OP-ED | President Ali’s Republic Day address

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By GHK Lall

Whenever I think that the President cannot outdo himself, he does it through more exhibitions in bizarreness, in the scope of his misunderstandings of what national leadership represents. For his Republic Day message, he took aim at “chronic naysayers” singling out those in his self-made list of Guyanese found offensive by him. This is not presidential. It is not national leadership, when such is desperately needed in Guyana.

Of all the days in Guyana’s calendar, for His Excellency to target “chronic naysayers” for special mention! Is this the measure of the man, the length of the presence of this highest national officeholder, the real insides of what this leader is about? When he should have seized the moment to be above the fray of Guyana’s brutish politics, and be truly presidential, he preferred to descend into the gutter and snipe. When this society yearns for a leader who possesses the maturity to be a healer despite his own pain (pretended or exaggerated) to knit together a broken polity agonizing from its real pains, it is gifted with what the President saw fit to dish out on Republic Day.

This is the leader who is proud to hold aloft the banner of ‘One Guyana’ yet relished the opportunity to exclude the representatives of some half of Guyana’s electorate at the national flag-raising ceremony. Outsiders are in, opposition out. What does this say of him, his thirst for inflicting malice aforethought on enemies, during a supreme national occasion?

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Yet, he goes on to highlight-in characteristic disdain-those with supposedly “selfish agenda, biasness, perception, propaganda, and feelings.” It was low. What the President wants the world to believe is lacking in him, so upright is he, he freely gives deed and title to others. It would be those Guyanese who take his government to task for grievous failures, for obvious weaknesses, and for the resulting follies and farces that possess their own undeniable truths. The President and his people wage an endless propaganda war against dissenting Guyanese, those who dare to stand for something, and summon the courage to speak truth, because he is desirous of only his so-called truths to reign unchallenged. The man, this Guyanese leader, could be so thoughtless to say that he and his group is the emblem of ‘One Guyana’ even as he blocks and locks out almost half of Guyana’s population. If that is not of the “biasness” and the selfish agenda” and the vindictive “feelings” that he rails against, then nothing is. He needs to stop ranting about the specks in the eyes of perceived enemies, and concentrate on addressing the beams in his own eyes.

I use “addressing” and deliberately refrained from employing “removing” regarding the beams/planks in the President’s eyes. Because it is doubtful if he is of any mind to do any removing, so set he is in his cherished quarrelsome ways. A national leader cannot be this dogged, this divisive, this destructive and still hope to be successful, in the long run. He should have been exhortatory; instead, he thrilled to be inflammatory. This was what surfaced, at the grandest moment stained beyond compare, his gift to Guyanese on their own special national day. And this man wonders why his program, his actions, his governance methods and consequences, could be so unloved, the subject and target of so much dispute and scorn, unequalled disgust and simmering disenchantments.

Clearly, Guyana’s President lives in a fantasy world of his own creation, where he seeks to compel Guyanese to take up residence. I have news for him: even some of his own people, shake their heads in shame at his shambolic stature. For here it is that we have a President who personifies a distant strangeness with truth, a dangerous self-isolation from that most trustworthy of characteristics, and one who still expects to be applauded and lauded. In his relationship with truth, Guyana has been graced with a leader, with his own handwritten dictionary, which imprints in his mind what flavors the truths of the day should be. For the President, truth has all the flexibility of a bowstring, something to be stretched, and pulled at will. And he talks about “chronic naysayers.” Surely, he does not, cannot, expect to be condoned and commended for what is found contemptible by any standard of ethics, decency, human principle. He himself spoke about, committed publicly to, transparency and accountability, but look at how and what those turned out to be in the outputs of his government.

I remind Guyanese, there was a German leader with a record of incredible beastliness waged on the dignified and sacred, who held a view similar to Guyana’s leader. It was that there was one view that mattered to that German of note, his own view only in all circumstances. Thus, the seeds of self-destruction of leader and nation were sown. Our own President could learn from European history, from what resulted.

From my perspective, it is unbecoming a leader with presidential stature to gnash teeth over “chronic naysayers” on Republic Day. Like the men who broke out some two decades ago, the President has breached a segment of the restraining walls of democracy, what is part of the essences and imperatives of democracy’s progress. He talks about the “constructive”, which means only what supports his actions, his weaknesses. As I considered his speech, I wonder if he is desirous of a nation of chronic ‘yes’ men who assure him that all is well, when nothing could be more assaultive of truth and justice. I regret that the President fails to discern how he is his own worst enemy when he besmirches himself during national moments. Leave that to underlings, of which they are countless fawning, willing ones. My parting gift to the President is this: lasting democracy is built on contradiction, confrontation, and the compulsions of truth, principle, and patriotism. When the President can identify with those, then he may be ready. Only then, and not with rehearsed speeches, and poisons premeditated.



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