Guyana’s opposition elects new leader

Brig. Gen. David Arthur Granger.

A former army commander whose multiparty coalition group narrowly lost last November’s general elections, was early Monday elected to lead the country’s main opposition party officials said.

Brig. Gen. David Arthur Granger, 66, defeated former Finance Minister Carl Greenidge by 508 to 175 votes at the end of the three-day biennial meeting of the People’s National Congress (PNC), the party that is traditionally supported mostly by Guyanese of African origin. Voting for the party leadership went late into Sunday night ending with victory for Granger after 2:00 a.m. on Monday.

The PNC is the largest player in A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) that Granger also heads and holds 26 of the 65 seats in parliament. Granger who qualified as a historian after leaving the military in the mid 90s, is the leader of the opposition in Parliament and now holds all of the top three jobs in the opposition community.

Greenidge, who spent several years as a top official of the Barbados-based umbrella regional negotiating machinery of the Caribbean trade bloc, was bidding to become leader of the PNC as many were of the view that Granger might suffer from work overload by holding down all three jobs.

Following his win, Granger will now immediately have to deal with a near two-week standoff between the military, police and the Afro-dominated bauxite mining town of Linden where police shot and killed three people and injured more than 20 during street demonstrations against steep hikes in electricity rates on July 18. The town is 65 miles southwest of the city.

Angered by the shooting, thousands of residents have locked down the town of 30,000, blocked all entrances and exists to it and sealed off a crucial river bridge that provides the main access to the road to Brazil and gold, diamond and timber concessions owned by foreign and local interests. Burial of the three killed is scheduled on the river bridge on Wednesday, African Emancipation Day.

The continuing unrest forced President Donald Ramotar to cancel a visit to the town last Saturday after residents replaced huge logs and other debris on roadways and after soldiers and police refused to exert strong arm tactics following the recent deaths and injuries to others

The standoff has pushed up food and fuel prices in interior areas that depend on a road supply system through the opposition stronghold of Linden.

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