Will the real Raphael Trotman stand up?

The letter published by Mr. Raphael Trotman in yesterday’s newspapers. If it doesn’t surprise you with your vitamins, you don’t live in Guyana or have never heard of Mr Trotman. Mr Trotman has been in the public eye for decades and, since the formation of the AFC in 2005, has introduced himself as one half of the equation – Mr Khemraj Ramjattan being the other half – to achieve ethnic healing in Guyana politics.

Mr Trotman’s status back in the day as the ‘boy wonder’ of PNCR politics was reached by rapid promotion to the top leadership while still a very young man because he impressed Leader Desmond Hoyte. His roost at the top ended when his elevated status, obtained only through sponsorship, encouraged his belief that he was ready for leadership. Announcing that he would receive a nomination for the leadership of the PNCR, Mr Hoyte felt that he was dealing with a young man whose ambition exceeded his ability. Mr. Hoyte would have believed, as we say in Guyana about people onward, ‘he had no morals.’ His career at the PNCR lost his appearance. As his ambitions suddenly stopped, he began to look for other avenues to become ‘Leader.’ He found kindred spirits in Khemraj Ramjattan and Sheila Holder, all MPs, who left their respective parties and set up the AFC.

During the ten years between 2005 and 2015, Mr Trotman felt that he, along with Mr Ramjattan, would sweep the old parties aside and ride a wave of multi-ethnic support into power. As a result, at any time during the ten years that the AFC or Mr. Trotman for ‘the winner doesn’t take all politics.’ As WPA, in favor of a similar type of multi-ethnic politics, discovered in 1992, the people of Guyana are deeply entrenched in their ethnic politics and there is nothing on the horizon that seems likely to weaken ‘ that ditch.

In 2015 the AFC joined APNU to become the APNU + AFC coalition to contest the elections. After the coalition was set up, the AFC who was supposedly converted into a ‘winner takes all politics’ because he joined the manifesto undertook that the APNU + AFC government would amend the constitution to provide that the all parties winning more than 30 per cent of the votes cast in Government. Although the AFC did not express or campaign for ‘joint governance’, it was committed.

While in Government, neither the AFC nor Mr Trotman did anything to promote that manifesto promise. The Government appointed a committee headed by Mr. Nigel Hughes to make recommendations. The report was referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reform for consideration. Thereafter the Government’s grievous complaint, through the then Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who was responsible for constitutional reform, was that the PPP was not cooperating and that the Committee was not meeting. At the time, I urged that the report be deleted from the Committee, laid in Parliament and a motion tabled for adoption. Nothing happened. APNU + AFC, with clear support, or at least the AFC’s willingness, decided to abandon constitutional reform and joint governance, the same as ‘the winner doesn’t take it all.’ Mr. Trotman was silent.

So what is Mr Trotman, now finding his voice, talking from the other side of his mouth, with a remarkably flawed understanding of the constitution for a lawyer who has been around for decades, that winning elections does not give a mandate to rule over it all, now say? Let’s quote it. “Simply put, one cannot govern with a ‘winner takes everything’ mentality and constitution, while talking at the same time about ‘inclusion.’ ‘Why should this be so? Mr Trotman explains: “If there is one thing that recent experiences have learned, it is that one government, or only one party, can effectively control Guyana…. In fact, those of us who live in Guyana, or live in similarly polarized countries, or have studied this phenomenon, know that one, and perhaps two of the many countries like another, will not accept one that does not give the other the legitimacy it needs and deserves effective governance…. The APNU + AFC discovered this from 2015-2020. For a confession! Mr Granger repeatedly argued that APNU + AFC is multi-ethnic and represents collective governance.

Had I not known Mr. Trotman, I would have assumed he was asleep between 1977 and recently. As an experienced politician, he must know that Cheddi Jagan carried out a similar analysis in 1977 in the PPP paper “National Patriotic Front” and proposed a detailed formula for a National Patriotic Front Government based on a ‘winner takes everything’ politics, which rejected by Burnham. At least he could have pointed in the direction of Cheddi Jagan.

Those who, out of power, are now trying to jump on a ‘winner takes it all’ bandwagon, have failed. ‘Inclusive governance’ has now been welcomed by President Ali and Mr Trotman’s coalition leader, Mr. David Granger. ‘Winner doesn’t take it all’ for another while we have to keep fighting. If this is the real Mr Trotman, I welcome him to the fight and hope that if he does his job again, he will continue to stand.