Leader of the PNCR, Chairman of APNU and Leader of the Opposition, David Granger, has had to field questions recently about the effectiveness of the Opposition which together control a majority by one of the seats in the National Assembly. Challenges have also come from within the PNCR to Mr. Granger’s leadership by two formidable opponents, Carl Greenidge first and then Aubrey Norton. The clumsy handling of those challenges, particularly the most recent earlier this year, last left a degree of bitterness which is still being felt.
David Granger has always been a political animal but never served in a leadership position until his elevation, first as presidential candidate, then as Party Leader. His career in the military has always, or mostly, been related to the political, but this did not make for overt political leadership.
Mr. Granger rose steadily within the ranks of the military. However, when Burnham died unexpectedly he lost favour. It is not known whether he was part of the left that Hoyte decimated or whether Hoyte was no favourably disposed to him, but his military career stalled and he eventually retired. In the meantime he acquired higher qualifications in political science at the University of Guyana under the supervision of Henry Jeffrey a sometime critic, along with classmate, Hydar Ally, who writes in support of the Government. He also published a public affairs journal, Guyana Review.
After the PNCR lost support at the 2006 elections to the AFC and Robert Corbin’s leadership came under severe challenge, the latter called upon David Granger to rescue him and Granger obliged. Granger’s first challenge was to restore the fortunes of the PNCR, which he did in fine style in 2011 as presidential candidate. He then wrested the leadership of the PNCR from Robert Corbin in a skillful political maneouvre which did not appear to be part of the original deal with Corbin. The deal appeared to be that Granger will make way for Corbin to return to the leadership after the 2011 elections. Granger showed political courage, savvy and skill, not to mention political ambition, when he outmaneouvered the vastly experienced Robert Corbin out of the leadership of the PNCR.
This then is the David Granger who has emerged – a deeply committed activist and loyalist of the PNCR, ambitious, with leadership qualities and a skillful political operator.
Mr. Granger’s sponsor to the political leadership of the PNCR was Robert Corbin. It came shortly after the passing of the iconic and popular Winston Murray who had challenged Corbin for the leadership. Being the beneficiary of Corbin’s political largesse, Granger has never won over the supporters of Murray and has not shown an inclination to reach out to them.
Mr. Granger’s apparent agreement with the Government to the gradual increase of electricity charges in Linden, which triggered the crisis in Linden in 2012, alienated Mr. Granger from a militant and loyal group of supporters from the heart of PNR territory, Linden. The clumsy handling of the protests at the PNCR Congress earlier this year shows that this wound, like the one with supporters of the late Winston Murray, is not healing. In fact, these disaffected strands are coming together because one of the leaders of the Linden group is Aubrey Norton, who had been a strong supporter of Winston Murray.
While it may well be true that opposition parliamentarians, and perhaps even Mr. Granger, could have done more, I am equally in sympathy with Mr. Granger’s argument about lack or resources. But these traditional excuses ought not to have prevented a more robust approach to parliamentary work whether or not the government was ignoring motions and the president was ignoring bills. One problem is the historic attitude of parties to parliamentary work, which is a collective approach that stifles individual initiative. This will take time and the strengthening of our constituency system.
I have written previously about the alleged lack of militancy in Mr. Granger’s leadership. The ‘militancy’ of the Hoyte period which many still crave, did much harm to the PNCR which led to ethnic violence, robberies and a major fire in the city. The PNCR may not have lost votes but it lost much goodwill among good people in Guyana and was led its supporters to a political dead end with the Herdmanston Accord rather than constitutional reform for ‘winner does not take all.’ Robert Corbin, who grew up on the politics of militancy, was perspicacious enough to understand that the days of the Hoyte brand of militancy were over. This lesson was underlined with its revival in Linden in 2012, which led to disastrous consequences. Within this context, Mr. Granger’s choices in terms of political strategy appear to be limited.
If I were Mr. Granger there are several different approaches I would have taken such as talking about the PNCR’s past, carrying out a much more demanding fight for ‘winner does not take all’ and introducing legislation for half of our parliamentary seats to be determined by first past the post elections. I have written about these and more. But I am not Mr. Granger. He no doubt has enormous challenges that we on the outside know little about. I would give him the benefit of the doubt but still encourage him along the path Chris Ram and I have separately suggested and to let more of his engaging private personality rise to the surface in public. Other than the above, David Granger should be left alone.