The Khemraj Ramjattan AFC Page
by Khemraj Ramjattan/AFC

Khemraj Ramjattan


The Inflexibility of the PPP: Its Re-assertion of Communism in These Times

“Communism has collapsed; it has not been smothered. This collapse has dented the dream of our world for a better life. But we will dream on; because liberal and neo-liberal paths to development cannot provide solutions.” Almost to a letter, the words just quoted have constantly found themselves in every major document of the PPP since communism's collapse in the 1980's. Most recently they were restated and emphasised in the Party Programme's newest edition – 2005 to 2008. Could you imagine!

Prior to its collapse in the 1980's, the Party's message on communism was most emphatically encapsulated in the words of one of its early stalwarts, Brindley Benn: “You can stop tomorrow, but you cannot stop communism!” Brindley Benn, after experiencing the harsh treatment which flowed upon any dissension with the Jagans, later was to deem both Jagans, Cheddie and Janet, the “running dogs of Soviet Imperialism”.

As a youth leader in the 80's and early 90's within the Party's ranks, I too became troubled when millions of Eastern Europeans were venting their spleen on their leaders, burning and pulling down posters and statues of Lenin and the lot. That kind of future flashing across over television screens we were never prepared for. Our propaganda czars at Freedom House simply could not reply to and rebut the questions which came in torrents from the more questioning amongst us. One ideologue, who up to then was highly regarded, would simply pluck out one by one the hairs on his eyebrow. This was most inadequate a response. His other response, which was even worse, was: “Don't believe everything you see on television, that is the work of imperialists! And you comrades, especially you Cde. Prak, stop reading all that revisionist/liberal trash.” I heard him; but I never listened to him.

This actual experience of seeing the grand communist edifice crumble, which edifice PPP's propaganda used to tell us is indestructible, is what I think more than anything else made me the “deliberative democrat” that I became.

I thus began treading cautiously, questioning things more, deliberating on them rather than accepting wholesale – even if they came from Ma and Pa.

And guess what happened? This questioning, enquiring approach soon was not going down well with the czars and czarinas within the PPP. I had always distrusted the principle of democratic centralism, which was the organisational principle being thrown at me to counter my approach and style. And so a fierce battle commenced. This fight got fiercer when, at the Enterprise Congress of the PYO in 1995, the words Marxism Lennism/Socialism/Communism were deleted from the PYO's constitution. This was a major victory for the “deliberative democrats” who were growing within the ranks of the youth section of the PPP. Of course, I was badly battered in 2002 at the Port Mourant Congress of the PPP. The attempts I led through the Section K Campbellville Group to delete these identical hard-core concepts, on very good geo-political grounds, all failed. But so much for my experiences.

What I have come to realise of greater gravity is the insincere double-speak of the Executive Committee of the PPP. These Comrades would preach the gospel of communism in the Party and the Congress and decry liberalism and neo-liberalism, yet apply at the level of its Government every aspect of liberalism and neo-liberalism. What hypocrisy! This is probably the most obscene aspect of PPP's politics. It preaches one thing, and practises another. And it goes about its business as if nothing is abnormal or disturbing about this gross inconsistency.

The farce and façade of this two-facedness, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde scenario, is used to beguile its members and supporters on the one hand, and the donor community on the other. At the group meetings and Regional Conferences, the Communist preachers tell the congregation: “It is no fault of ours that you remain poor. The fault lies in the blood-sucking local capitalist class, and the international cartels in association with the IMF/World Bank. They pauperise you. Not us! We are trying our best for you.” At the high-powered meetings with the donor community and financiers of various programmes, the language is spoken of how truly free market and liberal oriented the government is.

This big lie, this monstrous insincerity must come to a halt. If this kind of double-speak can be perpetuated at this level, by the leaders of the governing Party, why then could it not be perpetuated at every other level?

It is exactly for this reason why these days, when this PPP leadership says that it wants Parliament to be truly functional, the ordinary people know, like Sir Michael Davies found out, that such an assertion from such a leadership may not be functionally true.

It is obvious double-speak, too, when the PPP, who used to decry the PNC's shameless abuse, dominance and monopolisation of the State media when the PNC was in power, does nothing to shed such abuse, dominance and monopolisation now that the PPP is in power.

Whoever in their right mind will want to conduct business with this PPP Government when it promises to honour its financial obligations, and then most arrogantly breaches them, as is evidenced in the most recent debacle of the bonds issue with Citizens Bank. This concrete example of another double-speak, if not remedied satisfactorily, will destroy all investor confidence in this country!

