By Ryhaan Shah
Nothing good has come out of the Coalition Government’s first year in office. Crime in high and the economy has flattened. There have been no new investments or jobs and President David Granger’s admonitions to the unemployed to go out and be entrepreneurial when his Government has established no policies to generate business and commerce show an absolute lack of concern for the state of the country and the people.
More than that, there is a note of authoritarianism in Granger’s style of governance. His pardon of criminals signalled a tolerance for criminality that is directly related to the crime wave. His directive to the police that they are not to shoot to kill during armed confrontations with bandits might also have seeded the new brazenness among criminals.
To date, most of the victims are Indo-Guyanese businesspeople and shopkeepers and the bandits who invaded the Essequibo home of the Munirs and caused their fiery death are still at large. Granger does not mention such brutalities when he talks about the crime wave but refers only to atrocities that result from bad inter-personal relationships.
He evades taking any responsibility for the current criminality when, even up to this past week, Commander of B Division Ian Amsterdam reported that one of two young men arrested for an armed robbery in Rose Hall Town had been pardoned by Granger.
The man, Kelvin Bates, was serving a four-year sentence for Robbery with Violence when he was pardoned. The rehabilitation arranged by Granger obviously did not work.
Many of the accused, and the prisoners during the recent Camp Street Prison riot and fire, all called on Granger for help. They see the President as their saviour.
The Guyana Bar Association objected strenuously to the unlawful manner in which the presidential pardons were effected but Granger simply vowed to continue with more, showing little respect for democratic procedures or the rule of law as in his earlier unilateral renaming of the Convention Centre as the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.
Despite the objections then, he went ahead and did the same with the Ogle Airport, changing the name to the Eugene F. Correia Airport which raised protests from the nine other airlines that are partners along with the Correia Group in the airport company.
The renaming gives the Correia Group a distinct commercial advantage and the issue remains contentious even as the airline companies have agreed to consultations with Minister David Patterson.
However much Granger dismisses accusations of political manoeuvring to favour the Correia Group, the perception remains and, more than that, he continues to be unperturbed about public opinion.
A friend of mine cuts to the chase and says Granger is nothing but a cult leader and another notes that whereas Burnham practised party paramountcy, Granger’s is a personality paramountcy. Both might be on to something.
According to Minister Raphael Trotman’s revelations, Granger has been placed as President by God. He never questions or objects to Granger’s decisions, Trotman stated, but waits for the wisdom of Granger’s actions and decisions to become clear to him. This is cult-like behaviour. In the context of the governance of a country, it is extremely frightening.
PNC member, Jerome Khan, echoes this unswerving loyalty when he condemns criticism of Granger’s actions as “outrageous and disrespectful”. Khan makes it clear that Guyana is no longer operating along democratic principles where the President, as the senior public servant, must be held accountable by the people at all times.
Trotman’s and Khan’s statements support the idea of a personality paramountcy, as does the arena at D’Urban Park which is being specially built to befit the President and his followers for the Golden Jubilee celebrations. Whereas the Providence Stadium and National Park were large enough venues for every past President, they are not so for Granger. This kind of grandiosity can be interpreted as cult-like, paramountcy or authoritarian.
Many sniggered when, at the very start of the Granger regime, I stated that Burnham was back. The PNC/APNU/AFC elections campaign call to “forget the past” could not have been clearer about the intent of the PNC – the major partner – to return to office for a repeat performance.
Even as Government drums up false notes of celebrations over the upcoming Jubilee, the country is gripped by a sense of despair as everyone looks on helplessly at the presidential highhandedness that contradicts all the campaign promises of fairness, transparency and good governance.
Granger and his Government are all ready to “sport”. After the Golden Jubilee, what?
Fears are high about the next four years.