PPP expels Ramjattan
Georgetown — Attorney-at-law Khemraj Ramjattan has joined Balram Singh Rai, another member of the legal fraternity, as the only two members of the PPP's Executive Committee to be expelled from the party.
Ramjattan received his expulsion letter last Friday after 11 p.m. Rai was expelled in the 1960s over disagreement with the PPP leadership.
Both Ramjattan and Rai are considered to be brilliant legal minds who served the PPP with distinction and gained the respect and admiration of all Guyanese.
Announcing the expulsion of the 43 year-old lawyer, PPP Executive Committee member Gail Teixeira informed the media that Ramjattan was guilty of breaching party rules. Specifically, that he failed to comply with a commitment he made at an Executive Committee meeting on February 6 to cease all public attacks on party leaders and the government; that he failed to use the internal party mechanism to air positions; and that he did not abide with the constitution and rules of the party.
The PPP release read by Texiera, stated, "...The Executive Committee was forced to conclude that Mr Ramjattan has no intention of abiding by the minimum rules and standards necessary to sustain his membership of the party."
The statement claimed that Ramjattan was called before the Executive Committee to explain his constant attacks on the leadership of the party. It added that he was in every case remorseful and promised to deal with any disagreements internally.
Teixeira said Ramjattan agreed to cease all public attacks on the party, government and their leaders and to use internal party bodies to express differences and abide by the party rules and practices.
Commenting on the charges, Ramjattan said that his critical remarks about the party or its leaders should not be seen as attacks, but as an attempt to save the party from discredit. He added that nowhere in the party’s constitution is it enshrined that a party member cannot criticise the party openly.
Ramjattan's relationship with the Executive Committee of the PPP has been strained ever since he embarked on moves to democratize the party.
The rancour began six year ago when Ramjattan's regional PPP group, the Campbellville Group, made a proposal to change the party’s constitution. The group wanted more internal party democracy and proposed a shedding of the party’s communist image. But PPP General Secretary Donald Ramotar asked that the proposal be withdrawn and for it to be dealt with at the leadership conferences across the three counties after which it could be taken to the next congress. Nothing was done at the three-county conference levels and the initiative was dismissed by party leaders at the Port Mourant Congress without being given a chance.
Ramjattan's comments to the media, his column in the Stabroek News and his statements as the Head of the Bar association managed to annoy some in the Executive Committee.
The lawyer said that he tried to raise internally, matters that he believed were not being addressed by a minister of the government but was accused of wanting the minister’s job. He added that members had no freedom to dissent and had to yield to the view of the majority. He said whatever arguments are proffered on an issue do not trickle down to the grassroots. He also believed that an element of "majoritarian" dictatorship existed in the party with the cards stacked against anyone who wants to make a change.
"The majority works against you. You have to shut up. But you have to allow for dissenting voices to be heard because tomorrow, that minority voice can hold sway and might be right. What it also breeds is tolerance to different people's opinions, which I feel they don't like. They want absolute control," Ramjattan said.
The outspoken member was being closely observed as early as 1994, when he criticized Minister of Home Affairs Feroze Mohammed and Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis for not using the opportunity to modernize the police force.
He made one final poke at his ex-comrades telling Stabroek News, "Let a thousand flowers bloom. The democracy that we want to build in Guyana that Cheddi wanted to build in Guyana would let a thousand flowers bloom. It does not matter if I am a little white and I am not red like the rest of my comrades..." referring to the continued obsession by many in the Executive Committee with Socialist ideas.
"I knew the national security question would become foremost because of race relations in Guyana... but of course the czar and czarinas thought differently," Ramjattan stated.
His unpopularity with the Executive Committee was cemented when he accused Janet Jagan, the unacknowledged czarina of the party, of using "indiscreet and tasteless language" in her letter about the late Desmond Hoyte turning a blind eye to electoral malpractices in 1968. Jagan's letter was in response to an editorial on the life of Hoyte who had passed away the month before.
Ramjattan said her remarks, while accurate, could be more damaging to national consensus. On November 15th, 2003 he explored Moses Nagamotoo's challenge to Bharrat Jagdeo for the Presidency, causing more offence in noting the lack of a democratic decision-making process in the party as it related to the succession issue.
Ramjattan's final acts of indiscretion according to PPP insiders was his description of President Jagdeo's remarks at an Annandale public meeting as "infantile" when Jagdeo lashed out at the media for its stance on the Gajraj Death Squad allegation.
Ramjattan’s statement as head of the Bar Association calling for an independent inquiry into the death squad allegations peeved members of the Executive Committee. He walked out of an Executive Committee meeting earlier this month after some members expressed discomfort at his presence.
Ramjattan was summoned to a disciplinary hearing on February 6th where he alleged that President Bharrat Jagdeo had accused him of leaking information to the US Embassy. The PPP later vehemently denied this with 29 other Executive Committee members signing a statement denying that the President had made such an accusation.
But Moses Nagamootoo, another Executive Committee member, who himself has been at odds with some party faithfuls over his announcement that he will challenge President Jagdeo for the PPP presidential nomination at the 2006 general elections, backed up his colleague saying, "I was at the meeting when President Jagdeo made the accusation (against Ramjattan). He did name the US Embassy", Nagamootoo said.
Ramjattan continues to hold a defiant attitude maintaining that he would remain in parliament because, he said, he had the support of many persons in this regard.
But Teixeira counters with the statement that legislation to give parties the right to recall MPs from the benches is currently being looked at.