It is exactly for this same reason why nobody will believe any utterances coming from some PPP leaders concerning a desire to work along with progressive alliances, when in the same breath other PPP leaders cuss down and denigrate every organisation and individual potentially capable of constituting such a “progressive alliance.” But what do you expect from a leadership which suffers from an infantile disorder?

This whole exercise of re-emphasing its commitment to communism in the period of the Party's life 2005 – 2008, is a deception by the leaders of the PPP to shift the gaze of its grumbling cadres and members away from these leaders' corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence. But there are limitations to this organised deception which sooner than later will be exposed. (KN 062506)


Towards a Better State: the Need for Public Sector REFORM

When I was some 20 years younger and in company with my University colleagues – both from UG and UWI - we would argue passionately and with that great enthusiasm, which is associated with young academics. We would be loud and boisterous, with expletives and all.

The issues of debate largely used to touch and concern heady philosophical concepts. One such topic we dealt with very frequently was the State. There were vigorous vociferous verbal battles over almost everything about the State – how it came about, what purpose and function it performed and in whose interest, how and when will it wither away.

When I entered the world of work as a State Prosecutor, a new realisation dawned on me. The State will not wither away! Over the years I have become fortified in this view. If anything, the State will grow in influence, because the vital public functions of formulating policy, implementing policy, and supervising the implementation and execution of such policy will remain exclusively in the State.

These apart, however, there are other roles the State plays and will continue to play which will ensure its existence long into the future. Just think about its role in the maintenance of law and order, in providing security from internal and external sources of attack, providing for a judicial system, a public education and a public health system, the conduct of foreign relations and so on, and it will at once become evident that the State is here to stay.

This being so, the big question now must be how should the State better perform its functions and play its roles so that a greater happiness is spread over this beautiful land. Guyanese will be a happier people still when every aspect of the delivery of State services, or as more popularly called – ‘public services' - improve. Though certain services have improved over the last decade many others have remained pathetic and have even grown woefully worse. Great expectations have been dashed in the area of the judicial system. There is massive disenchantment with the procurement process. Policing services remain, for very many, within the category of appalling.

There are many reasons, historical and political, for this quandary. And an understanding of these reasons will make us better appreciate why there must be a massive overhaul of our Public Service as promised through the much-touted Public Sector Modernisation Plan.

The best analysis yet that I have seen on the reasons for this disastrous state of affairs of our Public Service is from Tyrone Ferguson in his book: “Structural Adjustment and Good Governance - the case of Guyana”. More particularly in his chapter 6, when discussing reform of the Public Service during the period 1970 to 1990, this passage caught my eye. I am impressed by its honesty and a fearlessness to say it as it is. At page 178, this very erudite Guyanese wrote:

“Ministerial dominance of the Public Service became the order of the day. Ministers over time usurped control of the day-to-day operational tasks of administration from Permanent Secretaries and other Senior officials. The extant regulatory infrastructure and procedures of administration were ignored on the basis of an alleged inappropriateness in the prevailing context ……

Accountability of public agents was thus destroyed. Political imperatives came to imbue administrative decision-making.

These features of an increasingly politicised public bureaucracy entailed the eventual blurring of the professional and political lines of operational demarcation and functional responsibilities.

A bureaucracy that had evolved a tradition of professionalism, in time with its Westminster lineage, was soon floundering under the stifling hold of an authoritarian polity.”

He had earlier argued, quoting from one Evans that:

“What is often overlooked is that the public sector too requires an enabling environment. To be effective, public service must be endowed with dignity and enjoy social recognition. Putting private enterprise on a pedestal tends to lead to the denigration of public service, making it difficult to recruit qualified personnel for the bureaucracy and impairing the efficiency of the State”.

The Public Sector Modernisation Plan, in its diagnostics of the existing state of affairs as at 2003, reported the damning but true findings that vital elements of governance, namely a committed national leadership, active citizen participation, and transparency, “appear to have become dysfunctional in whole or in part, others simply have never existed, while others have not evolved, collectively serving to impede efforts to improve the quality, timeliness and effectiveness of programming”.

Additionally, when it comes to programme structures, they are “illogical in the sense that they do not link resources to results and are not organised around citizen service”.

A further finding which catches the eye is the present managerial culture which is aptly described as “a command and control management culture which imposes successive levels of sign-offs and inhibits managerial delegation.” These characteristics reflect the centralism of the PPP/C Government.

So what Ferguson was talking about in earlier decades remains largely extant today. To these truths, we must not flinch; but continue to confront so that a modern Public Service could be created.

Guyanese, especially its young academics, must embrace and honestly debate and discuss these topics, issues and matters of the State. Deliberations on matters like these are very relevant. Let us be loud, passionate and boisterous on these matters, expletives excluded. (KN 071606)

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