Guyana’s two-headed presidency – an obvious monstrosity, a real embarrassment – Opinion By GHK Lall

   By GHK Lall

I knew that problems lurked, a national embarrassment waited.  This was the result of the slick work of a political cardsharp that dumped a leadership arrangement on Guyana, which is now this aberration of a two-headed presidency.  Every time it raises its head, Guyana is made weaker, looks lost, and appears as a bigger global laughingstock.

This was conspicuous at the United Nations.  There was the President and Vice President of this poor little nation sitting together, and their global political contemporaries wondering why both of them are there at the same time.  It was virtually unprecedented in international forums, prompting the foreigners to ask themselves who was the real Number 1 at the UN, and who was minding the store in oil-flushed Guyana.  Since the VP is overseer for oil, then he should have more than enough on his hands pursuing the best deals for this country, and engrossed that removes him from his role as chaperone to the president.     

Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, and President Irfaan Ali

It was a spectacle, this two-headed presidential apparition, a wrestling tag team, prancing on the world stage, and pretending at genuine engagement.  On the other hand, given the obvious unsteadiness of Guyana’s head of state, it was babysitting and handholding.  Still, I wished that such would take place locally, away from international stares.  The people at the UN must have pinched themselves:  is this for real?  Is this how Guyanese manage themselves and their oil wealth?  I could visualize this through the studied politeness, stiff upper lip, and all.

Now, I make something clear: the nation’s presidency is not a nursery affair, but a grueling undertaking, and one for which the president is not ready.  Not even PPP mythmakers and storytellers can gloss over the pictures of the two-headed hydra that confirms what Guyana’s presidency is.  The party’s admirers are appalled, the VP’s worshippers dismayed, because the creation of his hands comes back to flay him.  I am embarrassed at this national peculiarity that humiliates us before all.  I feel sorry for a president forced to function above his competency level.  He fails abjectly, and no quantity of ribbon cutting, sod shoveling, and flying visits to dole out charity can camouflage his deficits, fluffs and bluffs.  I had warned about this: the man is not oaken presidential timber.

For PPP defenders upset at the obvious, and scavenging around to find presidential parallels and precedents, I say to them: don’t worry about me.  Think of what is going on in the heads of the assembled dignitaries at the United Nations General Assembly, when they beheld our out-of-his-depth president pleading for help from the distancing VP, who was too embarrassed to run to the rescue. He created the monster, now he must cage it; deal with future contingencies.  How often will the president lose his way, reach for Vice Presidential counseling?  How frequently, is he going to put regional and international leaders on hold, so that he can get whispered corrections/interpretations from the VP?  This does not accrue to the dignity of the office of Guyana’s presidency.  Sadly, it speaks poorly of the incumbent’s prowess.  Worse still, all Guyana is degraded by this tangled presidential tango.  One misleads about transparency, while knowing full well the other’s love affair with secrecy, a mutual coverup society it is, which is why this leadership arrangement has to prevail.  It is one propping up the other.

Though I should be disparaging of the plight concocted by the VP, I am sympathetic to the hole that he dug for himself, and into which the limited president condemns himself.  The VP must bail him out.  When Guyana’s President and Vice President engages in this pas de deux, they may not be humiliated, but Guyana is.  If and when oil (when is it not, nowadays?) is the issue, then the VP has his own domain, his own atmospherics, and his own acolytes, which is where those wheeling and dealings-aka discussions and negotiations- should occur.  When oil is the topic of engagement, the VP is quite capable of going off on his own; he has to concentrate on that all-important portfolio.  He must do so without looking over his shoulder and worrying if the President will hold up or fold up.

Let the President stand on his own feet, face the music, and deliver or fall.  After all, he agreed to the job, knowing that it was going to be a struggle.  He must manifest that he is a thinker, nimble on his feet, and can think on his own, regardless of which regional or global agency is involved.  Give the leader the space: he either thrives or takes a dive.  But let this hanging on to the VP’s coattails cease, while the VP himself must let go.  This business of allocating make work to him cease.  This-two-headed presidency is not good for Guyana’s image, makes us look frail, and subject to exploitation.  Though neither national leader would listen, this is why we have (or should have) veteran and competent senior public servants.  Flunkies and party loyalists have little to offer, help the President to implode, and no amount of propaganda spray painting can conceal what is happening with Guyana’s presidency.

The UN is over there, but CARICOM is right here, where the second instance of Guyana’s hydra-headed leadership was part of recent proceedings.  The CARICOM people must be wondering: what the hell is this abomination, where it came from, who is responsible, and how much longer they have to deal with this.  They have to figure how to interpret and communicate with Guyana’s two presidential heads going off simultaneously.  It is incredible: the VP has to intervene, carry the President.  To his credit, the VP tries hard not to get in the way, and steal the President’s thunder.  But he has to do damage control, can’t help himself.  Regional heads of government are from here, they live near us, with us.  First, the CCJ mocked us (nicely), now CARICOM heads have to be shaking their individual noggins over this Guyanese leadership curiosity, of conjoined Siamese political twins.

