No walk in the park

An interview with President David Arthur Granger

David Granger

Politics

GR: I want to begin with a foreign policy question, Excellency. Given the various important foreign policy issues on the international agenda would you be attending this year’s United Nations General Assembly?

Granger:   No. I have decided to pay attention to domestic issues which I feel are high priority at this time of the Guyana history, of the development of the coalition.

 

GR: Local Government Elections, Excellency?

President David Granger

Granger:  The most important are issues which affect the economy such as the state of the sugar industry, the state of the oil and gas industry and the state of crime. Those are my most important considerations. I think my presence here in Guyana over this period is essential for ensuring control for those events. Crime as you know has attracted my attention recently. Those are very detailed processes and I just to want shuffle that process along. Oil and gas; the the department was established on August 1 and the problems in the sugar industry have been running for a few years and we need to pay attention to the plight of the five thousand or so workers in the sugar industry whose services have been discontinued and ensure that they are comfortable, that they are compensated. These are priorities for me and I felt that my absence from the country at this time would be unwise.

 

GR: You mentioned crime and in that context I want to move directly to the Guyana Police Force. Are you satisfied that you have the right leadership team in place now?

Granger: That is left to be seen, but I am satisfied that I have the best possible leadership team from among the officers and I intend to work with them to ensure that their performance meets the high expectations of the Guyanese people. I deliberately did not want to invite a foreign Commissioner of Police and I am prepared to work with the present Commissioner and the four Deputy Commis-sioners. I believe that the formula that I have introduced (some police officers cannot remember when last there was a Deputy Commissioner much or less four) would ensure that there is a high degree of specialisation to the highest level, secondly there will be some form of streaming so that senior officers who go into law enforcement can look forward to becoming a Deputy Commissioner, Law Enforcement. Those who go into Special Branch can eventually become a Deputy Commissioner. Those who go into Administration, those who go into Operations…..and so on.  Before that we had a flat hierarchy but now we have a pyramid, There will also be greater career  opportunities; there will be better specialisation and as a result of that I believe they will be able to perform.

 

GR: I am going to stay with crime and policing. What about the need to infuse the various other kinds of resources necessary for effective policing? Where are we as far as that is concerned?

Granger: We realize that this is large country geographically and as a result of that we have decided to expand the amount of police Divisions. At present in the ‘F’ Division there is one officer in Bartica who is responsible for everything that takes place in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine. It is quite impossible for one Senior Superintendent to exercise that sort of responsibility. We are creating a divisional structure which will allow senior officers to take control of those areas. We received a very large donation of vehicles from the People’s Republic of China and we need to provide better assets for the police to operate in the rivers. All of the police divisions have rivers. but they do not have sufficient boats. They need all-terrain vehicles, so they can go into the mining areas and the timber areas,………. Eventually, light aircraft, because we have had problems with contraband, aircraft landing presumably with contraband commodities in the Rupununi.  I agree there are challenges of assets, but equally the prudent use of man power and of course and the use of those assets will help to improve the efficiency of the Police Force. The Police Force is extremely important in terms of national security When you read the Act you will see how wide its powers and responsibilities are, and I intend to give it every possible support to enable it to perform its functions. The Force is now supplemented by a Police Service Commission which was brought in partially by the National Assembly and also a Police Complaints Authority; so all of these changes have taken place in a relatively short space of time. I think that Justice Ramlall is very serious, I think that Mr. Slowe is very serious about the Police Service Commission and I think Mr. James is very serious. So I expect that by the end of this year we will start to see changes. There are still lots of problems with the rogue policemen and drinking and driving and getting involved in other forms of misconduct, but again I would like to call on the public to report that misconduct to the Police Complaints Authority. Justice Ramlall is very serious about dealing with those complains. All in all I think we have turned the corner on policing; we have the benefit of the COI Report… so it will be in the hands of Guyanese to take the process forward.

 

GR:  Excellency, it occurs to me that you are now the leading presidential expert on coalition governments, I do not think anybody comes close to you in terms of managing coalition governments in Guyana. I am trying to find out from you what is it that makes a coalition government more challenging or easier to run as the case may be?

