-A slap in the face of the WPA and another dagger into the heart of Rodney
Below is a commentary by Dr Leslie Ramsammy on the decision of President David Granger to demote Dr Rupert Roopnaraine from his substantive portfolio as Education Minister to the Department of Public Service within the Ministry of the Presidency.
I am both puzzled and appalled at the firing of Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and the reasons given. The spin is that Dr Roopnaraine has not been fired and that his ouster from Education is simply a Cabinet reshuffle in which he has assumed other responsibilities. This is simply kerfuffling and insulting the Guyanese people.
The fact that this happened on the day Guyana is observing the death anniversary (the murder anniversary) of Dr Walter Rodney, a genuine Guyanese patriot and hero, the founder-leader of the WPA and a friend of Dr Roopnaraine is intriguing. I believe that it is a slap in the face of the WPA, it is an insult to Dr Roopnaraine and it is another dagger into the heart of Dr Rodney. I believe it is deliberate and is intended to let the WPA know that they are still regarded as outsiders and interlopers and they no longer serve any useful purpose for APNU+AFC. Already, Nagamootoo and Ramjattan are simply holding on as Trotman completely incorporates the AFC into APNU. This is just another step in reaffirming the People’s National Congress (PNC).
The fact is that Dr Roopnaraine has been fired as the Minister of Education, a senior Ministry in the Cabinet. He has been assigned to a junior role as a Minister in the Ministry of the Presidency, meaning he must report to Minister Harmon. APNU+AFC from the inception regarded the public service as not important enough to have a Minister and that the public service will be handled as part of the assignment of the Minister of the Presidency. Now Dr. Roopnaraine has a title as a Minister in the Ministry of the Presidency, but for all intents and purposes will be doing the work of a Permanent Secretary (PS) with limited duties under Harmon.
Not only have they fired him from the Ministry of Education, they heaped insult on him by saying that they are seeking a more efficient way to manage Education. In so doing, they have made Dr Roopnaraine a fall guy for the mismanagement of Education. They make it appear that he had to be removed from his role as Minister of Education so that they could do a better job of managing education. Not only have they fired and scorned him, they have assaulted his dignity.
It is disrespectful to treat Dr Roopnaraine this way. Not only is Dr Roopnaraine a distinguished scholar, but he has been in the struggle for freedom and democracy. While I was disappointed that Dr Roopnaraine joined the APNU coalition, and while I believed he was misguided in his justification for doing so, we remained friends. I have always admired Dr Roopnaraine, even if I could not agree with him all the time. No matter what our disagreement, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was genuinely looking out for the interest of our people. I remembered in 1997 when I was an MP with the PPP sending him a note that I am proud of his struggle and his courage fighting for what he believed in, after one of his speeches in Parliament.
Between 2011 and 2015, as Minister of Agriculture, I hosted Dr Roopnaraine many times in my office in his role as shadow Minister of Agriculture for APNU+AFC. We always mutually and in the interest of Guyana addressed concerns that he raised and, as far as possible, I sought to find a comfort zone where we placed politics aside and found solutions to concerns that may have existed.
A Government make changes. A President has the right to change his Cabinet and every Minister serves at the pleasure of the President. No one is too sacred that they cannot be touched when you serve as a Minister. But either you remove that person as a Minister or shift him or her to another Ministry of the same rank. When Minister Jeffrey was shifted from the Ministry of Health in 2001, he was shifted to the Ministry of Education, a Ministry with the same rank. When the same Minister was shifted from Education, he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. In this case a Senior Minister has been shifted downwards, not even being given his own Ministry.
There is no “ands, if and buts”, Dr Roopnaraine has been dumped and the shift as a Minister in the Ministry of the Presidency is just to placate the WPA. But Dr Roopnaraine and the Members of the WPA will be dishonouring Dr. Rodney if they cannot see that APNU+AFC has just heaped absolute scorn on the party, on those party members serving the government and most disgusting, a deliberate insult to the memory of Dr. Rodney.
It is a signal that APNU does not need the WPA and people like Dr Rupert Roopnaraine anymore. They were used, just as the United Force was used in 1964, to help secure political power. Now that they have began to take control of the State and they have made progress in consolidating a repressive machinery to reinstitute dictatorship, there is no place for the WPA and Dr Roopnaraine. The spin and the kerfuffling will be wild in the next couple of days, but Guyanese are not foolish and are not fooled. Dr Roopnaraine has been fired and silenced.