Since taking office, President David Granger has identified several ex-military and police officers as Cabinet Ministers, Advisors and Foreign Service Officers. As time went on, the country saw several army officers being given the tasks that can be properly carried out by civilians.
The recent decision by the President to hold Cabinet meetings at the army headquarters, Camp Ayanganna, served to heighten speculation that the Ministry of the Presidency is wrapped up in a military mindset. There are fears that should the administration continue in this direction, that kind of military thinking could see the military having undue influence on national policy formulation rather than policy implementation. One thing is clear – the lines separating the civilian and military authorities are becoming blurred.
Our constitution puts the responsibility for strategic decision-making in the hands of elected civilian leadership and the military should be under civilian control. The fact that the President has the military rank of Brigadier does not change that liberal democratic value embedded in the constitution. The President is to exercise civilian control over the military. This doctrine is essential for stability in a democratic country.
What then are the reasons for the coalition government’s actions to ensnare the country’s military unto the political scene?
Guyanese must understand that there are inherent dangers in positioning the military too close to political power. There are enough examples in history to show that when the military gets too close to political power, the experience is overpowering, so much so that officers think of wielding power themselves.
It so often happens that military leaders who enter the political scene with limited experience could re-shape the policy-making process of government based on the culture and values prevalent in military establishments, thus removing that rigid oversight of the military by the civilian government. Issues of security would then dominate developmental agenda. opposite of democratic norms. The military is authoritative and loath discussion and dissention.
In such a scenario, it is not hard to envision military-type actions to crush political opponents by using force or the threat of force.
Given the close relationship between the military and political forces in Guyana, it is not without grounds to suspect that the present coalition could be looking ahead at the next general elections and how military officers can repay the coalition for their present cozy relationship with those in political power and the attendant perquisites.
These dangers must be taken seriously and every effort must be made to protect free and fair elections and to have an elections commission that can assure the country that elections will stand up to those who are bent on thwarting the will of the people.