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Ramson: Bad Boy?


WE know that Charles Ramson Jr. knows how to be good, but does he know how to be bad? The longstanding PPP/C golden son, with his announcement of an intended presidential run, has suddenly thrown himself out of the good graces of the dominant faction of that party.

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A successful political rise, from outside the dominant group, as a “bad boy” of sorts, is a different animal altogether. Guyanese now wait on tenterhooks to see how this struggle will play out, some eagerly, some with curiosity but disdain. For my part, I have seen this slow drama playing out over the course of at least five years, perhaps beginning with Clinton Urling’s ascension. Another youthful face who put pressure on the establishment, first from civil society and then as a member of the PPP/C, he expressed his own disenchantment with former President Jagdeo’s leadership.

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In the wake of the PPP/C’s loss in 2015, this might have seemed to many the first sign that the knives were coming out for the former president. I thought it important then that Urling was from a different generation than Jagdeo; Ramson’s generation, and that this implied a generational struggle. But, alas, Ramson did not come to Urling’s aid, and the latter was essentially booted out of the party. The revolution was crushed; or so it seemed. It seems now that Ramson was not against this youthful revolution in principle, but with the knowledge that Jagdeo’s future was far from clear, and his power not to be underestimated

Now that the CCJ decision on presidential term limits has made the limitations on Jagdeo’s ambitions much more, shall we say “concrete”, this danger has been somewhat mitigated, which Ramson’s actions clearly acknowledge

But is this enough to turn the momentum towards the younger generation? I think this turns on two important points, both of which are in Ramson’s favour, but fall on different timelines. First, many Guyanese must certainly be familiar with the statistic that the majority of Guyanese voters are under the age of 35, but I imagine far fewer have ever looked at a population pyramid for Guyana, which is a graphical breakdown of the country’s population

Most developing countries have an almost pyramid structure, with fewer older citizens and more younger citizens, in a relatively even declining fashion as age increases. Guyana’s, however, has a glaring gap between the mass under 35 and the smaller clump between 45 and 65. These two groups account for almost all of Guyana’s population, largely because of the mass migration we have experienced, draining a huge number of Guyanese and their then young children from our shores

The political effect of this is that there is a pronounced gap between these groups, with few individuals to help bridge differences, and thus a heightened potential for conflicting opinions. I suspect Ramson may be able to exploit this now

The second, perhaps more important factor, is the question of how different candidates address, or fail to address, the issue of corruption allegations. Ramson’s primary advantage is that he has been far from allegations, perhaps because his role has been largely as an MP. Perhaps the PPP/C does not take this issue seriously, but it’s not hard to see the man Jagdeo is most likely to nominate (in my view), Irfaan Ali, is especially vulnerable

I hate to bring his girth up, but its prodigious size lends well to the image of a corrupt politician, never mind the many allegations surrounding his time as Minister of Housing. What may end up being the effect of all this, however, is that Ramson loses his bid for PPP/C leadership and Irfaan Ali loses the election in 2020. If this is the case, Ramson needs only bide his time, and with the slightest of touches, the establishment’s head will come clean off, in political parlance

Such an election defeat would of course underline the need for reform, and in the process definitively answer this question: Does Ramson need the PPP/C more than the PPP/C needs him, or is it the other way around?