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