My friend Leonard Craig is visiting Guyana from studies abroad, so I am filling him in on the depravities, immoralities, inequities, insensitivities, crudities, banalities, and stupidities that inhere in the use of power from colonial times and 52 years after Independence. I told Craig that he arrived in Guyana at a time when he can see the direct continuation of the authoritarian instinct that has been carried over from the PPP’s reign.
The manifestation was the unilateral appointment of the head of the Department of Energy. As Craig was about to speak on the suitability of Dr. Mark Bynoe, I stopped him immediately to warn him that Guyanese must stop the obfuscation invented by President Granger in relation to the appointment. People are sympathetic to Dr. Bynoe and protecting his suitability for the job. The latest crusader on behalf of Bynoe is the Public Service Union (PSU).
The issue is not the man, Bynoe. He did not hand-pick himself. At the moment, Dr. Bynoe has done nothing even inelegant, much less improper, and commentators should stop their focus on him. President Granger perhaps met the PSU’s endorsement with glee, because that is what he wants. Granger needs more people to pledge support for the Bynoe placement, because it obfuscates his continuing embrace of the authoritarian pattern of governance in Guyana.
The method used in the selection of Dr. Bynoe for what the international media, governments around the world, and the internal and external nation of Guyana consider the major industry in the future of Guyana, was downright autocratic, and it will have terrible consequences. For such an industry, the decision needs a manifestation of governance that rests on broad consultations with coalition partners, civil society and should carry advertisements worldwide.
What Granger did is to strengthen the arguments of cultural bigots like the journalists at the New York Times that oil wealth will not be protected by democratic governance. Do the people of Guyana realize that in arrogating to himself the right to determine who administers the energy sector, Granger has fired the first salvo that as president he will determine who shapes the oil industry.
This type of thinking ruined the sugar industry. After President Burnham died, sugar became the sole prerogative of Presidents Hoyte, Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, and Jagdeo. Arrogant governance that excluded deep and far-reaching consultations on the sugar industry caused its demise. It was always on the cards that WTO rules would have intervened to stop the European subsidy on sugar, but the downsizing of sugar was transformed into its demise by authoritarian use of power.
What Granger has shown with his unilateral selection of Dr. Bynoe, is that there is no guarantee that oil wealth will be managed within a democratic framework. Granger’s decision, I am convinced, has already initiated a resurgence of pessimism among diaspora members who want to come back, capitalists who want to invest, young Guyanese who wanted to stay because Guyana will be an oil power, and the average person who sees a country forever blighted by terrible rulers.
It has been reported that the Green Paper on the Sovereign Wealth Fund centralizes power in the Ministry of Finance, meaning the fund will be a government-administered process. If that is so, then the oceans and mountains of advice Guyana got on how to manage this fund in ways that would isolate it from autocrats who love power are wasted. It is highly unlikely, almost impossible, that Granger did not see that Green Paper before it was presented to Parliament. He had to know, He knew and he agreed with the centralization process. Mr. Granger is surely and quickly showing us that he is not interested in democratizing the use of power.
I wrote a column last year, after I saw the authoritarian trend began to show its monstrous head, that God gave us a chance in 2015 and if we throw it away, he will not give us another opportunity. I have studied Granger’s use of power for three years and I have come to the conclusion from my sources that Mr. Granger is happy with the autocratic pathway. And he is insulated from criticism because he is not a corrupt ruler.
It is banal, political theory for any scholar to argue that an honest Prime Minister or President cannot develop and be satisfied with the totalitarian use of state power. This country watched and allowed the autocratic drift of Bharrat Jagdeo when he newly arrived at the gates of power. We are doing the exact thing with David Granger. In months to come, Krauss will return and write that Guyana and its oil wealth are doomed to die.
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