Donald Rabrind­ranath Ramotar was sworn in as the seventh executive president of Guyana yesterday afternoon at a simple ceremony at the local "White House" that lasted less than an hour, but he wasted little time in acknowledging that his minority presidency and Government could face perilous times in the future as his governing People's Progressive Party (PPP) no longer controls a majority in the country's single-chamber parliament following general elections last Monday.
Speaking as predecessor Bharrat Jagdeo, dignitaries and a lawn full of invitees looked on, Ramotar, 61, did not spend too much time on political platitudes but got down to realities very quickly by saying that it will take a lot of skill and negotiation with the two opposition groups-A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) with 26 seats, and the Alliance For Change (AFC) with seven-to run the country as the PPP's political rivals now control the legislative agenda and will even have the opportunity of electing a speaker. He said all sides will have to talk to each other because "this is the only way forward. I do not anticipate that this process will be easy but I am prepared to work beyond the difficulties to ensure that our country does not regress," to applause from invitees.
The combined opposition has one more seat than the PPP and will for the first time in two decades not only run the parliamentary agenda but will have the choice of determining who is the Speaker when the assembly meets in the coming weeks. But even as he works to name a Cabinet "in the next 48 hours", the APNU is maintaining its street protests to press for an all-part verification of the results because it alleges that voter rigging and operational discrepancies were enough to leave it in doubt as to whether the PPP had won the elections fairly.
On Friday, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Georgetown to the headquarters of the elections commission to press its demands for all parties to be allowed to go over their statements of polls from voting stations and to send signals to whoever is listening that "the level of racial discrimination and criminality" that formed part of the alleged modus operandi of the Jagdeo administration will not be tolerated in the coming months.
And neither the APNU nor the AFC did anything to stop yesterday's swearing in of the father of three from the western Essequibo Region, staying clear of court injunctions and other political and judicial obstacles to Ramotar's ascendancy. His wife, three children and some of his eight siblings looked on. Ramtoar's resumé says that he never went to high school but had attended the Government Technical Institute after leaving primary school and later reading for an economics degree at the University of Guyana.
On more than one occasion during his speech he referred to the composition of Parliament, saying that there "will be challenges but we must be prepared to work tirelessly to ensure that we do not thwart the legitimate aspirations of our people for a higher standard of living. "This new arrangement in our Parliament would no doubt test our maturity as political leaders. "It will demand that pettiness be put aside and our nation's well being should always be our most important guiding influence," he said.