To read David Granger saying that he cannot hold press conferences as often as he did when he was Opposition Leader was not only unbelievable, but amazing. And to compare the burden of work in the two situations is analytically unsound.
Mr. Granger has put the cart before the horse. He has an obligation to hold more press encounters as President of the Republic than when he was Opposition Leader. The constitution gives the president enormous powers, and Granger has exercised those powers deeply and extensively. Such powers therefore have to be explained to the citizenry. A nation’s leader cannot fall back on the jejune explanation that as head of government he has more work, therefore time constraints limit press appearances.
It is because he is chief policy-maker that he has to hold more press meetings than when he was Opposition Leader. In fact, as Opposition Leader in Guyana, the work is less important than when you are president.
Mr. Granger’s logic appears strange and incoherent, and he has his priorities badly mixed up. The head of government has to inform the country regularly about what he/she is doing. In a complex and highly-charged polity that Guyana has always been and still is, to prevent disasters and catastrophes, the president of Guyana has to be explaining, clarifying and assuring the nation as much as possible. That is why in modern politics, talking to the media is a huge obligation and a definite requirement.
One can be harsh with the president’s explanation of a busy schedule, because it is misleading and borders on delusions of grandeur. Administering a poor country of just under 800,000 cannot tie up the President of Guyana as compared to other places where the leader presides over a huge country with enormous population and with world power status. The leaders of a majority of such countries have held more press conferences than Mr. Granger. Brexit is literally tearing away at the essential fabric of the UK, and Prime Minister May has held several press briefings since she came to power and she is junior to Granger in terms of time in power; she became PM in July 2016.
When you contextualize Granger’s reason for not holding constant press conferences (only three in 40 months), the analyst faces the inevitable question – what if Guyana was as rich as Trinidad and had the same population, with Granger as president. Then with his busy schedule, his approach would have been one press conference every five years. The brutal fact is that Granger’s explanation is completely unacceptable. His excuse is really banal.
What does Granger have to do as president that he cannot hold a press briefing once a month or once every six weeks or once every two months?
Here are the facts. First, he has a minister of the presidency that carries out much of the policy-making duties that would have fallen to the president if there wasn’t such a portfolio. Secondly, he has a Prime Minister which the constitution outlines as second in terms of power possession after the president.
Thirdly, he has a quota of vice-presidents to assist him. Fourthly, he runs a coalition government and not a single-party administration which, in terms of realpolitik, limits his jurisdiction in the exercise of power. Mr. Granger has less presidential power than Burnham, Hoyte, Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Jagdeo and Ramotar had. All those predecessors presided over single-party governments.
In Granger’s case, the Cummingsburg Accord divides authority between two parties, his own and the AFC. Against this backdrop, one can argue that those former presidents had less time on their hands than Granger, because they didn’t have to share power with other parties over which they have no control.
Fifthly, Mr. Granger has the largest school of ministers to work with than any other country on Planet Earth. Per capita, Guyana has more ministers than any other country.
Finally, Granger does not micromanage his ministers. In such a situation he could never be as busy as Burnham, Hoyte, Jagan and Jagdeo were. It is confusing to hear this point about the president of Guyana being too busy to hold frequent press conferences.
Why it is bewildering is because such a mechanism is part of his job. It comes with the territory. If Granger doesn’t understand that, then he doesn’t grasp politics in the modern era. It is not a question of whether a head of government likes the press or not, it is because he is the chief administrator of the affairs of the land, he has to speak to the populace through the press. Surely, that must be understood.
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