(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 06 Nov 2005)
I get to make a new friend today and I am so excited about it. I just love new friends! I love to chat it up about books, life and politics. And I love going shopping with new friends too although I'm just not too sure how much my new friend likes to go shopping.
Do tell me Khemraj Ramjattan, Prime Ministerial candidate for the infant AFC, do you like to shop? I'm in a shoe-shopping mood today. Are you in the need for some new shoes? Sure you are! Now just grab your purse (er, your wallet) and let's have some fun, shall we?
Now I'm not too sure if you know the shopping rules, so I will explain. While shopping it is customary to have a running conversation about pretty much anything that comes to mind. This is why shopping is so much fun. It's a bonding experience really.
So what shall we talk about? How about that beard? I was just wondering if you were going to lose the beard now that you are running for such a high position in government. I know you are probably attached to it (literally), but traditionally a person running for the highest/second highest (interchangeably) position in a country usually maintains a clean face – it helps portray the image of a clean lifestyle.
Oh this is great Khemraj! You will have a clean face and new shoes. I am so excited for you. This will most certainly get you well on your way to winning the elections next year. However, there are some other issues that we should talk about too. Good friends like us should be able to talk about anything, right?
For example, let's talk about your column yesterday in Stabroek News where you tried to explain to me (and other protesters) about your stance on this whole situation with keeping your seat in Parliament. I have to give it to you pal; you put up a convincing argument. I can see why you have such a fine reputation as a lawyer.
However, please allow me to counter your argument. Come on, have a seat and I'll buy you some rum and coconut water to drink while we chat for a bit. I'll wait till you have had a couple of those before I start. Dear friend, I know how hard it can be to hear the truth sometimes and I think it would be best to soften the blow as much as possible. Cheers!
I'll start with the weakest point of your argument and go from there. In your column, you cited instances when members of the PNC and the PPP did exactly what you and your fellow AFC leaders are doing (Hi Raphael and Sheila!). To this point I must ask, “If the PPP jumped off a bridge, would you do the same thing”?
If you plan to use this logic, then every time a man slaps a woman he can justify his cruelty by saying his neighbour did the same thing yesterday. Remember that two wrongs do not make a right, Khemraj. Just because the PPP and the PNC were corrupt, does that mean we can expect the same from the AFC when you get into office?
It is a weak argument to place the rightness of your current stance on the precedent set by these other two political parties. In fact, I would think the AFC would be attempting to distance itself from the PPP and PNC as much as possible. Which is the crux of my argument on this issue – that if the AFC wants to make a difference; then it needs to be different.
By justifying your position on this issue with the excuse that others have done it, you have already positioned yourself right along side these other parties that so many despise. Remember dear friend, you are supposed to be an Alliance for Change, not an Alliance for Continuance. If the people want the same old politics as usual, they can vote for the same old parties as usual.
Hey, I'm hungry and I think maybe we should get something solid in our stomachs after all this rum. I'm going to get some food for us to munch on whilst we continue our little chat. I wonder how the roti is here?
Okay, let's move on with our discussion. You said in your column that those who are calling for you and the others to resign their positions in Parliament, “…do not realise that they are unconscious subscribers to the doctrines of party paramountcy and democratic centralism.”
Come on now Khemraj, you know full well that is not the case. My whole stance is that the AFC needs to keep its hands clean. This is all about appearances, dear friend. Corruption is rampant in Guyana ; therefore, if the AFC gives even a minuscule reason for the people to think it is shady, then as a protective measure corruption is automatically assumed.
If I were doing PR work for you, I'd advise you to clean up this situation as quickly as possible. The AFC doesn't need this type of negative publicity right from the start and it is obvious that the people want you and the others (Hi Raphael and Sheila!) to resign from your seats. They want to know that you have completely cut ties with your former parties and that a new day has dawned in Guyana .
Therefore, this is not about party paramountcy, this is about presenting the AFC as a clean party of change. You asked the question, “Now if such a position as ours in the AFC is legal and no way constitutionally improper how can it be immoral?” I have just explained exactly how such a position can be perceived as immoral, Khemraj.
By associating your questionable actions with the questionable actions of those in the PPP and PNC, you have already done a great disservice to the AFC. The people want change. The people want a government they can trust to do the right thing – whether the right thing is written in the law books or on the hearts of the people.
I know our little talk has been very heavy and I apologise for that. But never fear, dear friend! I see some shoes in that store across the street that will look great on the new and improved, clean shaven Khemraj. I think I need to take a taxi home though, that rum packs quite a punch.
By the way, dear friend, the shoes and the shave will only go so far. Remember that it is what's on the inside that makes a good leader.