Two weeks after President David Granger, leader of the PNC and APNU decided to evict the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) from Red House, Khemraj Ramjattan, the leader of AFC, the coalition partner of APNU in the government, finally commented on the issue.
A statement from Ramjattan had long been expected since the eviction has roiled the nation and intensified the cleavages and fissures in the body politic.
President Granger issued his directive in his capacity as head of the Executive and Guyanese had wondered whether the AFC and its leader had approved the move, since Ramjattan had been a member of the PPP Executive Council and a protégé of Dr Jagan. Mr Ramjattan’s interjection, however was disappointing. All he said baldly was, “Cheddi would have been the first to condemn the preservation of his documents in stolen property. The misappropriated property, more and more as we study the history, it was always intended to be a temporary place for the laying of those documents…We have to make the law applicable and if you violated the law to store Cheddi Jagan’s papers and documents, the law will still apply notwithstanding that great human being and politician and statesman of Guyana.”
Mr Ramjattan, an Attorney-at-Law who some think was eligible to be conferred with silk, was clearly sidestepping the gravamen of the expulsion directive by conclusively asserting that Red House was “stolen” by the CJRC. Surely, Ramjattan would know that whatever were his views of the validity of the lease under which the CJRC occupied Red House, that lease acknowledged the government’s ownership of the property and specified a time limit to that occupation and therefore could not have been defined as “theft”. There was do demonstration of any intention of “permanently” depriving the government of ownership.
Mr Ramjattan not only lost the opportunity to enlighten the Guyanese populace on the finer legal points that guided him in the evaluation of the contending arguments on the Red House lease, but actually exacerbated the divide with his tendentious claim of “theft”, which even the President and his Attorney General did not propose. This is very unfortunate since the Guyanese need more light rather than heat on this issue at this time.
By gratuitously praising Cheddi Jagan so effusively, Mr Ramjattan is clearly attempting to ride two horses at the same time: genuflect to the followers of the deceased leader of the PPP and simultaneously take a swing at his old colleagues in the PPP’s Ex-Co, who are members of the Board of CJRC and who voted to expel him from the party. But this is not the time to either play politics or take political revenge; it is a time for leaders to rise to the occasion and try to bridge the widening political gap.
But Mr Ramjattan also disappointingly reveals his partisanship when he vitiates his own assertion that Red House was “stolen” by the PPP. He did this when he repeated the contention that the dispute could have been resolved if the CJRC would have accepted the government’s suggestion that the papers of all other presidents also be housed in the building. If accepted, that manoeuvre would have made the representatives of all the other presidents ”accessories after the fact” in the crime of “theft”.
The latter, is “someone who assists another 1) who has committed a felony, 2) after the person has committed the felony, 3) with knowledge that the person committed the felony, and 4) with the intent to help the person avoid arrest or punishment. An accessory after the fact may be held liable for, inter alia, obstruction of justice.”
Surely. Mr Ramjattan, in his other role as Minister of Public Security, would not want to be on the wrong side of the law.