Granger, Party Politics and Gecom Chair

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Justice James Patterson being sworn in. (DPI photo)

By Dr Vishnu Bisram

Should President Granger be condemned for choosing someone from his party to manage elections in Guyana? The President wants to win re-election. Who best will guarantee the President re-election than someone from his own party?

People support their political leaders or parties to advocate on their behalf and or to champion their interests. The PPP has failed in this mission and is crying foul in Guyana with its supporters finding themselves in grave danger unlikely to ever taste political power again. Had the PPP done all the right things and take proper measures, it would have remained in office. And if it had put institutions in place, the interests of its supporters would have been protected even if the PPP was not in office.

Unlike the PPP, the ruling PNC led government in Guyana has not been bashful in championing the interests of its supporters. When it was in office between 1966 and 1992, the PNC took measures and put institutions in place to protect the interests of its supporters. The PPP governed for almost 23 years but did very little to create institutions to protect or empower its supporters.

The PPP used the support provided it by Indians to empower the supporters of the PNC. As is well known, this angered the Indians many of whom decided to abandon the PPP ship triggering the party’s defeat in 2011 forcing it govern as a minority till 2015. Many of the Indians supported the PNC Junior partner, AFC which decided to transfer the support to the PNC in order to bring about the defeat of the PPP in May 2015.

The irony in Guyana’s politics is the PNC came into government in May 2015 with the support of Indians who contributed some 11% that was added to the PNC’s 40% to take that party into government with 51%. Safely ensconced into office, the PNC no longer sees a need for Indian support. The PNC feels it can win elections with 40% as it did between 1966 and 1992 when 40% swelled by magic to almost 80%. More of the same is now in store for the PPP supporters thanks to the leadership of that party. The PNC has begun to marginalize Indians and institutionalize racism; thousands of Indians have lost their jobs and removed from key positions.

Should Granger be demonized fort choosing a fellow PNCite as Gecom Chair? I think not. The PPP had opportunities to appoint PPPites to important positions but opted not to do so. It is not the fault of the PNC if PPP does not want to champion the interests of its supporters. Unlike detractors and critics who pilloried President Granger for making the appointment of chair for Gecom, I applaud him for his bold act in ignoring the opposition. The PNC supporters say they don’t want an appointee from among those nominated by the opposition. Granger fulfilled their request. Has the PPP ever listened to its supporters or act according to their wishes?

The appointment of a Gecom Chair was/is long overdue and should have been done over six months ago. Gecom must now begin the task at hand in preparing for local and general elections by updating the electoral list or re-registering everyone so we can have a free and fair election. It should be noted that the PNC never held a free and fair election.

The process of appointing a Gecom chair has been politicized from the inception, and the President made a political decision in keeping with the words, as he interpret them, as stated in the Burnham constitution appointing someone with whom he, his party, and its supporters have utmost confidence. That is what politics is all about as I learn during my political studies up to the PhD level — act in the interests of your constituents and not in the interests of your political opponents. Which political scientists would say otherwise? Only a political idiot would make an appointment not in his or her party interests. Well done Mr President! Did the opposition really expect the President to choose someone nominated by it for such an important election in 2020 when control over oil revenues would be at stake? Would the opposition have appointed someone in whom it lacks confidence to oversee an election that would not be advantageous to it? Was he not supposed to appoint someone who would give his party an advantage (however defined).

All political actors act in their own self interests (party and constituency) and President Granger would not act any differently.

Presidents Jagan, Janet, Jagdeo, and Ramotar were expected to take decisions in the interests of their constituents. If they failed to act accordingly, then they were/are politically naive. The PPP supporters need to hold their leaders accountable especially when blunders are made.

There are many critics of Granger’s appointment as is to be expected. Regardless of who he had selected, critics would have lambasted the President for his choice casting aspersions of having a hidden agenda. When the opposition made nominations, did it hit gave an agenda? Critics must be fair and balanced in their assessments and or critiques.
I may not like Granger’s appointee. But one must admire the President for his courage in choosing someone for a position from his party. The PPP should have done the same when it was in office. I may feel the President has violated the spirit of the agreement in place on such an important appointment (selecting from the opposition lists) for a constitutional position. But the appointment is that of the President and he must make a decision that his party and its supporters would trust. If the opposition PPP fails to consult with its supporters in its nominations especially when it was in government, and if its fails to appoint people who will serve the interests of its supporters, whose fault is it?

The President has publicly indicated he lacks confidence in the 18 nominees submitted by the Opposition Leader. The Chief Justice gave him an opening to appoint someone outside of the list in her interpretation of the constitution. And the President acted accordingly.
Opponents have options available to them in rejecting or criticizing or challenging the appointment. While that process is being played out, Gecom should resume its election preparatory work so we can have elections in a timely fashion that would withstand probity.

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DR. VISHNU BISRAM IS AN INDEPENDENT COLUMNIST. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the
THE WEST INDIAN.

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