PRESS CONFERENCE THREE -PRESIDENT GRANGER

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By the time he stumbled upon the semblance of an answer to the first question posed to him, President Granger, who promised to end wrestling with spiritual wickedness in high places, was in the throes of a wrestling match.

Living down to low expectations, he delivered a battery of inconclusives and hypotheticals that contrasted, sharply, with the crisp campaign promises of significant raises for, amongst others, teachers in the first 100 days and on the Manifesto’s page 22, Education number 16“Utilize the talents of the Diaspora in education training and other areas of Special Needs.”

It’s not that people don’t recognize that promises are, essentially, a framework for government but when they are deliberately couched between prophecy and bible verses, then fall short of governmental providence, we start to contemplate whether the scripture was just dropped in as a book end to suggest some divine connection to leadership.

And this is not to question anyone’s faith or spiritual mooring!!

But scripture has context that is rooted in the occurrences of that time and when it’s used as a hint, as a buoy, as anything other than what it was intended for, it exposes the politicization of religion with a misunderstood cut and paste and butchered exegesis that amounts only to some spiritual malpractice.

“Welcome to another in the series of press conferences” says Granger – a disarming but fully primed joke, given the fact that he, as a matter of strategy, has steadfastly avoided public discourse.

Due giggles.

It was a classic ice breaker.

We’ll hand him that but noted, as he contorted in language, trying not to inhibit room for future maneuver, he acquiesced that the teacher’s strike was a result of his Administration’s failed promises but did so sort of suggesting that the Teachers should be a bit more meek if they want to inherit the earth….

Striking, he said, should be a last resort preceded by full mediation and possible arbitration…which is sound advice for a person whose benefits meet and some may argue, surpass his job performance.

As he danced between the questions that were, for the most part, direct, specific and left no room for subtleties, it was obvious that straight answers were being replaced with hypotheses, with the Administration painted as victim of an inheritance so plundered that governing inertia should be an accepted virtue and its default position of doing its best under the circumstances should evoke a collective sentiment of satisfaction; as the government continues to fall consistently short of most of its promises by providing a rolling agenda, repeatedly reconstructed on terra that is not very firma…

…and the Church said Amen.

Now.

While we’re revisiting the biblical theme that President Granger told us would be his governing scepter at that address at Pegasus Savannah Suite , where he lamented the nation’s fatigue by two decades of fickle promises, of fatuous platitudes and failed projects,” speech, we have to consider where his compass is pointing now; why he feels that the disaffection of many who supported him because of his legendary principles and integrous character is political currency for his mounted defense of his Member of Parliament whose escalating incivility, frequent clashes with impropriety, tumble onward toward rebranding his yardstick for excellence and order.

Whatever brief stint Ms. Broomes may have had in the glow of commendation has now been eclipsed by sustained bad behavior and an elaborate scheme to white wash her tomb –forgive the biblical analogy– but in it will forever be the skeleton of Guard Goodluck and remains of the integrity of those who, with eye of newt and toe of frog, boiled a cleansing potion that backfired to stain them and the Party and indelibly.

But what’s a little heresy amongst friends, President Granger seems to suggest with his surgical answers and prescriptive responses when asked about his errant Member of Parliament.

We waited on the police report, he elaborated, as if to convince us that efforts were sincere and thorough and, he went on, the police didn’t find her culpable of any offence.

Not surprising we thought, it was the same police that found the guards behaved inappropriately because the very look of the vehicle should have foretold that it was the chariot of someone important, as in a Simona Broomes; was the statement of Crime Chief Paul Williams, even if she attempted to breach a secured area.

And, continued the President, the matter will be looked into by the Party to which she belongs- not which he leads, just to which she belongs and just like he, with his eyes, didn’t see her culpability.

And that’s the escape hatch.

For those expecting anything resembling anything near discipline, we advise against breath –holding. President Granger has shown a preference for cultivating the unruliness of the uncouth over insisting on the orderliness of leadership.

The party to which she belongs means he’ll be pitting the disorderly Broomes against the newly elected Lawrence.

No,it’s not marquis signage for women’s mud wrestling but by substituting the Party as the disciplinarian, he is effectively extracting himself and publicly passing the gavel to the newly elected leader of PNCR, Ms. Lawrence, with whom Ms. Broomes has had a relationship that wouldn’t be described as meeting the threshold of sisterhood, when the the well recorded contact abrasions are reviewed.

And it’s not about those misogyny things you’re thinking, the potential for a another personality clash to discredit the leadership of Lawrence and foster the whispers that a man, maybe the one who trailed Lawrence, would have been the better pick for Party leadership.

It’s not…at least overtly.

