PNC’s authoritarian entrenchment

The reaction of David Granger and the rest of the PNC and its myrmidons – including the AFC and WPA – to the decisions of the CCJ on the NCM and the GECOM Chair appointment cases – can best be appreciated against the background of the authoritarian regime they have assiduously cultivated since assuming office in 2015. But one must at least give Granger credit for announcing very publicly that he had vowed to follow the legacy of his mentor Forbes Burnham, who, even his most fervent follower would concede, was authoritarian, if not dictatorial, to the bone.
The PNC founded by Burnham has been, therefore, congenitally unwilling to share power with any other person or institution and Granger’s running of his PNC-led government has been true to that form. Let us take Granger’s relationship of his Executive with the Judiciary and Legislature – the two other supposedly equal “limbs” of a democratic state. In a parliamentary democracy, like Britain, the “Chief Whip” of the party in power can remind MP’s of the “party line” but cannot force the to vote that line. It is for this reason, for instance, Theresa May was unable to get her Brexit Bill through the House of Commons, when members of her own party votes against the Tory line.
In Guyana, however, because of its authoritarian imperative, the PNC and its myrmidon the AFC, have denounced Charandass Persaud as a “Judas” because he voted his conscience in the Dec 21 NCM, because he was displeased at the manner his party handled the sugar estate closures. They even invented tales of the MP accepting bribes and summarily expelled him from Parliament.
The statement of PNC Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams, rejecting the jurisdiction of the CCJ to issue consequential orders to GECOM: “GECOM is the only authoritative body that will inform the Government whether they’re ready or not for elections. CCJ cannot rule, Guyana has its own institution. Guyana is an independent country with its own independent laws,” is not because of political ignorance but betrays the PNC’s authoritarian instinct versus the Judiciary, which is now second nature to even Junior Ministers. It stemmed from ultimately from Burnham flying the PNC’s flag over our Appellate Court and more proximately, from Granger’s cavalier dismissal of the High Court’s judgement handed down by the Chief Justice, that Art 162 (2) does not demand that the Chair of GECOM be a former Judge, as her “perception” and he is entitled to his. The subject of Granger’s highhandedness – the capture of the electoral body GECOM so that it would do its bidding as is presently unfolding, is a classic manoeuvre of authoritarian regimes as they undermine democratic norms.
Authoritarian regimes also routinely abuse state institutions and state resources to accumulate and retain power against opposition forces that are helpless to oppose outside of the National Assembly where they are routinely outvoted. This is not just restricted to initiating boondoggle projects and sharing out the national patrimony to woo supporters in the case of the PNC in Guyana. Here, their traditional control over the coercive arms of the state has been augmented by the formation of a State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) to join the Special Organised Crime (SOCU) to press a slew of concocted charges against members of the PPP/C regime. While they have been unable to secure a single conviction, they seem content to checkmate their political opponents with the charges of corruption.
The PNC has also developed its authoritarian credentials by staffing the government at all levels with ex-military personnel who would all have served under Granger at one time or other during their military careers. As with Granger, the persons have been trained to obey orders automatically and not question authority – qualities that are antithetical to the concretising of democracy in a country with elements of the old PNC dictatorship still in place. This militarisation of governance is sure to preclude an orderly transfer of power should the PNC lose the next elections, as is most likely.