President Irfan Alli recently announced that he has invited all the past presidents to a meeting with him. On the surface, it sounds like a noble undertaking—the sort of initiative that has the ring of sincere inclusivity. But, of course, this is Guyana and the president is leader of a PPP government. This is the same president who told the country not so long ago that he would not meet with the Leader of the Opposition until he recognizes the government’s legitimacy. So, one must ask—is if Mr. Granger not the leader of the same party to which the Leader of the Opposition belongs? Has he recognized the legitimacy of the government?
In my humble opinion, the president is playing games. You either want to meet with the opposition or you don’t. And what is the objective of this meeting, may I ask? Mr. Alli sees three of those ex-presidents at PPP meetings as they all belong to the same party. He sees Mr. Jagdeo more often as the latter works in his office and belongs to the Cabinet. So, what does he want to say to them that requires the presence of Mr. Granger? Is he inviting Mr. Granger to a PPP executive meeting?
The president is looking for a photo-opportunity—pure and simple. He wants to use this confab to signal to the diplomatic community that he is an inclusive leader. It is the kind of window dressing that has been part of the PPP’s approach to governance since the 1950s. Since coming to power four months ago it has governed with a political sledgehammer which it has mercilessly used on members and supporters of Mr. Granger’s party. Now, he wants to meet Mr. Granger with three of his comrades at the table—to discuss what? The PPP is playing smart without being clever.
So, my opinion is this—Mr., Granger should not attend that meeting. Such a meeting would have no bearing on PPP policy, in particular its policy towards supporters of the previous government. Any meeting between the president and the opposition must be direct and it must address the burning issues of the day. It will be nice to see the current president in a photograph with his predecessors. It would provide naïve observers with a minute of hope. The fawning media would put it on their front pages. And then we would return to our sate of collision and confrontation.
The PPP government has gotten away with a whole lot since coming to power. It has been allowed by the formal opposition to behave as if it has a wide mandate turn Guyana into its plantation. No government coming to power in the circumstances under which the PPP took office should be given the scope to declare war on the opposition. For whatever reason, the opposition has chosen not to use its considerable clout as a barricade against the PPP’s rampage. It may be playing for time or it may be wary of the external actors which helped to bring about regime change.
This is the first real opportunity it has to symbolically talk back to and push back against the government in a way that shows that it has some backbone. If Mr. Granger attends that meeting, it would represent another blow to the morale of his constituency. There is absolutely nothing to be gained for the opposition and everything to be gained for the PPP. In politics there comes a time when “good boy” politics must be abandoned. Mr. Granger and the opposition have adopted the “good boy” politics since August 2 and have nothing to show for it. It is time to change course—tell Irfan Alli you are not for sale.
(More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his Blog “The Open Word” by Dr. David Hinds on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)