President David Granger yesterday recommitted the PNCR to its pacts with other political parties – including the governing APNU+AFC coalition – saying that it is critical to tackling the many issues in Guyana and he warned against attempts to rekindle racial animosity.
The PNCR opened its 19th Biennial Delegates’ Congress at its headquarters at Congress Place, Sophia yesterday and for the first time in over 23 years, the party leader is also the President of Guyana, a point that was not lost on the organisers. The APNU+AFC coalition, of which the PNCR is a major constituent, booted the PPP/C from power at general elections in May last year. While mentioning the historic 1964 coalition between the then PNC and the United Force, Granger made no mention of its rapid and acrimonious end – a risk that analysts say the present coalition faces.
Dressed in his favoured pre-president era signature green shirt, Granger told the formal opening ceremony for the Congress that the PNCR is proud of its ideology of inclusiveness and proud to be part of the APNU and the APNU+AFC coalition administration.
“The PNCR, five years after the forming of APNU, reaffirms its commitment to membership of the partnership, which has become not only a household word but, also, the beacon of hope of thousands of Guyanese. The idea of the partnership was not an electoral expedient or a political experiment. It was, and remains, an expression of our party’s belief that a partnership is the best example of how Guyanese can work together for the common good,” Granger said to cheers from the hundreds of delegates in the sweltering hall. Diplomats and other members of government as well as members of civil society were present.
The coalition is not merely about opposing the PPP/C but about proposing a whole new approach to governance, the PNCR leader emphasised.
“The APNU+AFC coalition is the bulwark against the cronyism, corruption and criminality – misgovernment, which dragged our country to the edge of catastrophe and into the pit of human under-development. The record rates of armed robbery, arson, execution-murders, road fatalities, suicides, illiteracy, unemployment, trafficking in persons and trafficking in narcotics made our country a pariah state in this hemisphere,” Granger declared.
Though he stressed good governance and fighting cronyism, Granger steered clear of the growing number of questionable deals and decisions by his government, which led to Public Health Minister Dr George Norton yesterday making a public apology and seeking forgiveness.
The Congress is being held under the theme ‘The Vanguard of a Green Economy,’ and the meeting hall’s decorations reflected the green theme, while there was also a Congress theme song, ‘Green Power,’ which was performed by G-Money.
In his 50-minute feature address, laden with praise of controversial PNC founder and late Executive President Forbes Burnham, Granger delved into a number of topics, including the green economy, security, and the political situation.
He said that it is the task of the coalition government for the next 50 years to complete its historic mission to provide a good life for all. “We must act resolutely to make the changes that are essential to building a resilient economy, an economy that is adaptive to the changes and responsive to the challenges of the global economy,” he said. The President recalled the promises made in the coalition’s manifesto and spoke on how achieving these would lead to the “good life.”
Meanwhile, the President warned against instigation of ethnic animosities. “Today comrades, Guyana still needs to staunch the social erosion that can be a trigger for civil violence as we’ve seen in the recent past under the previous administration,” he said. “We can still see how easily it is for the ranting of a few persons to rekindle racial animosity, a retrograde step which has no place in modern society,” he said, in an apparent reference to comments made by former president Bharrat Jagdeo.
According to Granger, the PNCR is alarmed at the vocal efforts of those persons to promote social division, even as a heckler shouted ‘Jagdeo.’
“We want to warn that such inflammatory tirades run the risk of degenerating into social instability, degenerating into the fostering of distrust, into the fomenting of disorder,” the President warned. He said the impact of such words can be seen in other regions in the world. “There is no place for such language in Guyana and the diaspora,” he said.
Granger said that Guyanese need to exhibit the spirit of social cohesion. Social cohesion is about combating exclusion and marginalisation, creating a sense of belonging and promoting upward mobility, he said.
He pointed out that Guyana is a small state. “We need not be divided, we need to build cooperative relationships at all levels of society” including among political parties, he said.
Granger noted that discord has the potential to spawn hatred even as he pointed to the crime wave on the East Coast between 2002 and 2008, which he said the coalition has vowed that will never recur.
“The PNC calls on its coalition partners and civil society to work together to repair that damage, to restore trust and to rebuild the bases of a moral community, one that enables us to trust each other,” Granger said.
On the green economy, Granger said that the PNCR proposes a green development strategy as a template for greening Guyana. “We propose to transition our economy rapidly towards clean and cheaper sources of renewable energy. We will craft a comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect human habitation, our coastal economic sectors and coastal ecosystems. We will create green enterprises and jobs and we will inculcate green education in our schools,” the President said.
He had noted that Guyana is vulnerable to the effects of climate change even as he pointed out that the country’s infrastructure is not capable of coping with the consequences of prolonged flooding or drought.
“The PNCR supports the adoption of a sustainable model of resource exploitation and extraction in order to reduce the rate of depletion of our natural resources so that these assets will also be available to future generations. A green economy is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of our natural resources,” Granger said, while also emphasising that a green economy is not an option but an obligation.
“We need the green economy to wean our country off of our addiction to fossil fuels,” he said even as a generator droned in the background. The irony was not lost on the President who, to laughter, rhetorically asked, “Do I hear a generator?”
On security, Granger, a retired army brigadier, said that “without security, we will have no country to green.” He highlighted Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s territory and said that after 25 years, the Good Officer process has been exhausted and the PNCR supports Guyana’s position for a swift juridical settlement. He underlined Venezuela’s seizure of the 7 square kilometres Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni River months after independence in 1966, an act that has rankled for decades. He charged that the island is used as a staging ground by the Venezuelan military to harry Guyanese miners and citizens.
He also said that the PNCR is concerned at the danger that transnational crime poses to Caribbean nations. He said the threats to the region remain undiminished.
Granger noted that the PNCR and its coalition partners in government, this year, face several challenges. “Thankfully, we are better together than apart. We must continue to work closely together because there is work to do to repair badly constructed buildings; to repay huge unsettled debts; to eliminate armed robberies, contraband smuggling, money-laundering, narcotics-trafficking and other crimes; to stanch the dropout rates and unemployment of our youths; to solve the problems in the sugar industry, which we inherited and to rekindle a spirit of nationalism,” he said.
“Remind Bharrat dem man,” a woman heckled.
“We have to work to remove the legacy of 23 years of mismanagement,” Granger declared even as he said that the PNCR along with the AFC and other parties will continue to lead by example. He said that the mission now and in years to come is to enable all Guyanese to enjoy a good life that they deserve.