But, it would be prudent for Ms. Lawrence to consider all things and assemble a team to help her “look in to the Broomes matter”, never meeting with her one on one and outside of a genuinely recorded session. We’ve had ample example of recordings being manipulated already, involving this subject.

Maybe, he heaved a sigh of relief after addressing the Broomes stain with his face down in more embarrassment than contrition, knowing that he is now knee deep in that stuff she tends to leave behind…but he’s hardly known for his compunction…so we didn’t read more in to it than was shown and continued to follow the question and answer exchange which demanded keen attention if we were to get anything out of it.

We’re not sure what the format was, if questions had to be submitted as homework assignment for the President but he seemed to work very hard to make it unexciting, bland, a pseudo event, as if to say this is what you get when you force me to the mic. The third press conference in three years and eight months after the one in December 2017 and he all but regurgitated what’s already known…making very little effort to offer information, some breaking news, even if it was not encompassed in the questions of his invited press.

But we hung in there…the next response has to be better…

See, we still have hope, even if betting against the odds has replaced expectation.

It was a great opportunity for the public to see its President, his demeanor, his humor, to know that he was still President for all people and his opening deprecation of the trickle of press conferences would have been a great icebreaker had he  expanded upon his answers, been less watchful of the one hour timetable which was an impossible setting for more than a dozen journalists to ask and receive answers on multi part questions.

Shying away from the press may have created some adversarial tension but it doesn’t help when a press conference is seen as something between an obligation and a necessary evil.

And that may account for some of the answers that make us wonder how much of a national, non partisan effort governing is.

Maybe forgetting the Diaspora – beyond the friends and family cadre– that he pledged to involve remains an untapped resource, he reported, progress report style, that his Guyana Team has been steadily building capacity to conduct comprehensive audits of pre-contract costs to become oil ready.
Um…but that expertise exists in abundance  within your extended borders, Mr. President, in that Diaspora Community that you said you would…

That whole thing about Guyana not having the capacity to audit Exxon’s pre contract costs was not only bad showing from the face of the country but it is patently untrue. Did you really solicit the help of Guyanese Sir…beyond the local Want Ads?

Look. We’re not discounting his office but there are some issues that have not fared well under the I-am- the- President construct. Failing to strategically harness available resources to advance the nation’s development just so as to keep the effort ‘within the group’ is not only duty dereliction but management territorialism that is counterproductive…as inexpedient as the belief superiority flaunted in the oil contract that he doubled down on at the Press Conference, claiming that  the 2% royalty and 50% profit after expenses paid oil contract is the best he could do and it is, thusly, set in stone – in spite of the advice of experts many of whom, again, live within his extended borders.

He continued, explaining with sincerity his sustained absence from the mic.

For those who were perplexed that he was far more media friendly when in Opposition and made multiple and unsolicited appearances then, President Granger offered that his current job as President, with all that it requires is much more “burdensome” and incomparable to what he did as Opposition Leader.

Not sure that burdensome would have been our adjective but he does have a Communications Team that should be test driving these thingsalong with a President explaining that the highest office in the land has lots and lots of work and travelling and time consuming parts…

Maybe it’s a fitting coda to this Administration’s failure to deliver on that refreshing new government it promised- transparency, full disclosure and the voice of the people included in decision making.

And while we’re reviewing the Press Conference and processing the current relationship the President has with the media -the Theater of Suspense in will he or will he not as the media bites its collective nails – we have to, out of nervous necessity, contemplate the tease he dangled about running for President in 2020; when his duties would have become more “burdensome” with the expansion of novel industries, all amidst the muddy transparency that has become his Administration’s signature.

From where we sit, the thing reaches back to Constitution Reform; that was ostensibly presented to Vice President Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo in 2016 and seems to have found repose right there.

There are mentions of democracy in the unreformed document but Guyana is a Republic and in this is specific difference.

A Democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

A Republic is a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

Therefore and by definition, we vote for people to vote for themselves and their interests. We, the people do not have a complete say-so. Rather, the elected officials who ran on bedazzling the stuff out of the electorate and the minions that they handpick are the people with the complete say so.

And this is why the Administrations of the two major Parties held on to the Constitution of 1980 – the leadership of the Party that created it, PNC, using it to advance a thinning Democracy while the leadership of the Opposition, PPP, which ran on repealing and making it less autocratic used it as a cudgel to advance its own ideological agenda by dismantling voluminous parts of the Constitution using the unicameral House to amend and reshape shape laws for a Guyana of its singular vision.

Hence the twenty three years of political dictatorship and racial strangulation prior to the current Coalition.

So, this is why the media having a constitutionally ordained access to the government via the press is so important: accountability…the lack of which leads to the end of democracy…even the little that we still have.

The Presidential Press Conference is an institution worth saving. It offers a chance for voters to see their representation explain their actions in office…and make future decisions accordingly.

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