Former Speaker weighs in on pending visit by Jimmy Carter

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PRESIDENT CARTER, A TRUE FRIEND OF GUYANA, VISITS AGAIN.

By Ralph Ramkarran

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.

When the US Government under President Bush decided in 1990 that it would support free and fair elections in Guyana, it was the Carter Centre that was called upon to act as the midwife for a new era of democracy in Guyana. Even though the Hoyte government’s lifeline of international financial and diplomatic support had been partially severed, the government still resisted the reforms demanded by the then opposition.

It required the renowned stature and nuanced diplomatic skills of President Carter to negotiate the necessary concessions that would guarantee free and fair elections. President Carter’s name will remain forever associated with Guyana’s democracy.

President Carter and the Carter Centre remained engaged with Guyana. It established a permanent office, mounted a second full observer mission for the 2001 elections and conducted a focused observation for the 2006 elections. On both occasions it concluded that the elections were free and fair. Even though the opposition has never accepted the credibility of any elections after 1992, the presence of the Carter Centre and other observer missions and their positive conclusions, satisfied the international community.

Former US President, Jimmy Carter
Former US President, Jimmy Carter

As a result the opposition’s campaigns had little traction outside Guyana. Today we have the ludicrous spectacle of both parties alleging that the 2011 elections were rigged against them.

After the 1992 elections the Carter Centre assisted in preparing the National Development Strategy (“NDS”) in six volumes, which was launched by President Jagan on January 6, 1997. It was finalized in 2000 after civil society participation under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth King, a leading official of the PNCR at the time. It was thereafter described on the NDS website as seeking “to define our most urgent priorities and, in every case, clearly lays down concrete policy reforms and actions. It is the product of many of us: Guyanese of all races and diverse professions. To implement it and to realize the dream it embodies would require the collaboration of the entire nation…”

The collaborative process by civil society opened up the real possibility of a social contract in Guyana based on the NDS, which would forge broad-based agreements as to the policies to move Guyana forward. But the NDS was soon after, quietly, shunted aside and ignored, only to be dusted off from time to time to propagandize about government policies being in line with the nationally acclaimed NDS.

In 2010 the late Winston Murray, a PNCR leader and MP, attempted to rescue the NDS from oblivion and re-introduce it into the national discourse. He tabled a motion in the National Assembly for its revision by a Special Select Committee. The Government rejected his argument and amended the motion, which was passed, to refer the NDS to the Ministry of Finance for revision. It was so referred and no one has since heard of it. Having invested a great deal of time and money to get the NDS prepared and accepted, and having seen its abandonment after 2000, may have contributed to President Carter’s negative assessment about Guyana which he expressed in 2004.

In 2004 President Carter visited Guyana for the last time at the invitation of President Jagdeo. He had wide consultations in an effort to resolve the political problems confronting Guyana, as so many have tried to do in the past. On leaving Guyana, he said: “Instead of achieving this crucial goal of inclusive and shared governance, the Guyanese Government remains divided with a winner-take-all concept that continues to polarize many aspects of the nation’s life…There are only spasmodic meetings between political leaders and publicized agreements between those rare and brief sessions have not been fulfilled.”

He recommended substantive governance and electoral reforms and the formation of an independent civil society forum to lead a structured discussion on a vision of governance for Guyana to promote reconciliation in an ethnically divided landscape. President Carter’s views found no favour with the government or the PPP and the Carter Centre thereafter disengaged from Guyana.

President Carter would be aware of the deteriorating political realities in Guyana after the 2011 elections. The loss of the majority by the PPP and the formation of a minority government, which has tried to cling to office for three plus years, have led to gridlock, lack of progress and frustration. Instead of forming a coalition government which would have aided national unity and result in much progress, the government has steadfastly resisted any such approach and stubbornly held on to the winner-take-all policy, about which President Carter complained.

With this background, it is not known what President Carter expects the outcome of his visit to be. His engagement with Guyana and the investment in time and money that the Carter Centre has made, suggest that his visit could involve a bit more than mere observing of the elections. It could well be that he recognizes its uncertain outcome and that he wishes to make an input in restraining any negative reactions to the results, whatever they are.

President Carter’s presence can also potentially lead to new political realities, whichever party wins. His message of 2004 is still powerfully resonant today. Hopefully, this true friend of Guyana may still find a way, without interfering, about which he is always careful, to reinforce that message.

10 COMMENTS

  1. The man left the group of thieves because he knows that the day of reckoning will soon come. Go hide clown.

  2. Look how much nasty names you alone can label persons of character and moral rectitude with. You have to be jackass. The ppp is not looking to remain in power, they want to protect what they thief. But all of you and those of your ilk will get prison time for the taxpayers monies that you all thief.Nothing but common criminals. In China death for thieving and corruption.

  3. Which man are you talking about? Moron. The ppp is a saintly party. Never do anything bad. You have to be psychologically damaged. If jagdeo was here he would’ve slap you. because you stupid.

  4. It’s amazing how this man makes references to the first free & fair elections in 1992 yet Danger Granger has no recollection of rigged elections under his watch in the army which was loyal to the PNC. Go figure.

  5. A fool is known by his multitude of words.no body runs from good ramkarran and nagamootoo want to see a better Guyana.James not even your president ramotar is more qualify than those people you mentioned. If cheddie and janet were alive ramotar would still be party secretary because the know he is not intelligent to even hold a ministerial position.think before you talk

  6. Ramkarran is a conscious man who knew what cheddie stand for he ran from ppp because he was tired of the nonsense under the pppc green think before you talk

  7. Ramkarran nobody need your opinions, especially we of the Progressive PPP don’t need them. You have eventually proven to be like Nimakarran Mootoo, Cathy and Nigel Hughes, Greenidge, Green, Ramjattan, Trotman, etc. after money and power. . All you old people want is more money, and political power at all cost. Get lost you Junta! Go to the Kabaka wax and cry.

  8. Prezzy Carter:
    I always wish to bow to you Sir and wash your feet for the Liberation of Guyana from the despot Forbes Burnham’s PNC.
    Many here stretch undeserving necks only to defile the true meaning of garlands.
    My only complaint is that you let the tyrants go scotch free.
    Had the job was completed, they would not have been so emboldened to point fingers.
    Sir, do not underestimate them.
    They can get desperate on a Whim!

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