Mar 07, 2011 Letters
On Saturday, February 26, retired army Brigadier, Mr. David Granger, officially became PNCR presidential candidate.
His initially announced interest was met with a mixture of compliments and criticisms, ranging from his disciplined background as a senior military officer to his party’s primary campaign remarks explaining the army’s role in handling of ballot boxes during the era of rigged elections under Forbes Burnham.
The reason for the army reference by critics was to recall how it actually became an extension of the PNC paramountcy, with the party’s flag flying alongside the army’s and the Golden Arrowhead at Camp Ayanganna, and with the army apparently pledging allegiance to the PNC.
Others can recall detailed incidents involving the army that could make people distrusting of anyone who held a senior position there.
One letter writer, Mr. Vishnu Bisram, writing in the context of continued ethnic voting patterns, also touched on a key point when he said that candidate Granger will need ‘crossover’ Indian votes if he is going to win.
Another sore point for some Indians is the perception that the army deliberately failed to recruit enough Indians to its ranks in order to allow a Black government to dominate with help from the state’s security apparatus.
So, even to the most casual political observer, candidate Granger has his work cut out pacifying public fears while presenting personal facts if he is to secure enough votes to become Guyana’s next President.
But could the key to doing both successfully rest with his ability to use his post-retirement era as a public citizen to show he can relate to what all other citizens have been experiencing?
Right now, it appears that the top concerns of citizens are economic security, public safety and unfettered government corruption, with the last one fast becoming the focus of many leading local personalities.
From the late Winston Murray (PNC finance shadow minister), to House Speaker, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, to the local newspapers (led by Kaieteur News), to lawyer, accountant and columnist, Mr. Christopher Ram, to candidate Granger, to the man in the street, all have spoken up about government corruption.
However, it is still not clear that sole reference to government corruption will be enough of a selling point for Mr. Granger’s candidacy, even among the PPP’s traditional ethnic support base, so he may need to develop talking other points that will resonate with all Guyanese.
Additionally, he still has to deal with the PNC’s role in the joint political partnership where the PNC candidate may not be the partnership’s consensus candidate.
Candidate Granger had to be au fait with this particularly contentious arrangement going into the race for the party’s candidacy, and so the weeks and months ahead will reveal whether or not he will be leading both the party and the partnership.
All of that said, candidate Granger’s presidential bid raises two very important questions. First, given Third World history where former army leaders became iron-fisted government leaders, will candidate Granger become a government leader who relies on the state security apparatus to help execute his rule or will he rule with compassionate pragmatism?
Second, could candidate Granger go on to become a government leader who can turn the army (as well as the police) into an institution that can produce a calibre of disciplined, dedicated and developed citizens who can function in any sphere of public or private life?
The second question has been answered, to an extent, in the person of retired Major General, Mr. Joe Singh, who went on to serve as head of GECOM, GT&T and now heads the Guyana Gold Board.
As an aside, to those who questioned candidate Granger’s role in the army during the era of the PNC rule, let the records show that Mr. Singh also served in the army during the same PNC rule, so whatever questions are asked of candidate Granger can be asked of Mr. Singh (even if Mr. Singh is not seeking elected office).
Moreover, anyone who has questions about the army’s role during the PNC era should be fair and frank enough to ask questions about the army’s role under the PPP government today. Oh yes, the same army many accused of misdeeds during the PNC era has engaged in some disturbing human rights abuses under this PPP government. And the army is still not out of the political woods yet.
A weakened or compromised army cannot provide effective back up law and order services in the name of the people it is sworn to protect, especially if members in the army are aware the government is playing fast and loose with the law, and especially if government is compromising army officers to do its political bidding.
In the meantime, the key word for the army remains ‘security’, while the key word for the people remains ‘freedom’.
The two notions are symbiotic, as there can be no freedom without security, and it is the PPP and PNC governments’ failure to recognise this most commonplace axiom that has been at the root of our faltering democracy since 1964. They simply abused the people’s freedom to secure themselves in power.
Given candidate Granger’s national security background, therefore, can his venture into this year’s scheduled elections accentuate voter focus on the security-oriented strategic importance of the country’s socioeconomic development? More importantly can his presence diminish the prospect of a racially divided state collapsing into chaos?
Regardless what his candidacy brings to the election campaign, there are other candidates out there who should engage our attention, because this election should present the Guyanese electorate with a fresh look at us as one people and not as ethnic groups supporting ethnic-based parties, and we must vote the party whose advocacy of national unity enjoys popular support.
Guyana badly needs a future-oriented government that offers an alternative to past failed policies and practices, both in electioneering and governance.
Frankly, some still see a hope based on a reality that says the PPP, PNC and AFC will never succeed by destroying each other and that they should form a political triumvirate that leads the country. Any failure to do so will see the country continuing its downward spiral.
Well, while everyone has an opinion, most Guyanese would want a clean government, unity amidst our diversity, and a developmental vision to take us into the country’s future.
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