The re-emerging dictatorship in Guyana: A South American Style Dictatorship in the Robes of a Pious Disciplinarian

Dear Editor,
It is time to confront the cultivated image of Brigadier David A. Granger.
If there is any conflict at all in coming down on whether he either emulates a South American dictator or a purposely pious disciplinarian, his failure to resign the Presidency shows that in reality the latter is largely a façade for the former.
Now more than ever, his protestations that as long as he is at the helm of the government he will always take the highly principled high road, rings hollow and shrinks away in the cold hard light of what his actions shout out for all with eyes to see.
This proclivity was manifest all along – take for example the cybercrimes bill put forward by his government, which sought to muzzle freedom of expression and effectively make any criticism of the government a criminal act of sedition. Or take the imperial undemocratic bent demonstrated in his abandonment of the Carter Formula, which was brokered by former USA President Jimmy Carter, and which had served Guyana well since 1991. Add his unilateral appointment of the GECOM chairman after publicly disparaging eighteen prominent Guyanese nominees for the office by deeming them not “fit and proper’”. There has been a long list of these behaviours before now, including his berating on Emancipation Day of unemployed Black Guyanese (who he said should be ashamed – a viewpoint based in class and privilege).
Tragically for Guyana, he and the party that he leads has a long and grievously damaging history of totalitarianism. Those old enough will well remember the years between 1966 and 1992 which began the flight of Guyanese from the country. Many had hoped that that was now in the rear view mirror and that a new era of democracy, if not yet widespread prosperity, was here to stay for the country. This hope is now in danger of going down as a footnote in history to wishful thinking.
As it is now clearly evident, Granger and a prominent few of his party never abandoned the totalitarian mindset. There is a saying that we don’t fully see people’s true colours until the pressure is on. The pressure is on and we are seeing the true colours re-emerge, although this is fortunately still being restrained by the laws of the land, conscientious Guyanese, the opposition and a vigilant international community. So while Granger refuses to resign in his Generalissimo persona, he still gives lip service to the country’s constitution and claim adherence to it in his pious persona.
But this lip service is contradicted by both his behaviour and the facts. The Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Barton Scotland has ruled that the no-confidence motion against his administration was validly passed and has memorialised the same. The Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire also handed down a legal ruling that the no-confidence motion was validly passed and that the President and Cabinet should have immediately resigned. The international community including the United Nations and the European Union have called for Guyana’s constitution to be respected and early elections held. And similar calls have been made by civil society and the Private Sector Commission.
Grangers responses to all the above democratic institutions has been dismissive. This flagrant trampling on democratic tenets and his claims that there is no such thing as a caretaker government is stunning if not outright alarming.
This is incongruent for a man who claims higher moral authority, and who claims to place high importance on law and order. His initial signal that he would do the honourable thing turned out to be a manoeuvre to provide the time to concoct a series of delaying tactics.
However, whereas he has been previously able to deflect responsibility for malfeasance by his administration by insulating himself in a reporting structure designed to afford plausible deniability; he has now been forced to reveal his hand as the concocted justifications have not only been systematically dismissed, but dismissed by the highest relevant authorities.
He has now placed himself fully in the camp that deployed the dumbfounding claim that 33 does constitute a majority of 65. Every vendor in the market who makes change, including those who’s stalls were cleared out, can correct Granger on that. This claim is insulting to any young person who attends school in Guyana.
Thankfully sanity prevailed and the Chief Justice dispatched the claim. Now another trial balloon of the same ilk has been floated. This time the insinuation is that a single vote in parliament cannot overturn 270,000 votes in the 2015 election. It appears that the Brigadier has to be reminded that this is a democracy, and this is a principle on which democracies around the world works. The APNU+AFC coalition formed the government on the basis of one more parliamentary seat and one more vote in the national assembly. Furthermore, the coalition’s supposed win in Region 8 in 2015 by 1,837 votes to 1,836 votes – a margin of one vote, allowed them to form the government. There should have been an automatic recount but this was blocked, and the challenge brought by the opposition is still hung up in court.
Now the play is now being rerun in Granger’s attempt to defy the constitution and stifle democracy. If this is allowed to stand the underprivileged of all races would be the collateral damage in this authoritarian gambit of class rule to benefit a few elite (recall that one of the administration’s first acts was to increase MP salaries by 50%, while the haggling with school teachers has gone on for years).
If even at this juncture, before oil has begun to flow, the totalitarian hand is shown so clearly – with this being only the tip of the iceberg, think of what could come.

Ron Cheong