Ramjattan and the jail men

President David Granger continues to prove daily that he is disinterested in running a very competent, effective, efficient, lean and clean Government. By his nonverbal posture, utterances, actions and inactions, Mr Granger is proving that he is also not committed to the very high political and ethical standards that he preached about while campaigning for the leadership of the Peoples National Congress.

He has also demonstrated that he is more concerned about continuity in Government, as opposed to exemplary public service and good governance. From all appearances, the President has a clear preference for the wastage of tax payers’ funds on the establishment of politically sullied commissions of inquiry, finding jobs for his ex-military friends, and PNC party and coalition politics above all else. This has resulted in the President becoming deaf to the voices of those who elected him to serve, and those who are unified against him whenever his Government abuses its privileges and tramples on the rights of the populace.

Mr Granger also seems more excited about performing the ceremonial functions of the office of President of Guyana. He has no appetite for those aspects of the job which require him to act in the interest of the public, and not on behalf of any specific political party or politician. He also seems incapable of making tough decisions which would clearly set his Government apart from the legacies of the PNC and PPP.

Mr Granger, therefore, cannot discipline, dismiss, hire or reshuffle his ministers as he sees fit. He cannot act based on his own deliberate judgement and conscience, or he risks committing political suicide within the hierarchy of the PNC and coalition, even if he is acting on principle and according to the expressed will of the people. If he does act in this respect, his party must approve his actions, and the affected party must agree fully. Failure to please the old PNC guards and those currently parachuted into that party’s Executive could result in his removal from the post of leader, and fresh efforts to undermine the firm grip he has on power within that political unit.

As a direct result, ministers currently serving in his cabinet appear untouchable and indispensable. They know too well that they are not serving by virtue of the President and people’s confidence in them, but rather their individual party’s confidence.

This may be the reason for Mr Granger’s alarming inaction with respect to disciplining Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan for his continued failure to competently deliver on the key aspects of his ministerial portfolio. Regardless of what he says publicly, Mr Granger knows that Mr Ramjattan is incompetent and ill-suited for the job. He knows that the AFC politician is doing a disservice to the people of Guyana, and does not possess the intellectual capacity to understand what is needed to run the country’s security sector efficiently. It is no secret that the minister, big on dramatic political rhetoric when sober, has not implemented a single new policy that has positively enhanced the operations and functions of the Guyana Police Force, or any other security agency for that matter. Apart from his 2:00am party down curfew — which has also been ineffective, given the rationale behind its implementation — Mr Ramjattan has not brought any new ideas to the job. He has not done anything remarkable that would justify his continued appointment. He has not inspired confidence in the ranks of those who continue to serve and protect our country.

As a matter of fact, Mr Ramjattan has so far failed to accomplish any of the important reforms outlined in the coalition’s elections manifesto. He has been sitting at Brickdam since his appointment, scheming on how to bring the PPP and Jagdeo to its knees. And from all indications, both are still standing tall while Mr Ramjattan and the coalition are swimming through controversy after controversy and battling crisis after crisis.

The truth is: the recent jailbreak should have resulted in Minister Ramjattan’s dismissal or resignation. He should have been held solely responsible, because 11 dangerous prisoners escaped from the highly secured Lusignan prison pasture under his watch. They escaped after another eight prisoners created mayhem in the country by escaping lawful custody at the Camp Street jail, before reducing the facility to ashes.

The minister has oversight responsibility for the prison system as far as policy creation, ‘ implementation, and execution are concerned. He has done nothing to improve the conditions under which prisoners are housed, despite the fact that he inherited a set of exemplary system reforms from the previous Government, which they refused to approve while in opposition. Recall how Ramjattan had criticised Clement Rohee’s stewardship of the very same sector. Recall how he spoke eloquently about ministerial responsibility and the fact that when such crises occur under someone’s eyes, they should do the honourable thing and resign from office. Aside from the deadly prison outbreaks this year, there have also been arson at the prisons last year, increased criminality and crime in Guyana and rampant corruption within the Public Security sector.

The minister presided over a period of unprecedented violence and human rights’ violations since coming to office, too. How some people could argue that he should not be blamed for what is happening in his very own sector is beyond rational and independent reasoning. If he should not be responsible for the problems in his sector, then no other minister can be held responsible in the future when similar things occur under their watch.

Things will not get better under Ramjattan’s leadership of the sector. If he had any integrity and public decency, he would have resigned already. A minister was fired over a guest she invited to her swearing-in ceremony in Trinidad and Tobago, because of the impression it gave about Govt. But here, in Guyana, an entire jail burns down, high profile murderers escape and 17 other prisioners die, but the minister still enjoys Mr Granger’s confidence, and is able to still knock glasses at parties during the crises. Guyana is a strange place with strange politicians and an even stranger President.