There were, perhaps still are, some world leaders who, besides being (some level of) politician, either love(d) the arts, aesthetics and life’s finer things. A few were/are actually poets, singers, writers, artists, musicians and actors. (I think of many of America’s forty-four Presidents; of Vaclav Havel; of Dr. Eric Williams (of Trinidad); of Grammy Award Winner Barack Obama, among others. (Ronald Reagan was a Grade 2 (Cowboy) actor and Bill Clinton loved his saxophone with his late friend Ben E. King.)
It’s a great pity that our Forbes Burnham, the gifted orator, did not write nearly as much as his original leader and counterpart Cheddi Jagan did. Mrs Janet Jagan despite all her detractors’ criticisms and her real misdeeds, was an outstanding woman-activist honoured internationally. So, for me, to have a peek at the professional/intellectual/academic pedigree and calibre of our very recent leaders, we should begin with Mr Jagdeo and Mr Ramotar.
Both were economists, I’m told. I know little of Mr Ramotar’s academics, professionalism and reputation, but am aware of Mr Jagdeo’s reasonable status as economist and his shrewd burgeoning as an international player on the world’s green, environmental/climate change stage. After all, the United Nations made him a “champion” for his contributions. It’s not easy to take that away from him, whatever you thing about his “Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) or its allegedly-ulterior side.
So what of this new Guyanese, former Military Officer–Strategist Leader? The weeks-old President and graduate of UG, Mons Officer Cadet School in Britain, in Nigeria and Brazil? Retired Brigadier Granger could not be my favourite Guyanese politician ever. But I cannot be but highly impressed by his past achievements as academic, as writer and historian; and his potential to be a most significant Guyanese Leader. Why? Because even at this stage, one can detect the characteristics of thinker, strategist and patriot – great attributes for any Guyanese politician, leader and President. (Why, he’s even quietly proud of his African ancestry and his Anglicanism!). So let’s peek in on some of his (recorded) thinking. A few words and thoughts which may delineate attitudes and approaches.
As historian, publisher…
Respectfully, allow me to put into context the significant little I know of the now President.
As an historian I heard him explain to lower-level GDF ranks how the British built their “Empire” on the backs of their early slaves and trade – even how some of his soldiers had names like “Bristol” and “English”. That was at the Public Buildings around 1981-82.
Granger’s colleagues, in terms of historians, include Winston McGowan, James Rose, Hazel Woolford, Alvin Thompson, Brian Moore, Kimani Nehusi, among others. Indeed, he, McGowan and Rose edited the 1998 Themes in African-Guyanese history which should be listed high amongst our Guyanese History texts. The Publisher, of course, was Granger’s own Free Press.
Granger’s own Guyana Review and Emancipation were magazines to be looked forward to during most of the PPP’s 23-year-old sojourn in government. The monthly Review was both a literary standard and a watchdog assessing governmental excesses and incompetence whilst offering hope and inspiration to an affected portion of the population and readership. During an Independence Exhibition in May a relative few would have seen Granger’s own works on such brief histories of our newspapers, coinage, etc. etc.
I suspect he would not want to be deemed “Pan-Africanist”. Especially now (?). But he is competent with African history and the Afro-Guyanese condition. I’ve misplaced his published commentary on The Marginalisation of African Guyanese” but this is how he concludes his “Time of Trial: African Slavery in Guyana”. “It was the liberation of the Africans in 1838, more than any other single act, which led to the demographic, economic, political and cultural changes which laid the foundation of modern Guyana”.
Comments “The Other Day”…
Those more academic than I will no doubt review, analyse and assess the Brigadier as both a Man of Letters, reluctant – but – ambitious politician and potential Statesman-Leader. But the youth and all Guyanese of some patriotic pride should be heartened to know that their new leader is of some significant intellectual pedigree. (Even his Congress Place frailties cannot diminish that.)
I close by encouraging young journalists to consider two occasions when I listened to Mr Granger in 2013 and 2014. In Campbellville in September 2013 he shared his views on a collapsing Education System here. He spoke of “Education Apartheid” wherein the majority of poor youth cannot afford a proper, well-rounded education, then startled me with his vivid adult revelations about sex in our secondary schools.
At a Parliament Office Workshop for the media in July 2014 he hinted that he did a Communications Course with the likes of the American television anchor Connie Chung. Amongst his remarks at that session: “There are three key principles which guide journalists to practise professionalism in their work. These are education and training, social responsibility and corporate responsibility. If you do not adhere to those three tenets, you are a quack; you don’t belong in the profession of journalism.”
He was discussing slanted, rampant bias in the reporting out of some media houses. Over to you, younger journalists.
ISIS: Satanic savagery?
The “Islamic State” of Iraq (and the entire Levant of Syria and elsewhere) will justify their murderous jihadist warfare by using portions of the Koran. Extremists can use and distort selected sections of Holy Books as they wish.
But how can ISIS ever justify any take-over that includes what the United Nations female expert on Sexual Violence in Conflict told Fareed Zakaria? Ms Zanab Bangura described girls used as sex slaves by ISIS leaders and fighters; of girls being burnt alive for refusing to succumb; of pre-teen girls being bought and sold repeatedly. Does Allah ever sanction such barbarity? Even in war?
I see ISIS destroying centuries-old monuments and art which identified a civilization. Only intended Caliphate’s history must prevail? If not America, where is the rest of the world?
Ponder, you must…
*1) Repeat advice for PPP: Boycott four (4) more sittings of the Assembly before you return for your Parliamentary salaries.
*2) Repeat advice for government: Find legal constitutional ways to make the Parliamentary Committees function.
*3) Should not a President hear first-hand from his Ministers at Cabinet meetings?
*4) Name four (4) Guyanese heads-of-mission soon to be appointed.
*5) Be a real father from Sunday onwards. Not a mere sperm-donor!
*6) Coming next Friday: Why bother with Carifesta?
*7) What!? Ruel Johnson now on the secret Carifesta Selection Committee?
‘Til next week!