The Khemraj Ramjattan Page
by Khemraj Ramjattan
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Pa seh Ma, Ma seh Ba

So it has happened at last. Moses Nagamootoo has publicly announced that he will seek, firstly, the approval of his Party, and then the people, to contest from among the leadership and membership for the PPP/C's Presidential candidature for the 2006 General Elections. President Bharrat Jagdeo who must have thought that his incumbency may have had the effect of curtailing potential challengers, now will have a fight from at least one senior, longstanding and very popular member of the P.P.P. I foresee another challenger emerging on or around that general election, who will take the fight as directly and clinically as Moses; but he will do so more from within the upper echelons and internal quarters of the party.

Knowing the sensibilities and sensitivities of the P.P.P.'s top brass, this public pronouncement made by Nagamootoo must have been as earth shattering as it was surprising. Quite frankly, even I was taken aback somewhat by this early announcement of his intention. But Moses knows best what Moses does. "Why?" some may ask. Is it that legal practice is not as profitable after all, as my good friend Khurshid Sattaur makes it out to be? I rather suspect that the motivations have to do with being the consummate political animal he is. And as the frankness and candour his answers bring out when the questions were asked by Mr. Yesu Persaud, he is indeed concerned about the dramatic loss of momentum in getting us to the promised land. This concern I should mention is not only his, but a huge one within the rank and file of the party.

The P.P.P., notwithstanding the profundity of its politics, the vastness and depth of its struggles, the brilliant leaders it produced, the immeasurable experience it has gained through its participation in national and international activities, always seemed weak-kneed and nervous when leadership challenges emerge, or even when proposals are genuinely made to institutionalise a method which is direct, broad-based and democratic to elect its senior leaders and top candidates for national posts.

As is well known, the Section K Campbellville's proposals at the last Port Mourant Congress included exactly such a proposal i.e. that at the Congress nearest to a general election, there should be a presentation of candidates willing to run for the party's presidential candidature, and an election thereafter by the voting members at Congress after a process of campaigning which will have to follow certain guidelines set in a Code of Conduct. This kind of endorsement by this larger body of the successful candidate is by far a superior method than the autocratic one which I can only describe as the "Pa seh Ma, Ma seh Ba and membership suppose to seh Yeah" method.

It is now history what happened to Section K's proposal. Through a 'democratic process', it was ripped to shreds.

Now how will the emergence of this actual challenge for leadership be dealt with? The proposed procedures which the far-seeing members of the Section K Group wanted constitutionalised in the Party's Constitution, or some such modified acceptable version, may very well come in handy.

The creation of institutions, structures and procedures for resolving challenges, disputes and controversies of this kind and type is necessary. As was argued by one of the authors of the Section K's proposal, we must not seek to build our shelters when the rain commences pouring; we must do so always in good time because we know that one day it will rain.

Or was it a case where it was never anticipated or expected that leadership challenges will ever come to the fore? Well, I want to believe that this rather dumb approach was not the consideration. Leadership challenges in a large national party as the P.P.P, is as sure as the rains. It is human nature to want to present oneself to contest for the country's top position. And there is absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about wanting to do so.

What will obviously be wrong, however, is a mud-slinging festival. I only pray that Moses is not propagandised as a "nemakharam" by those who feel he ought not to have done as he did. Tendering oneself for the country's top position, through the vehicle of one's political party, is a noble honourable thing to do. And doing so in good time so that the pitch can be prepared for the bouncers and straight drives, is being very reasonable to all concerned - team-players, critics, members and supporters and the larger electorate.

When the match will have been played, whosoever emerges the winner every party man and woman must respect and thereafter support unflinchingly.

I simply wish to conclude that I learnt somewhere that the democratic method, at a national level, involves two basic dimensions: Contest-ation and participation, where the most powerful collective decision-makers are selected through fair honest periodic elections in which candidates freely compete for votes and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote.

These two attributes at a party level are also very applicable. By a leadership challenge, there is contestation. And as for participation, quite frankly, I would like to have my say by participating in a fair, honest election to decide the winner of this challenge.

My party and country deserves such a development. We will all grow wiser and stronger as a result of this learning of how to deal with the unprecedented and the uncharted.


This is Not what I bargained For

There is no reasonable doubt in my mind now that there is massive corruption and irregularities in high places; that the political and administrative landscape is mired in bad governance. And it stinks to the high heavens.

Those whom I publicly lauded as being incorruptible have shamed me. I feel so guilty in being conned. But I want to confess that there was this pop-up defensive mechanism which caused me just not to want to believe what I was hearing and what was being presented to me. "It cannot be true. Not him! Oh you so blasted mischievous. You got you own axe to grind" were some of my more spontaneous reactions, along of course with the accompanying colourful expletives.

Being an Attorney-at-Law, and politician of some credibility and repute, on both planes if I may say, I find myself wonderfully placed to hear from 'substantial insiders' what the state of play is. And within recent times, the goings-on within government circles can smother you with its stench. That is, if you believe what you are told.

My pop-up defensive mechanism is not as spontaneous in its reactions as it used to be. I hope this shift has nothing to do with being expelled from my Party. "Tell me some more! Could you give me names and places? You got any documents to prove that?" are now my responses to the torrents of utterances as to the goings-on in these high places.

Everyday now it is one scandal after another with no one being successfully prosecuted so that official closure can be brought to the lamentably long list. There is obviously an impunity that is all-pervasive. Why this is so must be honestly answered, and in quick time. Otherwise there will be universal fear, complete erosion of public institutions, and the death of our democracy.

I hesitate to believe that we have made a deal with the devil. Rather, I want to believe that there are many who want to stop corruption and bad governance.

But we must start realising that the solution to bring bad governance and corruption to an end is an effort that must come from us individual citizens and us individual leaders. We must not think of it as someone else's business to solve.

I have in earlier times been a serious critic of the investigative and detective methods of our Police Force; the stultification of its professional growth; its cringing from public scrutiny; and its spinelessness when confronted with an interfering political elite.

And the more I think of it, I see that it is only through the evolution to a truly professional Police Force which will realise a substantial salvation from this murky world of corruption.

How come with all the advisors at the Office of the President on the national security issue - Luncheon, Lewis, Feroze Mohamed, and Mc Donald along with a Home Affairs Minister - intractable problems still persist?

What kind of accountability will emerge here, when there are so many cooks and no bottle washers? This is not good governance!

When there is not a proper compartmentalisation of the duties and obligations and parameters delineated for a public functionary, loopholes will be many for the clever and cunning to become corrupt. Why is there then not a proper compartmentalisation? For example, who really is in charge of determining a remigrant? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Secretary to the Treasury? Another more recent example is who is in charge of the Wildlife Unit - Roger Luncheon or the Management Authority? If indeed it is the Management Authority, why is Luncheon signing up employees' contracts? Bad governance or democratic centralism?

Apart from a truly professional Police Force, and a reformed civil service arrangement which will see a sharper compartmentalisation of duties and powers of functionaries, the making of information public as to the goings-on in government and within the administrative circles is another fundamental which must be provided for. Why can't we have a website which provides up-to-date information as to entry and clearance of goods with name of importer, goods, quantity and invoice price? Competitors will be freely informed as to everything. So if Ramjattan brings in Xerox and Hammermill stationery at a certain price his competitor will see it clearly on the screen. This can lead to scrutiny and help in stopping under-invoicing.

You know, what I see around me now I never bargained for.

Editor's Note: Taken from the Stabroek News, November 15th, 2003 (originally titled "Mature Politics Requires Leadership Challenges") and June 26th, 2004.


© 2001