Since Moses Nagamootoo ‘unfriended’ me from Facebook at the end of the elections’ crisis, I have been unable to trace those activities that he may choose to make public to FB friends. I had a minor spat with Moses over his publicly expressed opinion that the interest of the US in Guyana over the election period was because of its fears over Venezuela. I disagreed publicly, even though with the agreements emerging from Pompeo’s (the former US Secretary of State) visit, Moses may well have been right. His response to my sharp disagreement was a distasteful public admonishment to which I responded in kind. He took umbrage and terminated the FB association, not only with me but with my younger son, Kamal, who has always respectfully addressed him as ‘Uncle Moses’ and frequently engaged him in friendly and teasing banter when they met in the corridors of the High Court, an historic arena for conversation among lawyers ranging from low gossip to high legal principles. Kamal had played no role in our dispute. It was sad to lose a friendship of many decades over so trivial a matter, brought on by the heat of politics, which always subsided. It was a friendship which persisted even through the August 1997 period when he, as the shock force of a tiny minority, drove a stake through my nomination by Mrs. Janet Jagan to be the PPP’s presidential candidate for the elections of that year, which had obtained broad support around the table at a meeting of the Party’s executive committee.
We had ceased communication for a while but resumed at a Monday morning meeting of Party and Government leaders at the Office of the President which usually took place to discuss the ongoing, unstable, political situation. During one meeting which Moses attended, self-invited, he broke the ice by asking me for one of the tablets that I had just swallowed with a sip of water. I had a headache from the time I woke up and it got worse as the morning progressed. I had armed myself with Tylenol tablets and took out two during the meeting. Moses had a peculiar affinity for tablets. He would be instantaneously smitten with a gnawing craving for tablets of any kind, when he witnessed their consumption. He somehow always had a similar ailment. Our friendship resumed. Two days before he left the PPP and joined the AFC in 2011, I collected him from his home to visit our late comrade, Navin Chanderpal, who had been ailing. Understandably, he did not reveal to me his intention. Nevertheless, our friendship survived, and we continued to greet each other warmly on the rare occasions that we met before and after he became Prime Minister.
After the 2011 elections I was appalled at the failure of the PPP, having obtained a minority of seats in the National Assembly, the combined Opposition of APNU and AFC having received a majority, to ‘go it alone.’ PPP leaders could not contemplate sharing the Government with anyone at any time, for any reason. Many may understand their reluctance at that or any other time, of coalescing with APNU. But the reason for failing to engage the AFC was because Moses had only a few months before ‘betrayed’ the PPP. With political power at stake, the PPP allowed subjective factors to influence its political choices. This failure facilitated the unity of APNU and the AFC to which It lost power in 2015 and could have stayed out of power for another two decades after 2020. It was the US Government and Caricom that saved democracy, in a historic accounting.
In previous decades Moses had used his formidable journalistic talent to do battle, to take on the fearsome might of the PNC’s authoritarianism. Like all of us, Moses feared for his safety in those years, but his gift of the gab, flowed unimpeded through his pen, embellished with hyperbolic daring, raging anger, compelling logic and scintillating exposes – like the PNC and Jim Jones. In the late 1960s, he wrote the Mirror story of Burnham’s electrocuted fence had killed the cow of a poor cattle farmer. Even though the Mirror paid the highest libel damages ever awarded in Guyana at the time, $25,000, the story stuck.
The period during the denoument of Moses’s career as Prime Minister in the APNU+AFC Government saw the puncturing of his outsize ego as the heir to Cheddi Jagan, being given the minor portfolio as head of information, during which his most important accomplishment was overseeing of the termination of David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis as Chronicle columnists. He neither wrote nor said anything of importance thereafter. A great platform speaker, he was relegated thereafter to occasional political platitudes in support of a government that had lost its way, then plotted to steal the elections. Having been previously described as “political royalty” by Joe Harmon, his overweening ambitions clashed with those of Khemraj Ramjattan’s, and ended in ignominy, dropped from both APNU and AFC. The part of Moses’s legacy that would be most remembered is his silence in the struggle for free and fair elections this time around. He should ponder this while visiting his family in the US, if his visa is intact, and receiving his gargantuan pension, one month of which would feed for two years the family of a dismissed sugar worker.