At a recent press conference to mark the third anniversary of the APNU, the major opposition force in the National Assembly, coalition leader Mr. David Granger addressed the unrivalled successes of the APNU in its relative brief existence despite what he lamented as the serious lack of facilities and resources it faces. Mr. Granger, who is also the leader of the PNC-R and of the Opposition in the National Assembly, came to politics after a career in the military of which he also became a historian, and a stint as an entrepreneur and publisher of the Guyana Review. Starting today, I will attempt an analysis of Mr. Granger’s assessment of his coalition and his claim of limited resources.
In his press conference Mr. Granger disagreed with his unidentified or unnamed critics that adequate work has not been done and also disagrees with anyone that the work of the APNU had not been adequate over the last 30 months. In what appears to be a poorly expressed thought Mr. Granger claimed that the APNU had “achieved a lot more than has been achieved in the last 20 years”.
There seems something wrong with the framing of Granger’s statement. It is incongruous for the 20-year period that includes the thirty months of the APNU since elections 2011 to be less successful than those of the three years, unless Mr. Granger is saying that the previous seventeen years produced negative achievements, an indictment of his predecessors President Desmond Hoyte and Robert Corbin who shared that period.
Unfortunately, none of the journalists at the press conference is reported to have asked Mr. Granger to identify either his yardstick for measuring success or to name a couple of those successes. Even if the commentator is able to make his own assessment of the successes it would be futile to second guess Mr. Granger’s yardstick.
Granger the gentleman and scholar
For purposes of this column and since Mr. Granger was speaking in the context of the APNU it might be useful to look at the APNU and what Mr. Granger has said and then to extend the analysis by looking at any success he can claim as leader of the opposition. But before doing so a word about Mr. Granger himself, a person I have known and interacted with over a number of years.
Mr. Granger’s personal integrity has always been above reproach and it is to his credit that he has not allowed politics to tarnish that reputation. He’s also a very disciplined individual – some may say too stern to succeed as a politician – not given to extravagant language. Whenever Mr. Granger leaves the political arena he is likely to do so with his integrity intact.
Granger the politician
The problem with Mr. Granger is that for better or worse he seems uncommitted to any political philosophy, let alone ideology, leaving him without any apparent political conviction. He has never expressed an opinion on – whether for or against – the statist economic policies of President Burnham or the market based Economic Recovery Programme by President Hoyte. And has scarcely expressed an opinion on the Constitution and whether and in what respects he thinks its needs to be altered.
Granger’s parliamentary interests have been unimpressive and narrow indeed: not a single Bill has he introduced while his twelve motions were calls for Commissions of Inquiries into various issues (6); for the resignation and silencing of Rohee (2); the establishment of a National Commissions for Veterans and Heritage (2); and a National Day of Villages. Not a single one of these has yet seen daylight.
At the individual level Mr. Granger has fallen far short of what many would expect of the Leader of the Opposition.
APNU was launched with much fanfare as a coalition of ten political parties, four individual associate members and four affiliate members. For all practical purposes almost all of the political parties are paper parties – the possible exceptions being the Working People’s Alliance and the Justice For All Party (JFAP). Part of the decision-making process for the APNU was a leadership Council of twenty persons but it seems from all reports that the Council never operated as it was intended to.
There is little Mr. Granger can do to shore up the paper parties but the coalition suffered a blow when leading member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Dr David Hinds gave the APNU an F grade and a further setback when the JFAP’s MP resigned from the National Assembly and took the party out of the coalition. Then in March of this year co-leader of the WPA Dr. Clive Thomas had cause to draw attention to the “great worry, alarm, disquiet and even disgust” by members over APNU’s “seeming lack of direction,” and suggested that proposals by the WPA were being ignored.
Ironically, Thomas’ plaintive cry appears to have also been ignored.
APNU’s legislative agenda
Organisational defects may be the least of the APNU’s problems. I recall an interview I had with the APNU’s leadership some months after the 2011 elections that gave the APNU and the AFC a majority in the National Assembly. In response to my question about the legislative agenda of the APNU for the Tenth Parliament, its Vice Chairman said that the agenda had been drawn up but that it was first being cleared by the coalition. Two years later I can only conclude that the APNU never had a legislative agenda.
A glance of the contribution by Mr. Granger’s close cabinet, excluding Carl Greenidge shows that like he, they have added little of substance to the proceedings of the National Assembly. Their contributions by way of motions have been:
The most productive opposition MP to the legislative agenda by far has been shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge who has introduced five Bills and more than a dozen motions, some of considerable significance.
With twenty-seven members in the National Assembly, the APNU would have been expected to do more – much, much more particularly when compared with the performance of the AFC which has just over a quarter of the seats held by the APNU.
Political and policy agenda
It has also been very difficult to discern APNU’s policy and political agenda other than increasing its number of seats in the National Assembly. A political agenda must certainly be wider than that. It must include how to deal with the excesses of the government, how to confront corruption, how to protect and advance the interests of its supporters, and how to halt the misuse of state resources for partisan political purposes.
Granger it seems has taken a position against public protest which pleases the business community but shuts the door on a major tool of democracy. And on any protests against the abuses by the state-owned Guyana Chronicle and NCN.
So far as the policy agenda of the APNU is concerned this seems to be driven mainly of the weekly reaction to some issue of the government concerning governance, corruption or misconduct by a government agency. So far as I know the APNU has not produced a single policy paper, barring its manifesto, on any critical or national issues. It has failed to address a policy on reforming the Constitution, on dealing with Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese investment and migration into Guyana, on hinterland development, on infrastructural development, on youth unemployment, on education, on health and on the less able sections of society.
In the face of all the allegations made by the APNU of violations of the Constitution and of the laws by the Government – including failure to hold local government elections and spending of billions of dollars on questionable authority – the APNU has not initiated a single court action against the Government. Indeed, the alleged violator has done more than the APNU in this regard.
Last month the Minister of Finance brought to the National Assembly financial papers and a Bill in which he made it clear that up to June 16, 2014 he had spent billions of dollars on programmes and projects which were expressly disapproved by the National Assembly. Implicit in the Bill was the intention by the Minister that he would continue to spend under these same programmes and projects.
You would think that this is the stuff of which injunctions are made. Sadly the APNU seems to think otherwise.
To be continued