The president has to be a man for all seasons; ladies to be allowed later. But not yet; matters too dirty. In Guyana, he has to be Superman, Batman, and Spiderman in one. Unfortunately, Guyana has ended up with Sergeant Bilko, Bernie Madoff, and pretensions to Martin Luther King.
Sure, the range of presidential responsibilities and stresses encompass national defense, natural resources, and national holidays, to identify a handful of the weightier callings. It should be bigger than any one man.
For any country to have its president involved in parking meter fiascoes tells a strange story; a not so comforting one. When the big people in big governments have to intervene with big money in garbage salvaging, it goes without saying that a hundred million plus expenditure has to obtain the nod of the president.
There is no wink; but a blink as to the bureaucratic traumas inflicted by those who are unable to carry their weight, and who must be perpetually given a hand, a foot, and more than a few brain cells. In view of the chronic weaknesses demonstrated over a long period of time, that foot should have been raised to give a good lick; while those cells ought to be of a different kind: the ones that come with iron bars.
But such is the life of a president in this society that larger matters of the economy, security, and public service integrity are inundated and swallowed up with the minutiae of many fishes that have to be fried. At different times and in different reigns, the result is the product of an open-door policy, delegation by escalation, and the micromanagement of many fingers in every sweet pie.
A surrounding Praetorian Guard of willing centurions and able facilitators—men of identical ethical disavowal—ensure that things fall nicely into place.
Unsurprisingly, one president after another has come to view their vast, uncontrollable (but not unwelcomed) expansion of powers as possessing a silver lining. The aggregation of power at the top leads to the willing embrace, and practice, of a strain of leadership that resembles, at best, a benign tyranny.
Except that on many occasions, matters have not been so benign. The checks and balances are slickly maneuvered around, and when slickness fails, then it is time to bring out the much-used sledgehammer. Guyanese have a healthy regard for the sweep and reach of sledgehammers.
There is a sickly constitution which is trumpeted hauntingly; but observed keenly, and it is more for the sound effects, than any hope of permanent traction through trailblazing precedent.
The foreigners are recruited, and even then, there is dismissal.
The CCJ is the poster child. The local courts suffer from the same indignity: great acceptance speeches accompanied by greater rejection breaches. The presidencies have moved serenely onward, undeterred and untroubled. In these instances, democracy can be defined as the last translation of the most skillful interpreter. It is both boon and bane.
If the constitution and courts lack brake pads and fluid, then there is no fire before which to hold errant presidential feet. That is why this nation has been repeatedly kicked around. A somewhat reinvigorated media tries mightily to bring some watchful sanity to the office of the presidency. It wins some, loses many.
Presidents have perfected the practice of the patronizing: keep patting a vigilant dog on the head, and after a while it is all bark and no bite. Throw the occasional bone, and there is growling as opposed to prowling. No digging. No clawing. No menacing.
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