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Harper defends decision to be PPPC prime ministerial candidate ; Ramsammy, AFC in tit-for-tat

PPPC Prime Ministerial candidate, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper and President Donald Ramotar.

Even as the opposition coalition continues to lampoon the People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) prime ministerial candidate, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, she Sunday opted to give a polite response away from the glare of the media.

“I accepted the offer to be the running mate of His Excellency President Donald Ramotar as the Prime Ministerial candidate after contemplating the significant opportunity which this could present for me to serve the people of Guyana in a higher capacity.

I remain completely dedicated to striving for the betterment of my country. I have received so many messages of goodwill and support. Their sincerity is overwhelming and touching. I am deeply bolstered by this support,” she said on her Facebook Page.

Neither President Donald Ramotar, PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee nor Harper fielded questions from the media during the announcement. She also declined media interviews afterwards, but is expected to appear on state-run television in an interview with Olive Gopaul on Sunday.

Ramotar, in a prepared statement read to the media, quoted Harper as saying “I am humbled that such confidence has been reposed in me to be chosen as the prime ministerial candidate of the People’s Progressive Party Civic. I have always put Guyana first and believe in its potential. My love for country has convinced me into accepting this offer to continue to dedicate my energies towards the happiness and prosperity of Guyana.”

Meanwhile, a long-serving government minister has come to her defence and accused the APNU-AFC of belittling the value of a woman of integrity.

Apparently confirming that the PPPC intends to play up Harper’s gender appeal, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy attacked the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate for not at least recognizing that a woman has been chosen to hold the number two spot should the incumbent party win the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.

“The fact that Mr. Nagamootoo’s first inclination is to be critical is very compelling evidence of a politician who has no moral compass. He might hate the PPP/C; it is his prerogative, justified or not. But as one who seeks such a high post and to be a leader in Guyana, he should have the decency to see that one of our sisters has attained such a high place in our society. He may not like the PPP/C, but he should have the decency to acknowledge that she has achieved a distinction that few women in history around the world have attained,” said Ramsammy in a statement.

Political analysts, Dr. Henry Jeffrey and Freddie Kissoon have acknowledged Harper’s integrity, competence and middle-class status but do not believe she would be a vote-getter.

Ramsammy, who has served as a minister since the PPPC was voted into office in 1992, recalled welcoming Sheila Holder as the Working People’s Alliance’s (WPA) prime ministerial candidate several years ago although he had not supported her party.

“It would have been more appropriate for Mr. Nagamootoo to congratulate Ms. Harper as the Prime Minister Candidate. Given our commitment as a country to ensure women play prominent roles in Guyana’s development and the global campaign for women to have equal chances to play leading roles in national development, the ascendency of Ms. Harper to the Prime Ministerial candidacy should be something all Guyana applaud,” he added.

The Agriculture Minister broadsided Nagamootoo just hours before A Partnership for National Unity-Alliance For Change (APNU-AFC) coalition issued a detailed statement attacking the Harper candidacy. “APNU-AFC is also disappointed that Mrs. Harper would allow her name and professional reputation to be used by the PPP regime in a feeble attempt to mask the obscene levels of corruption with which it has become synonymous,” said the coalition in a statement.

Acknowledging the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ contribution to the civil service as a career diplomat, the coalition, however, said her choice appeared to be a consensus in the face of turmoil in the PPPC’s leadership. “This move by the Freedom House handlers is one which confirms that the PPP is deeply divided and in disarray,” he said.

“It speaks to the lack of leadership depth within the PPP. It speaks to the PPP’s woeful ineptitude in succession planning, both as a party and as a government. It speaks to the intense and bitter jockeying for power and the Prime Ministerial nomination in particular which has obviously become so acrimonious that an outside consensus candidate in Mrs. Harper had to have been introduced in an attempt to calm the acrimonious tensions,” said the coalition which has a life-span of 36 months to five years depending on the outcome of the polls.

Harper, 57,  entered the Foreign Service in 1976 as a Registry Clerk and was eventually elevated to the post of Director General of the Foreign Ministry in 2001.

The St. Rose’s High School ‘old girl’ is the daughter of Aubrey Barker, after whom the Aubrey Barker road in South Ruimveldt was named.