Granger:  The first thing is that you must have partners who share a common vision regarding where they want the country to go, where they see our children going and how the country’s resources would be applied to achieve that vision.  I think within my partnership we have shared that vision. I will say managing both the partnership and the coalition has been a good experience but I have had the benefit of a high degree of cooperation both in the partnership and in the coalition. I would not call myself an expert because it requires management as you say, but we have been aided by the shared vision. The second thing is, within the coalition itself, people have not only a negative view of what took place of 23 years under the PPP, but a  very positive view of where we are going and in this regard I see our commitment to democratic ideals, our commitment to regular elections both at local government and general levels and seeing a vision of  a good life for our children, in terms of education, in term equality, in term of empowerment, in terms of eradication of unemployment. These are shared views within the coalition and this is what keeps us going. It is a self-managing mechanism. I feel the senior members of my cabinet know where we are heading and there is a great deal of cohesion. That is one of the reasons why no member of the Cabinet has left the Cabinet in three years.  We understand each other.

 

GR: Surely, Excellency you would have situations where there will be  political differences?

Granger: Yes, there are differences, but those differences have to be managed. They are not antagonistic differences, Recently comparisons were made with a Prime Minister of another jurisdiction who got rid of eleven ministers. That is not my style. My style is more consensual, I try to solve problems not simply throw problems through the window. We operate by consensus even though there are difficulties, even though there are differences of opinions. Cabinet is extremely important. Things come to Cabinet and everybody does not agree. In the final analysis, however, we work things out. In August we had a major issue which divided Cabinet and I would say one or two ministers were isolated and I took the step to call in an expert team to give an opinion on the matter before us and after that team spoke. Although the opinions of the Cabinet were not changed there was greater agreement that we should follow a certain course of action and that took the wind out of the acrimony and the differences of opinion that existed before and at the end of it everybody accepted that we should follow a certain course of action. One hour before there was a difference and one hour after people agreed that we have taken the right decision. It is question of management and I go for consensus not confrontation.

 

GR:  Is this the same of saying that, going forward, that you have a measure of confidence in the ability of the coalition to hold it together?

 

Granger:  Yes. Over more than three years there has not been any issue which has so deeply divided the coalition that I would say has jeopardized the stability or integrity of the coalition. you know you can read about all sorts of other differences in other jurisdictions but we have tried to work things out.  Actually, it is a very small Cabinet, just fifteen ministries. the Ministry of the Presidency has several departments………. Social Cohesion Ministry of Citizenships, Public Service, Environment and now Energy, but there are only fifteen line ministries. That helps us to manage the coalition government quite well. It is not that we have twenty and thirty ministries.

 

GR:   The Department of Energy……… Are we going to have a separate Minister to manage it?

 

Granger: Eventually yes. It is going to become the biggest Ministry in Guyana. Right now we are taking small steps; we are looking at the organizational structure. We have to look at the legislative framework; we have to look at administration and we have to recruit people from overseas. Several things have to be done so when we are ready we will set up that Ministry, we are not ready yet, Everything has to be put in place.

 

GR: Do you have a time frame?

 

Granger: Two years. The industry is so important that we cannot afford to rush simply because people are shouting at us to do this, do that. We are deliberating taking our time. We are not wasting time. We are doing things in a methodical and logical manner. For some time is has been clear that Guyana does not have the human resources to manage that industry and we are busily recruiting international experts.

 

GR:   What is your though process, Excellency, on what, sometimes appears to be the understanding of the way we are managing the whole oil and gas process. We seem to have a fair number of detractors. What are your thoughts about that?

 

Granger: It is a very healthy political discourse. I think most Guyanese are aware of the importance oil and gas industry and the critical commentaries which have been directed have helped us to be more aware and more alert to the environment in which we are operating. That is one of the reasons why we are taking our time trying to recruit the best personnel, trying to put the best legislation in place, trying to get people who are capable of reviewing these contracts and maybe negotiating future contracts. Please bear in mind that prior to 2015 all that existed in the Government of Guyana was a small Petroleum Unit within the Ministry of Natural Resources. I mean it is a hard – working Unit. It has been there for twenty years. The situation that we have now after May 2015 demands a much heavier governmental input and to do this, to give Guyanese the quality industry that they deserve means that we have to recruit foreigners and we have to put a very elaborate infrastructure in place.  So we will get the best legislation, the best Commission, the best supervision, the best regulatory framework. That is being done.

 

GR:  If you had to say, Excellency, the two or three objectives which your administration is determined to fulfil within its current five-year term (I am saying current because it is leading me inevitably to another question) what would those two or three things be?

 

Granger: From an aspirational point of view, I would like to see an elimination of poverty.

