Latest update March 29th, 2023 12:59 AM
Dec 22, 2008 Letters
I was asked on many occasions by African Guyanese, subsequent to Mr. Vincent Alexander and his comrades going public with their intention to contest for the leadership of the PNCR, to say something on this issue.
Many of those persons who have made the request for me to comment have assumed that I was either a member or a supporter of the PNCR. I want to take this opportunity to remind the public that I have been, and remain, a member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) from its inception, and will continue to do so.
I am also a member of the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA). Others had urged me to do so as an African political activist who is known to offer comments in the media on political developments in Guyana, and who believed that I have an obligation to the African community and the nation to objectively analyse publicly what is happening in the PNCR, the party that the majority of African Guyanese have supported over many years.
I had deliberately refrained from commenting, primarily because (1) I had felt at the time that it would have been unethical for me as a member of another political party to have been seen to be inserting myself in the affairs of the PNCR, even though I, like many others, was interested in the unfolding events: (2) Since the public presentation of the dispute had focused on Mr. Robert Corbin’s leadership in the context of the PNCR’s defeat in the last general elections and on governance issues in that party, I felt that these were matters for both members and supporters of the party to address; and (3) As a member of ACDA’s team that attempted a reconciliation between the two sides, it would have been inappropriate for me to speak on this matter in public as those initiatives were taking place.
However, a lot of time has passed since Team Alexander’s unsuccessful attempt to change the leadership structure in the PNCR, and recent developments now indicate that there is a growing opinion in the country and abroad that the situation in the PNCR is no longer confined to the realms of the party’s boundaries. It has become a national issue, particularly since Team Alexander’s exposure in the public gallery of the differences between the two sides. It is in this context that I herein break my enforced silence on what has been taking place and offer some comments on the dispute.
I wish, therefore, to begin by saying that it is important for us to note that whatever happens in the PNCR and the PPP, which leads to, alters, or is intended to bring about fundamental changes one way or the other in the structures of these parties, has national importance and, ultimately, national consequences.
I also believe that when disputes/differences like those between Corbin and Team Alexander surface, it is important that those of us who seek to offer our opinions/views on the unfolding developments ought to do so sincerely and not hypocritically. Based on previous experiences, I am not convinced of the sincerity of some of the individuals in Guyana who are now advancing their opinions on what had and continues to take place. I say this because a close examination of those who believe that Corbin alone is to be blamed for the deterioration in the PNCR will show that they were/are the same forces that were hostile to Mr. Hoyte and the PNCR for using street protests to contain the PPP/C’s political arrogance.
They posited then, as they do now, that “the PNCR should use the Parliament and adopt a more peaceful posture,” and suggested that by doing so, “the party, its constituents as well as the nation will be better served.” Events have since proved the fallacy of that argument.
When Mr. Corbin assumed the leadership of the PNCR on the death of Mr. Hoyte, SN and similar minded elements very quickly took the opportunity to remind Mr. Corbin of his past, and even suggested that he was not the right person to replace Mr. Hoyte. They pleaded with Corbin to adopt a more statesman like posture than his predecessor, and called on him to reject the confrontational path and to walk the road of peace. Because he so badly wanted to be seen and accepted as a leader with Presidential credentials, Mr. Corbin, to his detriment, not only listened to the so-called voices of reason, but distanced himself from some of Hoyte’s brand of activism, recreated his image, and is now today paying the price for making the worst political decisions of his life.
It is these same upstanding individuals who had conned him into believing that a recreated/redesigned Corbin had a better shot at the Presidency who laughed and rejoiced when the PNCR lost the elections and who are now calling him ineffective. Some of them are even publicly ridiculing him as a wimp and as the weakest leader in the history of the PNCR. If there is one thing I am certain about, it is this — if Corbin and the PNCR even dare to become more confrontational once again, the very same individuals who now see him as weak and ineffective will once again invoke his past and accuse him of being committed to violence and of wanting to take Guyana down the road to political mayhem..
To all appearances, the internal difficulties and conflicts in the PNCR became more profound after the party lost the 2006 elections. To the outsider, it seemed as if all of the blame for the loss was laid at Corbin’s doors.
The disappointment of losing was tremendous, and had to be for leaders of a party which had abandoned its clarion call — No Verification, No Election – and contested the election without verification of the list it said it had craved.
If my perception of what were the events that led to the deepening of the crisis is true, then the questions of who participated in the making of the decision to contest the 2006 elections is of tremendous importance, if what took place is to be understood.
To be objective, one has to face reality — the history of elections in Guyana has been a racial census.
The PNCR and its African base supporters have never ever gotten more votes than the PPP in any elections mainly because of the racial voting.
To put it another way, the PNC with its founder-leader Mr. Burnham never won a fair and free election against the PPP.
The Indian Guyanese advantage in numbers in the context of racial voting made and continues to make this impossible.
