After being denied his rightful place as the President of Guyana for five months, Dr. Irfaan Ali was sworn in on August 2 as Guyana’s 9th President. Those of us who supported his candidacy are not surprised watching him excel as Guyana’s President, rapidly earning the title the People’s President. Many who did not support him are pleasantly surprised.
President Irfaan Ali has shown he is “big” enough for the job as Guyana’s President. He has shown a remarkable ability to lead our country at this difficult juncture of our history. While COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in our country, just as it has humbled even the richest nations on earth, our economy is being transformed with OIL as another pillar of a diversified economy. As our country begins a journey as the fastest growing economy in the world in 2021 – with anticipated GDP growth of more than 50%, and with the traditional economy bouncing back – President Ali has shown he is a genuine leader.
Under most circumstances, the People’s President, President Irfaan Ali, would be the runaway favourite candidate for Person of the Year, 2020. It would be a popular choice if President Ali is deemed Guyana’s Person of the Year 2020; but, hands down, this column selects Bharrat Jagdeo (BJ) as Guyana’s Person of the Year 2020. President Ali’s chance of being Guyana’s President at this time had its genesis in the brilliant leadership of BJ. No one did more to bring about the defeat of David Granger’s APNU+AFC (PNC) and to ensure the PPP returned so quickly to Government.
He brilliantly stewarded the PPP’s comeback. In the process, he guided the PPP towards selecting a candidate who is clearly up to the task, and brought in a new era of young leaders in the party and in the Cabinet. In the circumstances, some might argue that BJ and Irfaan Ali ought to be CO-WINNERS, but I respectfully nominate BJ as Guyana’s Person of the Year 2020.
This past Monday was exactly two years since the No-Confidence Motion set in place a convoluted journey leading to the March 2020 elections. The 2020 March elections were held exactly one year after the NCM-mandated deadline for the elections. No one should diminish the patriotic, bold decision Charrandas Persaud made on December 21st, 2018; he deserves a special place in our history, but the path responsible for the return of the PPP to Government and the restoration of democracy, the defeat of those who sought to entrench dictatorship once again in Guyana, neither began nor ended with the December 21st, 2018 NCM. It started long before that, it started when the PPP made BJ its General Secretary.
In 2016, at a time when the PPP was in disarray, in opposition for the first time in more than 23 years, the delegates at the PPP Congress gave BJ the highest number of votes as they elected the 35-man Central Committee, the governing body of the PPP. In the first week of January 2017, about 18 months after the PPP lost government, BJ became General Secretary of the PPP in a landslide vote, winning by more than two-thirds of the votes cast. In January 2017, the PPP elected the Leader of the Opposition as its General Secretary, and therefore coordinated holding the Government accountable in Parliament and among the people. In accepting the position of General Secretary, BJ announced that the party, both in Parliament and among the people, would focus its work and advocacy towards what was in the interest of the country, and strengthening the party’s support beyond its traditional base.
That day when the PPP made BJ its new General Secretary was the beginning of the end for the new Government. The new era PNC-Government, using the disguise of APNU+AFC, was hoping that, with a new OIL and GAS economy, with its plan to rig elections as it did between 1968 and 1992, it would be in government for a long time, by hook or by crook. But in January 2017, its ambition was dented because BJ began a journey, took a path that brought the PPP right back in government, long before its most ardent supporters thought possible.
In late 2019, as Granger sought to use the courts and the lack of a GECOM Chair to stall the elections, BJ checkmated him into selecting Claudette Singh as GECOM’s Chair. Many criticized Jagdeo and said he was out-tricked by Granger. But at a time when many believed that elections would not be held even in 2020, because there was no GECOM Chair, under the Jagdeo pressure, Granger announced the March 2020 elections.
During that time, Jagdeo cajoled many anti-PPP forces and individuals to join the PPP’s fight to defeat Granger and his PNC cohorts. When all kinds of wild suggestions were being made, Jagdeo quietly and confidently crafted an international coalition that stopped the thieving of the 2020 elections.
While Irfaan Ali is doing a brilliant job himself, BJ, as GS, is today ensuring the Government keep its promises. As GS of the party that won the elections, he is strongly insisting that manifesto promises be kept. BJ is, without any doubt, the most popular Guyanese and Caribbean politician. He is Guyana’s Person of the Year.