 

GR: Quite ambitious?

 

Granger: Yes, very ambitious, or to put it another way, the elimination of extreme poverty, I would like to see greater equality and I would like to reduce unemployment. It is all human qualities and of course I have the opportunity to travel all over the country and it is very distressing to go to some communities and see a whole school in which children are barefooted. I feel we need to move the entire population out of poverty and although people do not pay much attention to it one of the first things I did from 2015 is to provide boats to enable children to go to school and provide buses for children to go to school; to provide bicycle for children to go to school. Most of my critics do not talk about these things. They regard it as some side show, but it is saving families millions of dollars and some children are going to school regularly for the first time in their lives and it is a very important element in education that families do not have to put their hands in their pocket to get their children to school. The point is that from an education point of view I am putting emphasis on attendance and hopefully following that will be greater educational achievement……… just to get children to school. It looks so idyllic to see Amerindian children paddling to school, but if you try paddling to school for hour or an hour and a half and when you get there  and think of the prospect of paddling back home at night you cannot get much out of your studies and it is not surprising that children drop out and go into the goldfields as soon as they get the opportunity. The three B’s; what is I now called the Public Education Transport Service, what I now call the PETS, is a contributory factor to this vision that I have of reducing poverty, of eliminating extreme poverty, getting children in school, improving education levels, It may not make headlines news but these are things which I think are achievable.

 

GR:  At the level of Government, Excellency, how big a problem is corruption? Things are being functionaries including Ministers. I am wondering whether you have a view and how big a problem or how manageable a problem corruption is?

 

Granger: Corruption is undesirable, it erodes public trust and the government cannot function without public trust. The police cannot function without public trust and I am trying my best to eradicate corruption. Wherever I receive a report I  take action on it. I sweep nothing under the carpet.

 

GR:   You have received reports, Sir?

 

 Granger:  I have not received any specific report about any Minister that is actionable. In the case of public servants, I have asked for investigations to be done. But, generally, there is lot of rumormongering and sometimes some of it is malicious. The other thing is that we have embedded in Guyana persons who were involved in really notorious behavior during the PPP era………… in terms of lands, in term contracts, in terms of misappropriation. This is a problem we had to deal with. In the Police Force, in the Public Service and it is difficult to eradicate. Some people in the business community feel that things have not changed and they try to use their wealth to get favors and so it is an ongoing problem and that is one of the reasons why I took pains to ensure that the Police Force is reformed from the top. You know there is saying that fish rots from its head and I started by making sure that the people at the head – those five men and women at the head are people who are committed to improving the quality of the Force. We have had situations where a member of the Force would commit an offence in Corentyne and we would send him to Puruni…….. send him to in the hinterland and he would continue his bad behavior. This is one of the problems that we will find because of old habits; so we have to uproot those old habits. There may be corruption, there may be bad administration but you can see the problem that occurs when we do not have well-managed Magistrates Courts; a well – managed Police Force; a well – managed Defence Force; a well-managed Public Service. These are not things which can be reformed in a flash because some persons have been there for a long time and many of them have covered their trails and possibly many have escaped with millions but we are doing our best to bring that form of corruption to an end.

 

GR: Is there any such thing, Excellency, as the least likeable responsibility of the Presidency, the ones that you wished that you didn’t have to deal with?

 

Granger:   I accept responsibility, I do not try to run away from responsibility. I am fully aware of my obligations to the state, I am old enough and experienced enough to understand the challenges facing the presidency. I would say the two biggest challenges are time and space……….. for me to find the time to visit all the communities, that I need to visit, to understand the problems on the ground and the sheer distance that has to be covered. Tomorrow I go to Shullnab in the Rupununi and maybe it will take me about four hours just to get there and of course four hours to get back. If I try to go to the Amazon Heart of Palm canning factory, in the Barima River it is going take me four hours; so the share time that  I have to spend  to get around the country and the space that has  to be covered just to see a small gathering, those are two challenging things; time and space. But as far as the problems are concerned, I have not come across any intractable problems. I work with the Cabinet. individually and collectively they are aware of their responsibilities, I work with department heads and senior public servants and I believe even though it has been three years we have made some progress, improving the quality of live for the Public Servants and for the people who depend upon us. Public servants’ salaries, for example………… the lowest, including  teachers had over fifty percent increase in the last three years. When I first went into the Tenth Parliament in 2012, I think the old age pension was seven thousand dollars, it is now nineteen thousand five hundred dollars……… something like that. Public Assistance has increased, the income tax threshold has been raised, VAT has been lowered; So the quality of life has actually improved and I believe the actions we have taken have been understood by the bulk of the Public Servants and the bulk of the country and this has given me a lot of encouragement. I was in the East Berbice, Corentyne a few days ago, I have been up and down the East Bank Berbice.  Now, for the first time, people have running water through their pipes. One person said “this is the happiest day of my life. I can flush my toilet.” There are certain parts of the East Bank Berbice road which have street lights; the roads are being done over and again for the first time if you have never driven to Hybrey, there is a mood optimism in the country. People realize that we do not have the funds to do everything all at once but as far as I am concerned we are gradually getting there. I do not see it as a challenge, but these I would say are accomplishments that I am proud of.

