Bread, circuses and the paramount leader

For a country that is on the cusp of potentially seismic changes that could catapult it from the depths to which the first PNC regime had plunged it alongside Haiti as the poorest in the hemisphere, to the heights of being a new Abu Dhabi or Singapore, the present PNC regime – pleading to “give David some more time” – lost a golden opportunity to articulate even the suggestion of a new political culture in consonant with that vision.
What we got was the old, discredited bread and circus routine that evolved from the Mass Games Burnham had copied from the totalitarian communist regime of North Korea. The only difference was that the crowd assembled in the refurbished D’Urban “Jubilee” Park was drawn in by the siren songs of a Soca singer rather than the threat of dismissals, and minibuses replaced Tata buses.
The old PNC’s drive for paramountcy was invoked when Khemraj Ramjattan was introduced simply as the “Leader of the AFC” and “Minister of Public Security” rather than as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the APNU/AFC coalition. The original Cummingsburg Accord, which supposedly codified the terms of their coalition, had mandated that the PM candidate would come from the AFC. For the “revised” version to seal the new deal, the AFC had voted their leader Ramjattan for the position. This choice, however, has never been explicitly accepted by the PNC, which appears to prefer Moses Nagamootoo, who has displayed the sycophantic obsequiousness their tradition demands of underlings to the supreme leader.
The coalition, therefore, has launched its campaign without an explicit PM candidate being designated. The sword of Moses Nagamootoo, prominently displayed on the stage, hanged over the head of the expectant Ramjattan. Granger, who also did not refer to Ramjattan as the PM candidate, took pains to pointedly praise Nagamootoo and said cryptically: “Moses, you continue to serve us well and I want to say ‘thank you’ and I look forward for your continued leadership”.
The banners in front of the stage were decorated only by the visage of Granger, unlike 2015 when their PM candidate received equal billing. Granger has insisted and got incorporated into the “Revised Cummingsburg Accord”, that the terms could not clash with the Constitution. It is pertinent to note that the President is only constitutionally bound to appoint the PM from the elected members of Parliament from his slate, and can hold off doing so until the election is over if his slate is successful.
Ramjattan, for his part, unctuously sprinkled copious praises to Granger throughout his presentation, which sounded more like a serf offering fealty to his liege lord. One particularly ingratiating offering was that the coalition is, “led by a man who is undoubtedly fit and proper— David Granger. Always calm but strong, always honest, measured and intellectual. Government in Guyana needs brains not brawns”.
Rather ominously, Granger cited the NCM of Art 106 (6) and not only insisted that “We are a constitutional government and everything that we have done for the last twelve months was in accord with the law and in accordance with the Constitution but we will continue the work of reforming the Constitution”. The “reform” he had in mind was explained: “We are going to reform the Constitution so that that nonsense they tried for us in the last twelve months doesn’t happen again”. That is, an NCM is “nonsense”.
The “Oxford Constitutional Law”, however, asserts: “No confidence votes are the procedural expression of the defining feature of parliamentary systems of government, which is that the executive government is accountable to the parliament and holds that office only while it has the confidence of a majority of the elected representatives in the parliament. An executive government that loses the confidence of the parliament no longer has the authority to govern and is dismissed”.
The anti-democratic nature of the PNC stands exposed: “One does not need a candle to see what is clear in bright daylight”.