Rai was defeated fairly and squarely by Brindley Benn in the 1962 party elections for Chairman

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter by Rakesh Rampertab entitled "Dr. and Mrs. Jagan conspired to deprive Rai of the post of Party Chairman" (2005.12.22).

Donald Ramotar, M.P.

In the letter, Dr. and Mrs. Jagan are accused of being "strategically engaged in fraudulent election practice" and of depriving Mr. Balram Singh Rai of the post of Party Chairman. Rampertab accused the Jagans of "rigging elections." He also praises Rai to the skies.

He makes a number of serious allegations, which I will deal with. One is he accuses Dr. Jagan of "using" Brindley Benn and influencing the voting for Benn because he was African and because of the "departures of other Africans from the PPP..."

Rampertab displays his ignorance of the Party in these comments. At the time he refers to, 1962, there were three prominent Black Ministers in the PPP Government - Vernon Nunes, Brindley Benn and E. M. G. Wilson - all of whom were very popular in the PPP and in the country in general. Wilson was popularly known as the "Admiral" for keeping the ferries moving when there was an anti-PPP strike. Nunes and Benn were extremely well liked at the grass root level, in particular.

Brindley Benn was one of the founders of the PPP. While Rai was busy contesting the 1953 Elections in another Party (and winning only some 400 votes), Benn was a leading PPP activist, the founder and leader of the Pioneer Youth League, which preceded the PYO and as Minister of Education, was responsible for the national awakening interest in its history and culture. He started History and Culture Week and was responsible for the historic slogan "One People, One Nation, One Destiny." Mr. Benn was put under restriction orders, like the Jagans after the suspension of the Constitution in 1953. He and Nunes were later put in detention in 1964 while they were still ministers, by the Colonial hierarchy.

I have examined the Party's records of the 10th Congress held on April 21-23, 1962 at the Guiana Oriental College in Georgetown to check on the allegations of rigging contained in Stabroek News. The records show that, contrary to rigging, there were 21 Party groups, which nominated Brindley Benn to be Chairman and 8, which nominated Balram Singh Rai. This in itself shows that Benn was the popular candidate.

The letter states categorically that the man in charge of elections was Benn. But this is absurd. Never in the 55 years of the Party has a candidate been in charge of elections. I attach a copy of correspondence that shows that Claude Christian was the Returning Officer and in charge of preparing and administrating the elections.

I cannot avoid commenting on the spurious and malignant accusations of electoral rigging levelled at the Jagans by Rampertab. It is clear that his letter was intended to smear the Jagans with the tag of being "election riggers" to match the PNC which rigged all elections from 1968 to 1985. It is all part of a plan to hit the PPP by denigrating its leader Cheddi Jagan and making him and his Party no better than the real election riggers of the PNC.

But I don't think Guyanese will forget that it was the PPP led by Cheddi Jagan which first uncovered the PNC' s electoral rigging in the 1968 elections and fought and exposed it, alone, for many many years. Civil Society then was afraid of PNC thuggery and, in fact, three journalists in 1973 lost their jobs because they exposed the vicious election rigging that year. They were Rickey Singh, Rick Mentus of the Guyana Graphic and Father Wong, a Catholic Priest, who had been editor of the Catholic Standard.

Mr. Rampertab also alleges that Dr. Jagan "was forced to abide with the decisions of his wife." This is nonsense, which those hostile to the PPP often allege. As a long standing member of the PPP and its Central and Executive Committees, I know that Janet Jagan and all of us have the same rights at meetings where all the basic decisions have been and are made. Dr. Jagan was not a man to dictate or "rule" on his own. All the Party's decisions have been collectively made.

The PPP has always been the champion of democracy. Internally it practices democracy to its fullest. Rai was defeated fairly and squarely by Brindley Benn.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar, M.P.

General Secretary

People's Progressive Party