Oct 23, 2021 Letters
Since I now make a living from sharing unsolicited assessments of candidates for leader of the PNC, I keep going. Dr. Richard Van-West Charles for PNC leader has certain strengths; I explore what credits, while note hurdles. I speak frankly, and hope that I don’t lose a friend.
He should have been the man to beat: Dr. Van-West Charles is part of Guyana’s Black aristocracy; he is PNC royalty. His political pedigree once made him a darling of the flock, there was the Burnham name? Add stints as Minister of Health and 19 years of broad international exposure with PAHO/WHO, and he is a contestant of note. Though his odds are long, he could be the dark horse in this PNC race, the spoiler. A few years ago, he would have been a powerful contender, but time and circumstances may have passed him by; circumstances representative of some sobering realities. His success depends on how he packages himself, how hard he works for the leadership position.
The first obstacle was expressed well by one RHO Corbin, with this jarring inelegant Creole ditty: ‘dis time nah lang time.’ The disdainful reference was to the return of Dr. Van-West Charles, whose long shadow and broad bearing was not greeted with the warm embrace and fanfare; Dr. Van-West Charles found himself in a cool PNC.
I disagree with that posture of Mr. Corbin. Dis time is lang time, for PNC (and PPP, too). In PNC quarters, the Burnham name is still held in awe. And Dr. Van-West Charles is part of the lore. Though he has to be muted (strategic), if Dr. Van-West Charles plays his cards right, and cultivates the older heads still yearning for the good ole times, he could be the surprise choice – the compromise candidate-in this race for PNC leadership. But he has to be a cultivated stealth operator, quietly gathering support. I think he knows how, which brings us to other aspects of his candidature.
Leverage his long and wide domestic and foreign public service record: he must burnish it, let it glow.
Moreover, though his venture in October 2011 into AFC territory could stain him as unreliable by PNC purists, he could brandish that as evidence of someone who looks beyond party towards the truly national. According to the SN article of October 12, 2011, publicising his switch, he hit the hottest hot button: he had no interest in race-based politics. That could bring returns. Because the PNC by itself (numbers) cannot succeed in a national election. Whereas there are fears about the other contenders, Dr. Van-West Charles can say, I made the break, will be good for it; possibly sway disgruntled fence-sitting voters.
Separately, and unfortunately, Dr. Van-West Charles has a history, which drains his candidacy. Frankly, he is burdened by some court handicaps in this tense political horserace for PNC leadership. Incidents that are most inopportune, and sure to haunt, could probably retard his momentum. They are showstoppers. The outcomes of such matters must bounce his way, since they would feature in any race, including that of PNC. A versatile political infighter, however, could convert scars to brutalities inflicted by dastardly political foes; worn as proof of the mean-spiritedness of political adversaries. Then, he would be pilloried for not being enough of a ‘grassroots’ presence, since he has been mostly out; too much of a fluid figure. My radar relays that more oomph must be delivered.
In sum, he must refine his appeal, inspire a muscular following to be viable. Another aspect of politics, not mentioned before, is that political candidates must glitter with a certain coruscating rhetorical eloquence. Guyanese politicians are remarkable for their verbal dampness, when rhetorical resonance would lift. The man I write about is fluent, but on the dry side.
All this may pass in the party, but the journey does not terminate at Opposition Leader and Congress Place, but at State House. That is the final destination for any political leader or party with national ambition and vision. My initial thinking was that Dr. Van-West Charles’ authentic credentials (neither fake nor honourary), public service record, political heritage and mileage are superb testimonials. But the vulnerabilities weaken his leadership run. The price could be harsh, with his own judging him the harshest, out of necessity and for sheer survival, since he would not be able to get them across the national line.
The PPP will not spare him in a national contest. A French surgeon gave compatriots a public chopping block device. PPP leaders, followers, and executioners are all delighted beneficiaries of Mark Zuckerberg’s Star Chamber machinery. Dr. Van-West Charles would get a taste of a modern-day lynch mob: Facebook. I know.
I summarise: Dr. Richard Van West Charles should stand out with longing old guard PNC. Beyond that he is in a junkyard dogfight, and sure to struggle with his burdens to overcome the odds. If he plays cards right, he could prevail. A true longshot is he.
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