How long this charade is going to go on is anybody’s guess.  The VP and DPI can’t block international media presences from observing and absorbing the circus that is Guyana’s presidency. How did we ever get into this mess?  Who is it that comes up with these disastrous machinations that backfire so shamefully?  Why is it that Guyanese have a leader that lives the Peter Principle in national affairs before internional audiences, and we must go along with it?  We know the answers to those questions, don’t we?  And here I am thinking that Joe Biden is bad.

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  • kamtanblog  On 11/12/2021 at 1:02 am

    Embarrassing !
    In the reptiles kingdom there are two headed snakes !
    Did not know they existed in humanoids !

    Enjoyed the article enemies though made me feel a bit Embarassingly sick !

    Shameful and disgraceful !

    Kamtan uk

  • Georgy Porgy  On 11/12/2021 at 5:23 am

    A deliberate attempt by Jagdeo to maintain power in Guyana and control of the oil trillions that will be coming down the pike. And Ali, a willing partner in Jagdeo’s scheme to avoid going to jail for the 19 crimes he was charged with. But who cares how Guyana looks on the world stage because like in any circus, there must always be clowns and we have two first class ones. Hopefully come the next election, Guyanese would have seen through this farce of a government that exists and remove the head of the snake.

    • kamtanblog  On 11/12/2021 at 5:43 am

      Nice one ☝️
      Which head or both ?
      Employ a mongoose….

      U set a tiefman to catch a tiefman
      Employ a spy to catch a spy

      Not rocket science 🧪 with tech available today nothing is impossible
      Dream on …it’s free !
      Dreams do come true.
      Off my soap box

    • Dennis Albert  On 11/13/2021 at 2:42 pm

      The wealth fund will skyrocket to US$10 Billion by 2030 when Exxon begins their Turbot phase to produce in total 1.5 million barrels of oil a day.

  • Uncle Francis  On 11/12/2021 at 1:56 pm

    At 5.52 p.m. on September 1, 2008, at Sophia in Georgetown, Guyana, a then youngish Guyanese went on record with the following statement; “I am fed-up with the old people. They had their time. They must go one side.” That Guyanese is now an old man, and from observation, not taking his own advice.

    • kamtanblog  On 11/12/2021 at 2:04 pm

      Wisdom is not learned/taught/aquited

      It is “lived” ….my grandmother used to say

      We live and learn !

      Old fart
      Kamtan uk

    • erroldoobay  On 11/14/2021 at 4:39 am

      I am 77 years old and seen it all before LET THE YOUNG PEOPLE have a say after all it is their future. Errol Doobay

  • theonly  On 11/12/2021 at 6:59 pm

    As much as i dont like the PPP, All this man does is write Garbage. BTW when my people get back in power all of this nonsense will have to stop.

    • kamtanblog  On 11/12/2021 at 7:48 pm

      The only
      R u suggesting “censorship” ?
      Free press is not a given
      It’s a choice we make in democracies.
      Freedom is what many gave their lives for.
      Why Mandela went to prison …
      Ghandi fought British for …

      R u suggesting removal of this freedom
      Everyone has an opinion …best shared but respected even In disagreement.

      GKN is entitled to an opinion
      Viv la Vida

      • Brother Man  On 11/13/2021 at 3:00 am

        Referring to the two-headed snake ( Ali and Jagdeo sitting at UN General Assembly), Lall writes: “When Guyana’s President and Vice President engages in this pas de deux, they may not be humiliated, but Guyana is.”

        A pas de deux in French is a dance between a man and a woman. In this scenario, who is the man and who is the woman?

        Brother Man

      • theonly  On 11/13/2021 at 12:13 pm

        His opinion is to cause trouble and nothing else.

  • kamtanblog  On 11/14/2021 at 5:39 am

    “cause trouble” !
    Offering an opinion is not “causing trouble” !
    GHK has an opinion which he wishes to share/offer
    Agree or disagree it is just another opinion.
    One must listen/read both sides of the agreement/disagreement …left v right…bad v good….Satan v god and decide.
    And agree to disagree with reason why !

    “Fear” is a very strong motivating factor in
    arriving at conclusion/decision.
    He who dares wins !

    By sharing opinions we are practicing
    Free speech/freedom of expression.

    Remin all that the pen (keyboard) is mightier than the sword !
    Write on !

    K uk

  • wally n  On 11/14/2021 at 11:33 am

    That you have to state…..”By sharing opinions we are practicing
    Free speech/freedom of expression” shows the sad state we are in, the future of free speech in North America is in big trouble, we allowed the warped minds in Social Media to control our opinions, through filters, we never knew existed, until now. Too late??

  • brandli62  On 12/07/2021 at 11:19 am

    The two-head presidency is a national embarrassment and probably unconstitutional. Will the VP ever let go of power? My late grandfather, Accountant-General of British Guiana, used to tell me that “the graveyards are full of indispensable men”.

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