Chairman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Retired Brigadier David Granger has shrugged off concerns by the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) about military links with the opposition coalition.
Former long-serving PPP Executive Member, Ralph Ramkarran, however, believes that the remarks made at the just concluded 30th Congress of the ruling party were aimed at capitalizing on historical fears.
Reporting on the assessment and recommendations by a group on the political situation, Shyam Nokta told delegates and observers at the congress that:
“We also need to be cognizant of the military influence in the APNU and in this regard, all our party structures need to be in state of readiness. We need to learn from past experiences and start to prepare to plan from today.
We need to establish systems. We need to mobilize ourselves and we need to keep our activists ready so that when the time comes the political machinery will be well-oiled and ready to mobilize and to deploy.”
None of the senior leaders had raised any objections or reservations to any of the workshops’ reports, but instead assured that they would be further discussed by the 35-member Central Committee.
Former military officers in APNU include Granger, Ret. Col. Joseph Harmon, Retired Brigadier Edward Collins and several others here and overseas. There are also several former low ranking soldiers who are closely associated with that opposition alliance.
Granger, however, dismissed the PPP’s views, instead saying that ex-military members were retired professionals who are now involved in politics as part of their commitment to Guyana’s development. “There’s no unnatural or extraordinary concentration of people with any serving or with any current military interest so as far as I am concerned, that is a non-issue,” he said.
At the PPP Congress, delegates and observers were reminded that several PPP supporters were shot dead by Guyana Defence Force (GDF) soldiers in 1973 while securing ballot boxes in that year’s general election. Now, Granger says the PPP’s sentiment about military influence is all part of that design. “The PPP has been fuelling this anti-military sentiment for decades. It’s nothing new,” he said.
Granger said he welcomed professionals to work and would judge them by the quality of their character, not by their former profession.
Nokta noted that the strategy of appeasing the opposition would not work because its sole intention was to bring the government down and remove the PPP from office.
But Former PPP member, Ramkarran did not believe that ex-servicemen in politics should be cause for concern. “I’m not aware that ex-military personnel are an organised force in Guyana. They might have ex military personnel in APNU at the moment but I’m not aware…that they are an organised military force that can threaten the stability or democracy of our country,” he said.
Asked whether statements like those by Nokta were designed to rally the PPP’s support-base, Ramkarran noted that many of them are “very much afraid of a return to the past” when there was authoritarian rule. “Many of them are still afraid and even many of them who are coming up, not only PPP but other people, are afraid of that scenario returning to Guyana so I suppose if such a situation is threatened or is existing it can mobilise people into activity of some sort, whether to vote or to something else,” he said.
Just prior to the November 2011 general election, the X-GDF Association had gathered hundreds of former soldiers at the Guyana Legion headquarters to endorse APNU and assist with Election Day logistics.
The mainly East Indian-backed PPP has always historically harboured fears of the African Guyanese dominated security services and has even backed calls for ethnic balancing.