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OPINION: When tones are sharper and temperatures higher – time to tighten and stay cool

by GHK Lall

Things are getting testy. I detect impatience, exasperation, and indignation from His Excellency, President David Granger. More than frustration and, more accurately, growing anger. This is from a leader, who has a well-earned reputation for unruffled calm and the disciplined strength of stoics in his words and comportment. Thus, when even a David Granger feels compelled to step outside of his steady, methodical zone and engage in a fusillade of his own, then things are getting to a sharp undesirable pitch. I think it is time for every voice to slow down some, if only to cool the temperatures, which soared during and following events from last Thursday. To give some breathing space to appreciate how far things went. Too far and on more than one front.

As I have stated before, I think the diplomatic corps went too far. Whatever the justification in the minds of those speaking, there is no justification from the Guyanese side. At least, not from government’s, which has since conveyed in less than serene terms that it felt stepped upon, and that lines were crossed. I agree. I agree some more, given that these are times of political correctness and more (very) nuanced language than before. More was demanded; better it must be going forward. For the most part, and up until Thursday, the diplomatic corps has stayed on its side of the road and that is applauded. On Thursday, its leading presences strayed. This cannot happen again.

Our own president, for his part, has been a study in the temperate and careful, during the heaving, simmering tenure of his four years at the helm. I salute him, if only for that constancy of equilibrium. But even he, too, showed some intensity and passion, when in a recent address on the second anniversary of the International Decade for People of African Descent-Guyana (IDPADA-G), he sparked with some blood and fire. (Refer to Demerara Waves article dated September 22, and titled, “President chides former European colonizers for attempting “to correct other people.”

On the one hand, in view of all that transpired (unmanaged protests, unacceptable behaviors, and unbecoming postures and words from the normally conservative diplomatic corps), I believe that I would have been sharper and harsher than the president was in his IDPADA-G address. Though mellower these days, I know myself well enough to suspect that I would have let loose and confront insult with scorching phraseology and stance.

On the other hand, I am not the head of a nation. And though human and usually a sterling example of self-control, I sense that the president of Guyana allowed himself the rare luxury of letting his hair down, letting loose, and letting others have it. It was putting others in their places, through reminders of the evils that went before, and which are still unanswered. His words were unambiguous.

In my own choice of words: on what horse did you folks ride into this town? Get real! Get off it. Be honest with yourselves first. Be honest with others on whom irreparable harms were inflicted. Make things right for starters. Then take up the mantle to lecture about what is pure and who should be. For certainty, this is hard ground for the president. But sometimes some things just must be said, if only to issue sharp rejoinders as to where everyone stands. The moment was opportune, and though sharpness may have been called for, I respectfully submit that President Granger allowed himself to respond in kind. Though far from the gutter so prevalent here, it was not the high plain. I would have found some other way, maybe even a less searing set of phrases to share with his watching and listening audience. The reading audience would get the message soon enough. It is one that should not be lost on anyone.

My humble suggestion to the president is to maintain his cool and never let anyone see him sweat. There is much to be said for that; to not be baited and to rise above the frays, be they foreign or domestic. In so doing, the president sets a standard for all of us, including colleagues and supporters, adversaries and their loyalists, critics and doomsayers, and the rest of civil society and children, too. When the going gets tough, the tougher take the tall ground. As demonstrated, time and again, the president is made of this sort of stuff and for these kinds of times. He must stay the course.

When all around tones are sharper and temperatures are higher, it is time to tighten on self-discipline. The hour calls for this. The country needs it. I believe that the president can do so.

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.