It appears that the PNC is again headed for yet another leader showdown. In a number of articles in the New York based newspaper, Caribbean Impact, I noticed Van West Charles, son-in-law of the PNC founder leader LFS Burnham, has been promoting himself as a replacement to Corbin. And recently, I read a vague interview with him in Stabroek News. So my question is whether Charles is serious or is he merely attempting to be another thorn in Corbin’s side? If he is serious there are obvious challenges and realities he must face. Firstly, he must know, since he was a member of the Burnham hierarchy, that Burnham has nurtured the PNC in such a way that its membership has strong allegiance to the leader. Both the PNC and the PPP have this culture, and both Burnham and Jagan could have never been replaced as leader of their parties unless they decided that they should. The PNC and the PPP today, have not deviated from this culture. So that is the first hurdle for Van West Charles, a hurdle which he helped to foster. The membership of the party is not likely to switch their support to Charles or anyone unless the current leader gives them an indication to so do. Potential party leaders, or those with their own personal aspirations and ambitions are therefore expected to wait in line and contribute to party, and demonstrate to the membership that the party is paramount. Moses Nagamootoo’s relationship and actions in the PPP are a good illustration of this culture.
Secondly, Charles will have a difficulty, particularly, with the hardcore members to whom he will have to explain his long absence from party activities and his migration from Guyana soon after Burnham died. From what I gathered, Charles left Guyana more than twenty years ago, and the members will not gave him a free pass on this; for this reason Vincent Alexander would be in a better position for leadership than he. So the rhetorical question, “Where he come from now?” will be a real sore point for Charles.
Thirdly, if Charles plans to run for party leadership based on the fact that the late Burnham was his father-in-law, he will have to explain to party members why he allowed the PPP to tarnish Burnham’s image and reduce his contribution to Guyana to nothing more than the nation’s worst dictator. Why did Charles not respond to many of the cruel claims made against Burnham by the PPP? The ‘PNC Burnhamites’ will not let him get away with this. Hoyte, took a lot of beating for this as members and supporters felt his government did little to promote Burnham’s legacy. Fourthly, there is this issue of political baggage, with which Corbin’s rivals accused him of being stuck, but Mr Charles will have his own baggage to deal with, and it would take more than five years for people to lift the question mark off him. Corbin, one can argue, has been on the scene long enough for the baggage issue to wear off; in his case any mention of the barge is like an over used expression that no longer has much effect.
Van West Charles should have learnt from those who went before him, and adopt a more integrated approach where he works closely with the current leadership of the party before he launches any leadership challenge.
Van West Charles should rethink his strategy. Corbin has already been established, has worked amongst the Indo Guyanese − look at how they responded to him when he visited after the massacre, floods, etc. No denying, he has done some amount of bridge-building, so what the PNC needs now is not another detractor but a genuine concerted effort to unite to stop the PPP from destroying Guyana. Should Mr Van West Charles and others consider what is at stake they would work to consolidate the PNC, rather than to continue to deflect vital resources from the party. A truly concerned member would consider the facts and work within the party to bring about the change needed to develop stronger leadership and good governance. I believe Nagamootoo’s strategy is a recommended one; it is wise, and sensible, and demonstrates that the man respects the organization that made him what he is. I do believe he will soon be leader of the PPP/C, he would get my support.