 

GR:  Would you consider running for office to serve the country for another five years?

 

Granger: I have considered it and as I said on a previous occasion I am a servant to my Party and I am here only because I was nominated by my Party. In 2010 I entered what was called the Primary, our Party had a Primary for the selection of the presidential candidate and I won the Primary and I became presidential candidate and I was selected presidential candidate for A Partnership for National Unity and later I was elected as Leader of the Peoples National Congress Party and elected as leader of the Opposition so I am no stranger to struggle if you want to call it that. I have never run away from responsibility if the people ask me to serve I will serve.

 

GR: If the Party so desires?

 

 Granger:  If the Party so desires. Yes, definitely.

 

GR: I know you talk constantly about some of the threats to the good of Guyana. What are your thoughts on how we approach combating the major threats we have for the forward movement of this country?

 

Granger:         A big problem is social cohesion and I think by the establishment of a Minister responsible for Social Cohesion we have been able to rub the edge of some of the most hostile propaganda. We have, for example, established the practice of recognizing Chinese Arrival Day, January 12th. This year I went over to Windsor Forest where the first President was born. Later on we had the Portuguese Arrival Day and I went down the road to Sacred Heart which is the first Portuguese Church and the services were actually conducted in Portuguese. Two days later, May 5, I went to Hybury, East Bank Berbice to celebrate the 180th Anniversary of Indian Arrival Day and at the beginning of last month I went to several events to celebrate 180th Anniversary of African emancipation. Now all of these engendered respect for one another.    We do not laugh at each other’s ceremonies, traditions and culture. Here at State House I erected a Benab and people who read the papers would see that every year for Diwali there is a row of dias from Main Street into State House. Growing up in Georgetown I have never seen a row of dias coming into State House, but now we have it in recognition of a very important festival. Phagwah, what some Indians call Holi. We have a celebration right here with Abeer, dancing and gaiety, We have Christian festivals right here in the Benab.  So people are more at ease. In addition to that, we have at for the first time in Guyanese history women being appointed Senior Counsel, it seems almost impossible that we should spend more than fifty years after independence and not a single woman, but it becomes normal. Women could be senior Council in Guyana. We have a situation in this year there were more women than male recipients of National Awards. Every year at independence I release a woman or as many women as qualify from jail (and Christmas time as well) who have not committed manslaughter or murder

 

GR:   Have you been able to follow up?

 

Granger: Some come back and say thanks, I normally say go and join your family. You belong with your family. What I am trying to say is (that this is a) more compassionate more humane approach and I think these are some of the benefits of having a compassionate presidency.

 

GR:   Local Government, Excellency. I would proffer an opinion here which is shared by many people. There is a very considerable view here in Guyana, particularly in Georgetown about the Local Government system…..that City Hall and its public servants have become much more of a hindrance than a help to taking this City forward. There is the wharf today, the market tomorrow, I know your follow these things. What is your view on their performance?

 

Granger: It is an urban legend and I do not fight facts. What I would say is that my administration has created four new Towns. I do not know which administration over the last four decades has created four Towns and I would say the experiences in those four Towns have been very encouraging. The people who go to Bartica, if they go by the Golden Beach they will see it is transformed. As a matter of fact every Town located in the river…………. and you can see improvements on the waterfronts and I am very happy. the Mayors, particularly the new Mayors have taken their Councils and obligations very seriously so I believe that transformation should not only be located in Georgetown or New Amsterdam, I am very impressed with changes that are taking place in other municipalities. Georgetown again, I will say this is something which democracy will have to deal with; that people will eventually elect persons to the Councils who they feel are competent and are committed to bringing about change.  So people who are running or incumbents or interested in running for office would not be able to depend on party patronage. The people will speak.

