Aug 02, 2017
Khemraj Ramjattan, the Minister of Public Security, is likely to become the next victim of a Cabinet change. There are forces egging on the President to dismiss Mr. Ramjattan by daring the President to show that he can do.
His position has without question been weakened not so much by the problems faced in prison management, riots, jailbreaks and the ensuing insecurity within society. But what is likely to cost him his job, if it does, has nothing to do with his performance as Minister of Public Security. Mr. Ramjattan’s position became untenable because of the decision of Raphael Trotman to challenge him for leadership of the AFC.
When the leader of the party with which the APNU formed a coalition and the point person of the AFC in the government is going to be removed as his party’s leader just under two years into the coalition, it changed the whole dynamics of power within the coalition government.
Ramjattan’s principal bargaining chip within the coalition was that he was the leader of the AFC and therefore could influence the position which the AFC took within the government. He held the power within the AFC to break up the coalition since his party’s votes in the National Assembly were critical to the coalition retaining its numerical advantage.
He could not have been touched so long as he was leader of the AFC. He is no longer the leader.
Raphael Trotman may one day be asked to explain why he opted to challenge for leadership of the AFC within the first two years of the coalition government. He must have considered the fact that a successful challenge would place Ramjattan in a weakened position within the AFC if he, Ramjattan, lost those elections for leader, as he did.
The AFC weakened itself within the government when it narrowly voted for a new leader. It was a politically suicidal decision of the AFC to vote in a new leader so soon into the coalition government.
The AFC is putting up a façade of unity. But the party’s elections revealed schisms which the party has been quick not to publicize.
The decision to elect a new leader had implications for ethnic security in Guyana. Ramjattan is no ordinary Minister. He is a Vice President. The new leader of his party is not a Vice President, at least not as yet. Mr. Ramjattan’s position within the government has implications for ethnic insecurity. If he is removed, East Indians will feel insecure.
The AFC had recognized the importance of the public security portfolio to ethnic security and it had negotiated for that position to go to the AFC. It was no accident that Ramjattan was chosen for that job. He was to be the basis of ethnic security for the East Indian supporters of the AFC. How are these supporters going to feel if he is removed, even given all that has happened?
The government is sensitive about its image. It has to tread carefully when it comes to removing Ministers who are East Indians so as to not unseat the ethnic balance within Cabinet. This may have been a consideration when Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine was asked to reconsider his resignation.
The future of Ramjattan lies in the hands of his party’s leaders. The President, who holds full executive authority, legally, can remove him whenever he pleases but given that there is an agreement between the AFC and the APNU, it is not likely that the President will remove Ramjattan without consulting with the AFC’s new leader.
And it is not likely that the new leader would want to commit to any decision to remove Ramjattan without the consent of the Executive of the party.
Ramjattan’s future therefore lies more in the hands of his party’s Executive than it does about the fallout from the jailbreak.