but I do not believe the PPP. I think that voters did not vote their conscience, but abided, as always, with the dictates of the PPP big wigs—Ramotar, Luncheon, Jagan (who was not there physically), etc., the people whose powers are most certainly to be eroded if these reforms were enacted.

One has to wonder why a mere 90 minutes was devoted to such staggering, critical issues. To make matters worse, most of this time was allocated to people who opposed reforms—Mr. Ramjattan, the central speaker in favor, was not even allowed to rebut. This, reader, I regret to say, is PPP democracy.

The PPP constitution, like its owner, operates on inappropriate (if not somewhat outdated) standards. The PPP constitution, at its most recent upgrade, is more than 20 years old. Instead of democracy, we hear the same tepid, “working class” rhetoric—the kind of babble that leaves workers without any class.

None of the four motions were accepted outright. In fact, as a consolation, the PPP leadership is willing to allow more women and youth to “participate (without voting rights) in the deliberations” of the CC. Hoji! Hoji! Should we be thankful? What is the purpose of this if these people will not be allowed voting rights? When the time comes to vote on critical issues, women will have to watch from the side as their male counterparts cast their votes. This is the kind of democracy that the PPP is offering—one that is undemocratic in nature and sexist in practice. 

To top this off, the president comes out in his speech affirming his supporters that democracy is “well and strong” within the PPP. But then, as if he forgot what he said, Mr. Jagdeo accused Ramjattan et al. of wanting de facto power via the “backdoor”; “Some comrades have made this mistake and have created confusion and have sent mixed signals to party members. There is no backdoor to power, which can only come from the people.” 

What “people” is he talking about? Reader: let me digress a bit. Andrei Sakharov, the great Soviet scientist-dissident-human rights activist who was seized and placed into detention (Gorky Park) by the KGB, because he criticized the Soviets for invading Afghanistan, once wrote in the first volume of his memoirs that “guilt hardly improves one’s judgment.”

The PPP never learned from its mistakes; nor does it seek redemption from its guilt. Now, back to that ridiculous phrase, power from the “people”; the people never choose the real power holders of the PPP (Executive Committee [EC] which consists of 15 members, one of whom is the presidential candidate). This is due to the fact that the general membership picks the 35 CC members—who in turns selects the 15 EC top guns. Let me dramatize how the “people” become sideline when it most matters.

Consider the previous Congress that was held by the PPP, in which Mr. Nagamotoo (former PPP Minister of Information) received the second highest number of votes from the hundreds of delegates etc. who attended that meeting. He instantly fell into the CC slot. One would think that he would end up in the elite EC slot too, right? But this did not happen because when the 35 CC members voted, Mr. Nagamotoo was not included.  How could one get the second highest number of votes from the “people” but not end up as one of the top 15 PPP leaders? If the "people” wanted him as the presidential candidate, he was wiped out by the CC leadership. So much for “people” power.

Dr. Frederick Kissoon is correct; unfortunately, the PPP is already on the path of suicide. This Congress, highly anticipated because it offered the party the opportunity to redeem itself in the face of current adversity, became a farce—a rip off for a number of reasons:

1)     The PPP leadership refused democratic reforms

2)     The PPP leadership denied some, including women, the right to vote

3)     The PPP leadership did not allow for newness or fresh people with fresh ideas; but basically re-elected itself—consisting of some old, inept senior members

In its effort to shake off a revolution from within, the PPP leadership is now weaker to confront a revolt from without. Consequently, more of its supporters will suffer—more will die. This is the charity that the PPP continues to expect from its supporters—it always received it.

Unfortunately, charity is like suicide—it always begins at home, from the inside.

July 31, 2002
© 2001