 

GR: Do you think that time will come?

 

Granger: Yes, that time will come. This is what happened in May 2015 when people voted for A Partnership for National Unity and people are not fools. If they feel that Council is not performing they will move them.  That is what democracy is all about and that is the reason why A Partnership for National Unity took a strong stand of democratic representation and even coming back to the whole question of local government I am formally against sharing out seats even within the partnership. I am not going to give WPA one seat, Justice for All one seat, Guyana Action Party, National Front Alliance………. people must go to the electorate, they must go to the constituents and say I would like to represent this constituency, I would like to go into to the Council and speak to you; to speak to the Neighborhood Democratic Council, to the Municipal Council and Town Hall and speak for you. I would come and see whether you have water or pot holes in your streets or whether you need clean water delivered, whether you need electricity and that is what I hope to encourage and not simply I am member of Party A or Party B. People must trust the candidates and that is why I am not prepared to encourage any sharing out of seats on any alphabetical basis…….. this party must get ten percent, this party must get two percent. That is not democracy that is something else and I am not going to be part of it.

 

GR: Excellency the Ministry of Education said to this nation that either chunks of Education Month or the entire Education Month have been set aside and the reason I think that was given was that the persons involved or who should have been involved in planning and organizing one of the event were busy with the industrial dispute. How do you respond to that?

 

Granger: It is a Ministry decision. It is not a question of any policy change. Everyone knows that it was a very serious strike. It was quite disruptive and we are still in a post- strike situation in which we are working towards arbitration so the situation is abnormal and I think the Minister is quite right and quite justified in her comments. It is not that it is a ceremonial event. I myself have spoken at some of those events in the past years, Right now we need to recover lost time, getting students and teachers into the classroom and getting back on track. So I support the Minister completely in terms of not having it at this time. There will be better years but this has been an abnormal year.

 

GR: Hinterland communities. This has been a focal point of your whole intellectual thrust. The whole business of connecting the hinterland to coastal Guyana in all sorts of ways whether it is by air and people were complaining about the roadways. Where do you think your government is in terms of realizing what you yourself have told me is one of your objectives………. to connect the hinterland and the coast?. 

 

Granger: This is not a pipe dream. The connection between the coastland and the hinterland is important for reducing inequalities and eliminating poverty. Those persons, including public servants, teachers, policemen who have to serve in the hinterland have to pay more for their daily sustenance because most things have to be flown in. Sometimes you go to a mining area and you see a variety of vegetables. All of those items came in by plane. So you are quite right. The closing of the gap between coastland and hinterland Guyana is important and yes, I dream about a bridge across the Essequibo River. It is a thousand kilometres long, and does not have a single bridge. I would like to see a bridge across the Essequibo River. In fact, I hope or want to see all three rivers bridged. People must be able to drive from Kwakwani right through to Arnaputa without getting their feet wet.

 

GR:  Ambitious?

 

Granger:  Well you know, drive across Kwakwani drive across a bridge on the Berbice River, drive across the Demerara River, drive across the Essequibo River. Yeah, it’s is a big ambition but we will not be able to assure the hinterland residents of that good life unless we could remove the differences between hinterland and coastland. We must assure the children in school that they are getting the best teachers. We must assure the public servants and other people who are working with the government, business persons who are setting up the regional Chambers of Commerce, that they can have viable businesses in the hinterland and for that to happen we have to build infrastructure to encourage people to go into the hinterland and invest. That is where the wealth is. The hinterland can produce not only gold, diamonds and timber but also the agricultural goods that we need. If you went to these regional and commercial exhibitions you will see the huge volume of commodities. Some of it might be what certain politicians call   plantain chip economy, very disparaging, but people like plantain chips………. but when you go to one of these exhibitions you will see ordinary housewives producing the best casareep, producing cashew nuts, jams, cashew nut butter, honey; you see beautiful craft work but they cannot get some of these commodities to the market without infrastructure.  It is very expensive to fly things in and out and eventually we must build a railway or as an alternative build a roadway, a railway might be better but we are far from that financially. Poverty is holding us back

 GR: One of the things that people say as far as critiquing the presidency is concerned has to do with deficiencies in terms of your boisterousness, that is to say that when issues arise the President is not boisterous enough in representing what he thinks about these issues.  I am trying to tell you what the mood is out there. “We need to hear from the President.” The issue of Press Conferences, was one of the things. “The President should be talking more. Does this every come to you as a criticism?