It is only a political dunce who will argue otherwise. I ask in all seriousness — given the known history of the PNC and the political reality in the country, moreso after the PPP/C and its Indian-base support regained control of state power, was/is it realistic politically to speak of Mr. Corbin or of any other PNCR leader winning elections in Guyana?
Our winner-takes-all political system guarantees the Indian based PPP majority victory. Therefore, is it fair to blame Mr. Corbin for the PNCR defeat, when the party was trying the impossible?
If Burnham and Hoyte could not win even when they had control of the state, how on earth can Corbin or any other PNCR leader win elections in the present situation in Guyana?
I don’t know if Mr. Alexander and his team had opposed the PNCR’s decision to contest the last election, or if they went along with the decision of the majority.
If Team Alexander’s position was against participating, then blaming Corbin and his majority for believing that it could have won the elections is understandable in the context of factional politics. On the other hand, if they supported the PNCR’s decision to contest the last election, then they have to take some of the responsibility for losing. In that situation, Corbin alone cannot be held culpable for their collective decision and their collective failure.
However, if they agreed with the decision to participate in the elections, they are obliged to say what the role of the team was in the lead-up to the elections. In other words, they are obliged to say what it was they did to improve on the PNCR’s chances of winning.
I do not propose here to deal extensively with the question of governance in the PNCR, and how it influences decision making in the party, since I am still trying to educate myself on this subject and on the mechanics surrounding the running of the party’s internal machinery.
However, in spite of my lack of first-hand knowledge of the scenario, I am prepared to say that the right of individual members or of any section of the party to contest for the leadership of the party must be an unquestionable right.
The same goes as well for the right to struggle for improvements in governance of the organisation.
Mr. Robert Corbin became leader at a time when the party had been in the opposition for six years, at a time when its resources, both human and material, were in poor shape.
The middle and upper class elements in the party lost heart with the demise of Mr. Hoyte. For many of them, their loyalty was more to Mr. Hoyte than the party, since as President he had done favours for them, hence their sense of loyalty to him.
Added to this, they felt comfortable being led by him, since he was seen and accepted as one of their own.
They never saw Corbin in the same light, and by extension never accepted him; that is why it was so easy for many of them to move away from the PNCR and to support the AFC, even though they knew (a) that party had no real chance of defeating the PPP/C; (b) had no history of militancy. I also believe that class considerations and external influences also helped to weaken the PNCR just as much as Corbin’s naïve attempt to be a “born again politician”.
Another important factor which Corbin had to deal with was the new situation in the party, where for the first time in its history there was no maximum leader – Hoyte was the last. Corbin therefore found himself having to come to terms with his contemporaries, who either saw themselves as his intellectual equals or his intellectual superiors. I sense that his handling of this challenge was not successful.
Mr. Hoyte’s demise, over time, led to a reduction of financial support for the party. More importantly, Corbin had to deal with a mass base which was aware that the party had lost two elections under Hoyte as Opposition Leader, and, given our history of racial voting, their party does not stand a chance of winning one.
The PNCR supporters knew that their only hope lay outside of the ballot box. That is why they took to the streets under Hoyte.
Given the then mode of the party’s mass base support and their feelings of frustration, it therefore was not surprising that they felt that Corbin would have been more militant than Hoyte.
This was not the case. While the African masses wanted instability to achieve political objectives, the upper and middle class elements under internal “white mail” and external influence or pressure wanted peace and stability.
I have no first-hand knowledge how Mr. Corbin dealt with all these contradictions. What I do know is that the PNCR supporters are, in the main, disheartened and feel a sense of hopelessness.
When these and other factors are taken into account, along with the arrival on the political scene of the AFC with its Western support and heavy finance, Corbin did not do very badly.
He was out spent and faced a hostile press which undermined his party’s support base. He never could have won the elections, since Africans don’t have the numbers; and in retrospect, given what he was up against, the PNCR could not have avoided the losses it suffered to the AFC and PPP/C.
Corbin’s success or lack of it as PNCR leader should not be judged on whether he can keep the party united for contesting elections, but instead on his ability to win shared governance for his party’s constituency and for the greater good of the country.
This is the real challenge facing, not only Mr. Corbin, but any other PNCR leader. If Mr. Corbin is presently in pursuit of shared governance (and not simply waiting for the next general elections) then he is doing the correct thing, since this will be in the best interest of the African community and the nation.
Whatever is his approach, he and the PNCR must be prepared to back up their talk with action, or nothing will be achieved. Corbin must also be able to deal with his detractors who are claiming that he is having private talks with Jagdeo and the PPP/C for a price.
He is on record denying that he is having talks with Jagdeo on shared governance. If Corbin’s denial is credible, it is good, since talks on shared governance must not be a secret matter between the two parties, but should be a very public matter for all Guyana.
You sucking the dry seed of your own mangoes, while the foreigners eating sweet flesh.
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