Slips of the tongue

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By Indranie Deolall

As true slips of the tongue, it was hardly along the lines of the American politician, who resigned following evidence of tax evasion, or like the quip about dictatorship from the 43rd president who gave the world “Bushisms.”

Spiro Theodore Agnew, who served as the United States vice president from 1969 to 1973 under disgraced president Richard Nixon, memorably declared before the Watergate scandal, “I apologize for lying to you. I promise I won’t deceive you except in matters of this sort.” Investigated for tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy, Agnew was accused of having accepted bribes but was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report part of his income

President George W. Bush is as famous for the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as for his often unconventional use of English, prompting the eponymous description that has become part of linguistic lore. Announcing he would write a book about the “12 toughest decisions” he had to make while in office, President Bush revealed, “I’m going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there’s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened.”

In another “Bushism”, he explained, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

Given the intensive catapulting in the current war of mass distraction and delusion by the incumbent coalition A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), Guyanese are enduring the ensuing chaos of lies, long-lasting litigation and lawlessness in legions. From the rogue riggers at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to the dangerous differing declarations of the beleaguered President David Granger in the cacophony of authoritarian voices following the March 2, 2020 elections and related matters of this sort. Now, we have to believe that an old-time strongman publicly committed a frightening Freudian slip recently.

The former Guyanese prime minister and enforcer under the iron-fisted Forbes Burnham regime, and veteran People’s National Congress (PNC) member, the 85-year-old Hamilton Green caused an uproar for truly speaking his mind in an overseas radio interview, a week ago.

When asked by the coalition-aligned host what advice he would offer incumbent President, David Granger, 75, Green clearly replied in complete phrases: “I would say my young brother, David, remain calm, and remain optimistic. You have got to be optimistic. In another few days or another few weeks, it may be unpopular in other quarters; a massive step forward to take us out of this confused environment, and for the sake of your children, and our children and their children, do what is necessary. Put aside the Constitution, put aside the laws. You are at this moment, and we hope for a long time, Commander-in-Chief.”

Green served as Mayor of Georgetown from 1994-2016 since the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, now clamouring to get back in, did not hold any local government elections during this period. Side-lined by Burnham’s successor, president Desmond Hoyte who lost the 1992-historic free and fair elections to Dr Cheddi Jagan’s PPP, Green sued the PNC for violation of his constitutional rights after he was expelled, but they later reconciled. He was conferred with Guyana’s second-highest national award, the Order of Roraima in 2015 after Granger came to power. In 2017, the coalition dominated by the APNU+AFC enacted special legislation in Green’s name granting a hefty monthly pension for his tenure from 1985 to 1992, based on the salary of a current prime minister, with the full benefits of a former president, a position he never held.

From his current home base in the US, Green urged Granger, “Take action so that your people, our people, Guyana will honour you no matter what it costs. Let me say further… great men have always been criticized by outsiders. You are in charge of us, we have great faith in your statesmanship.”

Pressed by the privately-owned Stabroek News, this week, about wanting Granger to disregard the Constitution and the recount results for the general elections, Green resorted to the Latin equivalent of the Creolese saying, “Mouth open, story jump out” claiming that his words were just a “lapsus linguae” or slip of the tongue.

“A slip of the tongue is no fault of the mind and I never intended to discard our Constitution and our laws,” Green stated.

His language and legal lapses earned sharp rebuke including from former PPP/C’s attorney general Anil Nandlall, who saw similarities in unlawful actions taken by the PNC during their 28 years of dictatorial rule particularly through the tumultuous 1970s and 80s.

“In other words, he is urging Granger to govern by tyranny and not through the will of the people; to commit a coup and rule by executive edict, not by law and the Constitution,” Nandlall concluded in an opinion piece, arguing, “Such rule will necessarily see a suspension of the Constitution, including the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizenry, and a highjack of the rule of law. In a word, there will be anarchy in this land.”

Today’s world “is completely intolerant of (such) views,” he said. “Democratic forces in this region will not tolerate those diabolical views to take hold. This generation of Guyanese are of a different breed they will not allow a political relic like Hamilton Green to do to them what he did to their parents and grandparents,” Nandlall told the newspaper.

For his part, Green insists, “What I said was taken out of context and what I meant, notwithstanding or in spite of, or despite, the Constitution I have always believed in. I have always believed in the laws in this country and my words were getting mixed up.  It was not my intention, in any way, to disregard our Constitution and our laws.”

He expressed “regret” for the words of advice, in a subsequent letter, published by Stabroek News. Without any reference to the excesses and abuses of rigging and riggers, past and current, Green wrote, “I am wedded to the concept and utility of the three branches of governance, the executive, parliament and Judiciary… even though, we ordinary folks occasionally worry about the way some judicial officers interpret laws, but this is a universal problem.”

Green’s slips showed up before the Guyana Appeal Court prepared to rule on the latest challenge to the votes recount in the continuing flood of litigation, even as another set of frivolous charges emerged against the GECOM chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh. Justice Singh is yet to formally declare the elections results, the CARICOM-observed recount of which, confirmed a definite win for the PPP/C.

Just last year, president Granger sounded righteously indignant: “I have never rigged an election in my life; I have no intention of ever doing so,” he insisted at a press conference, maintaining “I am not aware that rigged elections was (sic) an ideal of Forbes Burnham.”

In an immortal “Bushism,” we have grossly “misunderestimated” the clear and present threats to Guyanese democracy if interpretation of laws remains a universal problem to “ordinary folks.”

As Bush mused, “I’m the Commander, see. I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”

*ID is repeating “Bushisms,” especially, “If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier… as long as I’m the dictator. He he he.”

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