 

Granger: I read the newspapers, I am confronted by the media when I go out. I am aware of what people think, but I never heard the boisterous thing.

 

GR: ……… a lack of boisterousness?

 

Granger: I have never regarded that as a sort of criticism because I am not a boisterous person. I believe that my style is important to the stability of the Cabinet and the country and I believe children growing up and various institutions want to see a Head of State who is approachable. I am patron of several organizations and one of the reasons why I mentioned the benab is that I host several non-governmental organizations and I think that people are happy. It can be nurses, it can be St John’s Association, public servants, it could be Rotaract……….. so I think people in different strata in society are grateful that I am not boisterous, they feel that I am quite approachable, every month I get stacks of letters………… people asking for laptops, computers, and various forms of assistance and I do try to assist. Right here at State House, I think it was last March. I gave thirteen schools thirteen million dollars. Each one got a million dollars.I go to a school and the ask for assistance to fix a laboratory. When the Chinese offered me a fifty million dollars, without batting an eye lid I said plug it straight into the Cyril Potter College of Education. So I think people are getting accustomed to a different style of presidential leadership. I do not know if the boisterous style was very successful (if there was such a style) but I am quite approachable.  Every Christmas morning my wife and I go into the maternity ward at the hospital and meet mothers so there is gentler type of presidency. Now I do not think anybody doubts my robustness’s in representing causes. For example, we worked very hard to ensure that after fifty years the territorial controversy was taken to the International Court of Justice and this did not happen by fluke or freak, it called for work, it called for steadfastness, it called for engaging two different Secretaries General of the United Nations. it called for engaging CARICOM and I believe that form of engagement was successful, I was able by that same attitude to win the support of my CARICOM colleagues and to meet the other Heads of Government and other Heads of State and they all gave us their support, so in terms of international relations that lack of boisterousness is very successful. I will call it statesmanship, We have a relationship with Brazil which is the highest level and earlier this year we had a visit by the Minister of Defence. More recently we had a visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Right now there are over five dozen members of the Brazilian army in this country. Tomorrow when I go to the Rupununi, I will be meeting some of them. They are drilling wells in the Rupununi. This is the 50thanniversary year of our relations with Brazil, I would say something of an achievement that at this point in time having visited Brazil about three times since I became President my style has been very effective. We have a more positive image in the international community and the environment. People look at Guyana as being a trustworthy partner in the environment we just do not rattle off about Low Carbon Development Strategy, people realize that we are the Green State and that we are serious about the environment, we are serious about our role in the Guyana Shield, serious about protected areas. When I went to the Commonwealth I presented the Konashen Protected Areas. This is an area bigger than Trinidad and Tobago.

 

GR: Would you say this is one of considerable achievement of the government and at a personnel level as well?

 

Granger: Yes, I brought a different attitude to the presidency, I have not reduced the presidential work in terms of economy and social change but at the same time I have imparted a certain quality to governance and I feel that the presidency is now an institution to be respected not ridiculed.

 

GR::    I want to end on two notes because I noticed the hour is up, I want to ask you about the  relationship first of all with Venezuela and once you are finished with that I want to ask you about your relationship as President with the leader of this country’s  opposition,  Bharrat Jagdeo. You decide which one you will take first.

 

Granger::The relationship with the Leader of the Opposition is important in terms of our domestic policy. I think Mr Jagdeo has a different approach to politics and I am not going to criticize him. His approach is probably endorsed by his party. I have never refused to see him on any matter and every time we meet we do not only discuss the matter on the agenda but we have discussions on wider issues and I expect very soon I hope we can meet to discuss some of those. There are three issues on the agenda we are going to discuss and I look forward to meeting him. He has experience. As you know he was Finance Minister with Dr Jagan. Since 1993 he was in government, in Finance, so he has a lot of ideas.

 

GR: Does he ever share them with you?