Examining the options open to him, Ramjattan told the local media he would be taking up the matter before the party's Congress which he said is expected to come up in two years. He has also mulled the idea of appealing the Executive Committee’s decision before the party's Central Committee (CC) but he pointed out that if he were he to do so, the results are not likely to be in his favour since more than 29 CC members have openly taken a position against him.
The final resort open to him is to take the matter before the court.
It is not clear whether Moses Nagamootoo will be facing disciplinary action in openly supporting the beleagured Ramjattan and going counter to what President Jagdeo claimed, i.e., that the latter charged Ramjattan with leaking information to the US embassy. In any event, 29 other party faithfuls contended that Jagdeo did not make such a statement.
T&T, Barbados trade barbs over fishing
By Sandra Chouthi
Special to Indo Caribbean World
Port-of-Spain - In the midst of Trinidad and Tobago wanting to emerge as a leader in Caricom and in resolving the crisis in Haiti, Prime Minister Patrick Manning now has to deal with settling an ongoing fishing dispute with its Barbados neighbour.
The fishing dispute reared its ugly head again on February 7 when the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard intercepted two Barbados-registered fishing vessels in Tobago waters with catch on board. Their captains, Joseph Mason and Samuel Firebrace appeared before Magistrate Joan Gill in the Scarborough Second Magistrates' Court on February 9, but were freed as the police offered no evidence.
On January 30, Manning said this country plans to refer the "very contentious" fishing dispute with Barbados to Caricom. Manning said steps were being taken to lodge Trinidad and Tobago's case with the Caricom Secretariat. Manning had said then that he informally raised the matter with Barbados' Owen Arthur at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Nigeria in December, which Arthur has denied.
Manning said on February 5 that he did not think that Arthur has labelled him a liar for his comments on the fishing dispute between the two countries, adding that he would not engage in a public squabble over it and instead discuss the matter with Arthur.
"If we allow small states to sidetrack us, then we will not be able to achieve our major objectives that we set for ourselves and on which our populations elected us," Manning said. "It is for me a very small matter and I do not propose to allow it to interfere in cordial relations in the region."
Billie Miller, Barbados' Foreign Affairs Minister, said on February 4 that although the matter of fisheries arose incidentally during a caucus of Caricom Heads, there was never any decision between the two parties to the negotiations regarding the possible intervention of the Caricom Secretariat.
The fishing dispute, which recurs ever so
often when fishermen from both countries end up fishing in each other's waters, has not met very well with Arthur. He threatened on February 9 to treat Trinidadian businessmen in the same manner that his country's fishermen were treated. Arthur said his country "with immediate effect accord to Trinidad and Tobago goods imported into our economic space the same terms and conditions that the Trinidad authorities are extending to our fishermen in Trinidad and Tobago's economic space."
Stating that Trinidad businesmen had significant investments in Barbados, Arthur said, "Trinidad nationals already own some of our best lands. They own significant parts of our tourism enterprise, but we don't own any tourism enterprises in Trinidad and Tobago."
Arthur's statements were made against the backdrop and long-held view that Trinidadian businessmen, especially manufacturers, have aggressively pursued markets in the Caribbean, giving stiff competition to their counterparts in the various countries.
Reacting to the announcement, Manning said if the reports were accurate, then he was "most surprised at these developments." He said he had already received an initiative from top representatives of the private sector in Trinidad and Tobago "who are apprehensive about the situation in Barbados."
He added: "My government will spare no effort to ensure the continuation of harmonious relations with our friends and relatives in Barbados. We are prepared and determined to resolve this matter since we fully appreciate the value of good neighbourly relations which are critical to the process of Caribbean development and integration."
The Tobago House of Assembly unanimously agreed on January 26 that the government should defer the signing of any fishing agreement with Barbados until Tobago's fish stock was assessed and published. The Assembly also mandated the executive council to ask the government to rigorously enforce those laws and regulations that prohibit any foreign vessels or boats from fishing in the territorial waters off Trinidad and Tobago.
The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers' Association (TTMA) said on February 10 that Arthur's promise to raise duties on goods from this country entering Barbados is a dangerous move which could have negative economic consequences.
"The Barbados Prime Minister is seeking to use the trade imbalance in goods between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados as leverage in the ongoing fishing negotiations," TTMA president Anthony Hosang said in a statement. "However, it must be noted that in the area of services, the balance is heavily skewed in favour of Barbados. Additionally, in the area of direct investments, Trinidad and Tobago nationals continue to be substantial investors in the Barbadian economy." Additionally, "The path being pursued, therefore, is a very dangerous one and can have significant negative effects on the relations and economies of both countries."
Stephen Edgehill, president and CEO of McEnearney Alstons Barbados Ltd, said on February 9, "He (Arthur) said they'd been trying to negotiate an agreement since 1990 and got nowhere, but Taiwanese fishing boats are allowed unrestricted in Trinidad and Tobago waters. They have better status than a Caricom member country."
He was speaking at the function at which Arthur spoke of an immediate suspension of Caricom privileges on all goods exported by Trinidad and Tobago into Barbados.
The dispute is taking place against the backdrop of Manning having visited Haiti on January 29 to try and broker an agreement between embattled Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Opposition there. The other members of the delegation were Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie. The visit came after US President George Bush in December asked Manning to intervene in the Haiti crisis, which has led to bloodshed.
Caricom does not plan to intervene, Manning said. "The Caricom countries have always made it clear that a peace-keeping force is something that we are quite prepared to consider. However, we will also do so if the authorities in Haiti agree to something like that. We're not going to impose ourselves on anybody," Manning said on February 10 at a post-Cabinet press conference at his Whitehall office. "We have already ruled out intervention," Manning said.