In Guyana’s political culture, much like the rest of the Commonwealth, a political opposition has two basic responsibilities, which are functional but irreversible principles of the Westminster political doctrine and governance that is grounded in parliamentarianism . These responsibilities are to (I) criticise the government and offer itself, through programmes, policy positions and legislation, as an alternative government, and (II) to fiercely represent its constituents and mobilize and harness resources for their development and empowerment and that of their communities.
In contemporary Guyanese politics, a duly vigilant and competent political opposition is especially required to resist the People’s Progressive Party ( PPP) government’s oppressive hegemony and ethnocratic rule, corruption and the alleged influence by criminal enterprises. The current leadership of the main opposition, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), has no vision to offer as an alternative government and has failed in every respect to represent its constituents. Unfortunately, its failure has been catastrophic, and is the biggest disappointment of the decade.
I feel constrained to speak-out to sound a warning that the incompetence and ineptness, indeed powerlessness, of the leadership have become a liability, particularly to African Guyanese. This virtual neglect is fuelling unprecedented haemorrhaging and disintegration of the party that is supposed to function as a buttress of hope, stability and political security for all times and people.
For the first time in its fifty-year history, the party is at the nadir and on the brink of irrelevance and fatal submergence in Guyana’s perilous milieu. If nothing is done now to inoculate the party from this rapid decay, it can potentially lead to lasting, cataclysmic consequences.
I speak out as someone who possessed PNC loyalty in the vein, grew up in the youth arm of the party and served at the highest level of its national leadership, as well as a Special Assistant to the Leader of the PNCR and former President of Guyana, the late Hugh Desmond Hoyte. I have set out the foregoing facts to preemptively establish the certainty of my knowledge of the party, its players and constituency, and to make plain the rectitude of my convictions and the bona fides of my standing to offer such commentary.
Thus, it is with this strong sense of conviction and, for the reasons delineated below, that I call on the current Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, to resign. He has failed as a leader. His resignation will pave the way for the rebuilding of confidence in the PNCR, the restoration of viable leadership, the conceptualization of a new vision, the execution of genuine political and structural reforms and the revival of competency, optimism and credibility at the level of the leadership.
Since 2000 PNC -R has consistently proved impotent and irrelevant to its afflicted constituents. In the changing political environment in Guyana the PNCR’s political influence has diminished. The current leadership has abandoned its constituency and mandate, allowed the Party to collapse to a point of neglectful malfeasance, has mismanaged its affairs and has unreasonably wallowed in exercises of vengeance which have elevated personal interests and precluded the achievement of objectives which are for the greater good of the party.
The current leadership has completely squandered its credibility and respect, and has divested the party of its capability to be an effective Parliamentary opposition and representative of the people. The party’s ability to use its limited Parliamentary powers to force legislative and policy changes as well as governmental accountability has been completely neutralized.
Its improvident decision to storm out of Parliament in opposition to the High Court Amendment Bill and then immediately conspire with the PPP the following week to amend the constitution to give Party leaders Re-Call powers over Members of Parliament, demonstrates how its leadership is bereft of a comprehensive and coherent political strategy but is rather self- engrossed. For the Leader of the PNCR to collaborate with the PPP to pass dictatorial legislation which confers on him singular powers to remove a Member of Parliament from a seat to which that Member was elected by the people, is a disgraceful attack on democracy which must be vigorously opposed by all sections of the society.
The strategies of the leadership have been misconceived and mediocre. It has discarded the fundamental values which the previous PNC leaders, Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte, fought for, instituted and practiced. The ideals of people representation have been discarded. The process of consultation in the party is non-existent. The leadership has managed to alienate major support groups and financiers. The expression of dissent and independent views has been stymied. The leadership seeks to foster a malignant culture of Machiavellianism and autocracy.
The current state of the PNCR forces me to ask: Where are the John Carpenters, John Simon de Freitases, Stanley Mings, Eric Phillips’, Noel Blackmans, Faith Hardings, Sherwood Lowes, Ken Danns’, Artie Ricknauths, etc, of the PNC /R? Why are they no longer involved, Mr. Corbin? And, regardless of the apparent political inexperience of my friend Raphael Trotman which led to the commission of a cardinal mistake when he threw up his hands, in disgust at the dictatorial predisposition of the leadership, and left the party, undoubtedly with the encouragement of the predictable external forces, the responsibility for this fiasco which cost the PNCR five seats in the Parliament, rests squarely on the shoulders of the leader of the party.
The leadership is averse to objective critique and intellectual challenge. It has been disassembling the intelligentsia of the party. It has refused to embrace a new paradigm of inclusive political conceptualization; a participatory political culture which is born of progressiveness, diversity, transparency and molding of young minds of every sort and, increased democracy and participation. The leadership has consolidated maximum power, rather than deemphasize the powers and privileges of the leader and his hierarchical machinery.
The PNCR is in a state of disintegration but its leadership is in a state of illusion. Its African Guyanese constituents have been marginalized and impoverished to the point of servitude. Their villages have been dismantled and starved of infrastructure. Joblessness among black youths is at forty-five percent.
Despite several warnings to Mr. Corbin from knowledgeable individuals of the machinations within the Guyana Labor Union (GLU), of which the PNC leader has traditionally been President-General, he allowed the Union to be propelled into a state of anarchy by Mr. Carville Duncan, at the behest of the PPP. A senior and well-respected Union leader informed me that several desperate attempts to meet Mr. Corbin to discuss the state of the GLU and the Trade Union movement in Guyana were rebuffed and ignored.
The energies of the leadership have been misdirected. Instead of directing its wrath, insidious intent and Machiavellianism at the PPP regime, the leadership plots in the mid of night to destroy its own – the independent thinkers who dared to posit a dissenting view or to challenge a torpid general. The tragedy in this malady is that the leadership seems to be willing to groom a cadre of “yes-men.” But “yes boss” politics, in this modern era, is for dunces and lackeys with moribund minds.
The Party is on a path of self-destruction, while stalwarts and respected leaders watch silently but the leadership is not sacrosanct or indemnified from criticism. Must we not raise our collective voices and reject this course? The party is being overrun by a selfish, obdurate and visionless cabal of yesteryear which is inspired by that destructive weapon of power-greed. Why do we sit in bewilderment and
not speak up and condemn it? This is a time to speak out.
The party is at a point where we have no choice but to advocate for new leadership and far-reaching change. This is what the British Labor Party did under Tony Blair. The result? Gordon Brown is now Prime Minister.
In my view Mr. Corbin must step aside and hand over the leadership to someone who is competent. He has made his contribution to the party. However, his leadership has been a failure. He lacks the fortitude, competence, acumen and superiority of stature, faculties and gravitas to be a cutting edge, twenty-first century political leader.
If this cannot be achieved, then supporters must consider dismounting from the current PNCR train wreck before they all go down into destruction with it. I did not support Vincent Alexander’s bid for the leadership of the Party because I did not think then and do not think now that he was the best person to be leader. However I supported the concept of change. I hold more firmly to that belief today. I encourage the entire membership to raise its voice in denunciation of the status quo. The members must demand or force change.
Former Special Assistant to the Leader of the
People’s National Congress Reform