 

Granger: Yes, I cannot run away from the fact that some of those ideas while the PPP was in government were misguided. You have to repair the damage…………for example that crazy fiber optic cable from the Rupununi, just gone, millions gone. The factory at Skeldon, a lot of money was wasted. The arrangements for the Berbice River Bridge almost destroyed the National Insurance Scheme. The failure to deal with the problems in the sugar industry; they were kicking the ball down the road. They knew the arrangements that they had put in place could not produce cheap enough sugar to sell on the world market and they were just kicking the ball down the road; and now we have to bring that pretense to an end and deal with hard facts. We have to reform the sugar industry. I cannot say I agree with everything he and Mr. Ramotar did as President and of course they are criticizing the APNU/AFC administration. I do not allow these thoughts to interfere with our dialogue, I know where I want to go and as I said we only have a one seat majority in the National Assembly and from the onset I cannot ignore the forty-nine percent of the population simply because they do not have a parliamentary majority. I listen to everybody.

GR: Is there a dimension of cordiality between the two of you?

 

Granger On my side?

 

GR: On your side.

 

Granger: Yes, I am a very cordial person.

 

GR. Cordiality is a mutual thing, isn’t it?

 

Granger: Yes

 

GR:      Are you saying that there is nothing coming back from the other side?

 

Granger: I have never publicly criticized Mr. Jagdeo or what he has said. You check the papers. I have never criticized any former President and that is a mark of my interpretation of cordiality.  

 

GR:      But that tendency is not         reciprocated Sir?

 

Granger: I have not seen any evidence of that. Certainly, I believe particularly former Presidents need to be more prudent in their remarks. They have had the opportunity to run the country and now they are no longer in the presidency they should not  try to impede   or obstruct other persons from doing their jobs. Perhaps it is a role for other critics. I think former Presidents should be more guarded in their approach to the presidency. Coming back to the important aspect of the question I would like to continue to improve my relations with Mr. Jagdeo. There was much publicity given recently to phone call made by former President Carter of the United States. People attribute too much to that call. I do not complain but I was very concerned that when I went to the National Assembly I was not given an opportunity to be heard, it was more than an absence of cordiality when members of the National Assembly start banging the tables for an hour and displaying placards. I thought that was vulgar and I said so, I do not expect that a Head of State should be treated like that and the previous year they just stayed in the lounge. I do not know what they were doing there and only came in after I spoke. So for two years I was subjected to………..I would say insulting behavior by Leader of the Opposition and that is not a sound basis for cordial relations. Everybody knows that I go to Parliament the first sitting after the recess. I go there to read the government policy for the ensuing year and that government policy provides a framework for the budget. If anybody reads my speech they will see that the budget follows. My speech will have policy. The budget is the more practical aspect, the numbers part of it. So on two occasions, at least, the Leader of the Opposition has behaved towards me in a very uncivil way. But I just keeping on, keeping on. My duty is to the people of Guyana and I will continue to go to the National Assembly to explain to the people what I feel is the policy, what I know is       going to be pursued and I hope that eventually we will get above that infantile behavior. Now talking about Maduro………

 

GR: I want you to talk about that in the context of the movement of Venezuelans to Guyana given the crisis they have in Venezuela?

 

 Granger: I have not had any personal interactions with the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. He had said something to which again I have not responded. I think he has internal problems, I do not want to aggravate those problems. I certainly would hope that no other party would intervene in Venezuela to try to bring about a non-democratic intervention. Guyana as you know is one of the victims of the meltdown of Venezuela. As one of my hinterland policies I created what you would call one of those frontline villages. I paid visits to Baramita, Whitewater, Kaikan, among other villages and the Defence Force and Police Force were strengthened to deal with the anticipated influx of the Venezuelans. We are trying to deal with this in a measured and rational manner. As you know there have been riots against the Venezuelan migrants in Brazil and Ecuador and we are trying to avoid those conflicts. So I cannot say I have a relationship with Mr. Maduro but I have a relationship with the citizens of Mr. Maduro’s country and we will ensure that they are treated in a humane way.

 

GR:     Is the situation manageable at the moment, Excellency?

 

Granger:  Guyana cannot afford to maintain the number of people who are coming here. All I can say is that they are coming in manageable numbers. But the answer is no. The situation as a whole is not manageable. We have to provide for our own citizens, especially in the hinterland. The citizens do not have. There are not many rich people. Most of the people living there are poor. Poor villages and any influx of Venezuelans will put a strain on the resources. We have to move as quickly as possible to get them to produce food for themselves in the first instance, and to go back as quickly as possible in the second instance.

GR:      Will your government continue hosting them as a humanitarian responsibility?

 

Granger: To the extent of our ability. yes.

 

GR: I am done Sir, Thank you very much.

 

Granger:  It has been a pleasure

 

GR: Thank you

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