Taking umbrage at him and fellow PPP/C parliamentarians being called “vulgarians” by President David Granger after their protest in the parliamentary chambers last Thursday, former attorney general Anil Nandlall yesterday said the opposition had to demonstrate its objections to the unilateral appointment of retired judge James Patterson as Gecom chairman.
“In the National Assembly, we were duty-bound to express the anger, betrayal and frustration felt by the Guyanese people. Had we not done so, we would have failed in our responsibilities to the people of this country to convey to the government how they feel,” Nandlall told Stabroek News yesterday.
“We did nothing obscene. We created no parody videos and streamed it live. We caused no physical disturbances, and neither did we cause any violence of any kind. In fact, our conduct did not even disturb the sitting of the National Assembly. The president delivered the entirety of his speech,” he added.
During a state of the nation address by Granger at the opening of the new parliamentary session last Thursday, the PPP/C staged a protest where its members held up placards and made vocal their disquiet over his selection of Patterson.
Their protest and the corresponding heckling from some government parliamentarians drowned out the president’s address.
The rowdy actions of the nation’s politicians left many shocked, while questioning the example they set for their supporters.
At the People’s National Congress Reform North American Region’s Biennial Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, last week, Granger, in an address, criticised the behaviour of the PPP/C’s parliamentarians.
“Another good reason for me to be here, as I said last night, is that I need to take refuge from the vulgarians. Sometimes you know the vulgarians can get you down and you come under severe attack sometimes. It’s good to be among friends. Look at here, no placards and I can speak without interruption,” he joked to the laughter of attendees.
“Thursday, 2 November, 2017 was a day of infamy in the annals of the parliamentary records of Guyana. It will go down as one of the most disgusting episodes of parliamentary misbehaviour in the history of Guyana. Another reason why I am are here today is because more than ever I am convinced that the PPP does not deserve to run the government of Guyana [because of] its disdain to democracy, its contempt for culture. I stood there on Thursday and I looked,” he added.
Nandlall said that the president’s willful omission of the part his party played in the heckling was hypocritical and that APNU or the AFC should be the last parties to preach about vulgarity.
“This government can hardly be considered qualified to lecture anyone on anything. The APNU+AFC certainly have no moral authority to speak about decorum when it comes to protest actions and vulgarity. Just ask Messrs (Prime Minister Moses) Nagamootoo and (Dr Rupert) Roopnaraine how many times they were beaten and locked up by their coalition partner the PNC! Theirs is a track record of the worst forms of violence, public terror and vulgarity ever witnessed in Guyana…,” he argued, while referring to the period under the PNC’s rule.
According to Nandlall, over 500 persons were assembled outside of the National Assembly and they picketed lawfully and civilly. “There was no violence, there was no arson, there was no vulgarity, there was no looting, there was no robbery, all of which are associated with protest actions of the PNC/AFC,” he said.
He defended his party and its supporters’ protest actions, while saying that it was a reflection of what many feel about Granger’s choosing of Patterson.
“Every major stakeholder organisation in Guyana has condemned the President’s unilateral appointment of [Patterson.] In the wider society, people are angered by this decision. Therefore, a substantial majority of the electorate have no confidence in the Chairman of Gecom. Already Gecom’s credibility in the minds of thousands of Guyanese is tarnished because of the 2015 elections,” Nandlall stated.
“One cannot discount also that the nation was taken for a ride by the President over the last ten months on this issue. The president led this nation to believe that a Chairperson for Gecom will only be appointed through a collaborative process with the Leader of the Opposition. The President made many statements in the press expressing this commitment. The population also had to endure less than infantile interpretations being placed on simple words of the Constitution. We endured it all. In the end, the president ended up making his own choice of a man who is 84 years old with no electoral experience and who lied on his CV. Against that background, the president chooses to come to the National Assembly to lecture us and the nation about good and accountable governance and express his government’s commitment to the rule of law, constitutionality and democracy. It is the height of naivety for anyone to expect intelligent people to sit and listen to such platitudes and rhetoric,” he added.
The PPP/C has said that Patterson’s misrepresentation of himself in his curriculum vitae as a one-time Chief Justice of Grenada, when he served in an acting capacity, is grounds for his removal. Patterson has maintained that it was a “slip of the pen.”