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By GHK Lall
In fabled British espionage and author Graham Greene lore, there was a ‘fifth man’ somewhere out there. The mystery has never been satisfactorily finalized. So, the question is that, though, he was suspected of being ‘out there’, how far out there was he really, and did he really exist?
That is the extended question that I ask myself, which I suspect many Guyanese do, about one David Arthur Granger, formerly first soldier, first citizen, and first among equals. In cricketing language, he is out there on the boundary line patrolling at third man. He is retired, but not quite. To be clear, he retired limping, but not hurt. For I detect that this solider lost skirmishes, battle, and wars still developing ahead.
He is as aloof and remote as ever but, inexplicably, still substantively around and about, very much in the mix. I think Guyana and his own feel his strange shadow, his not-so-invisible hand, his influential voice. His is not the stentorian presence of a MacArthur; but more of an overshadowed Marshall, a whispery, elusive Vo Nguyen Giap. Yes, his parade ground presence offers a glimpse of that stature; at least, among his own.
He came with much promise, now lives with a cloud always hovering: the opportunity not amplified. Though he has been lashed mercilessly over obstinacy and hesitancy, I think he is due follow-up lookup, commentary today.
Externally (beyond his faithful), he is remembered for one thing and one span of time primarily. It is exclusively for national elections calls, and failure to concede early enough. Other things, lower on the charts, now condemn his leadership record for financial perversities under his watch. Where was he? Why did he not act earlier? Why were some comrades, known characters, retained so long?
Notwithstanding those weaknesses and inactions, the 5-months (arguably 19 months) stalemate, checkmate, and elections-gate was his darkest hour, a long one. In the season and time that challenged David Granger, he withered painfully, and curled into a ball. Flogged and flagellated fail to capture the ordeal experienced. This is what now crowns him in barbwire, rather regrettably. So much hoped for, so much wanting. Indeed, it is the sad, savaging Guyana story that first sears, then scars irreversibly. This is his enduring legacy to own, regardless of how partially accurate, minimally relevant, fleetingly wounding. But they are not. For man and group and people are not spared, but scorched continuously, with newer and unique ways found by adversaries to keep the klieg lights on the highest beam. They will not rest, since that is all they have going for them; nothing on their own that speaks (beside elections in a limited way) to their light, recommend them.
The secret of his standing, also revealing, is that the former president retains his loyalists, some of his ethereal mystique, much of his fatigued muscle, no matter how ridiculed by foes. From his self-orchestrated murky existence, he still projects outward in wide rippling arcs. In other words, he comes, but with weight. It is why I caution Guyanese-friends and enemies alike-not to minimize the man. Or his reach. Or the height of his depth, too.
Because of all of this, and my own discernments also, I believe that there is a role for him still; it is an influential one (at least); crucial it could be, contingent upon circumstances. I would not dismiss nor disregard him. Not when Guyana’s politics is as configured as it is; not with the mind of the man; not with the racial and financial atrocities committed by those who first succeeded him, then disparage him, and last use that as cover to wage their own wars of exploitations and extractions (rigging) against the sum of the Guyanese people.
From my perspective, I think his place and role must be that of an advisor, the man behind the curtains. He must be comfortable as mediator, if called upon to be a powerbroker: an unbiased and trusted one. There will be such a time soon enough. Should the situation so compel, then his service is that of arbitrator; a principled and independent one. Put differently, David Granger must remake himself in the mold of a Carter-Jackson combination; but without the mileage and visibility. He lacks the oratory, but so did Arafat and Ariel Arik, yet both got things done; a tad untidily at times, but done they were. I urge him to revisit the record of one Saul of Tarsus, and appreciate how he allowed himself to be reengineered, and then to restart and retake the high ground, slightly lower.
It is a place reserved for a chosen few only. If I were him (and I am not), I would not worry unduly over adversaries across the increasingly agitated sward. It is their same self-destructive nature and ways that devastate this land, peoples, and prospects. Indeed, there are those who cannot resist eating their young; incurable addictions assume many forms.
As churchman, army man, and history man, I am positive that the former President of Guyana has solid regard for the doors that beckon, the way I point to that he should make the rest of his life’s work. There would be required a tremendous quantity of remedial action(s) appropriate to the moment; recent past also. The discipline of a lifetime career ought to serve well. Family. Country. Duty. Integrity. Oh, before I forget: loyalty (to squaddie) pales numerous shades before those. I emphasize that the most intense focus should be on rehabilitation towards universal reputation, refurbished convictions, personal reorganization. Conversion can only be by his own hand. He can still recover, for I behold a man of promise, who dissipated his grace, when he allowed his time and environment to overtake him; when he proved not up to the moment, the tasks at hand.
Like Saul the terrorist, who became Paul the evangelist, I believe that the former leader must travel the road from a man once feared ad despised to one that turned out to be a tireless champion of an ethos that lives to this day. Thus, his travels must be from Arthur Chung and GECOM to new things sung. He knows what I mean, namely, neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freedman. Mr. Granger has a priceless advantage: his political contemporaries have proven to be worse than him.
For now, he must be seen to be above the fray leading to December 11. This is more than internal; a nation is watching, and the franchise and future hinge on those. The kind that the former is, too. For if executed cleanly, that may be leveraged into what could be nationally. In the tense and testy tussles ahead on the national stage, he must possess the wise head of an eminence grise. A figure of stability, of fall overcome, of rising from the ashes, and of possibilities for others.