Allow me the opportunity to congratulate the leadership of the People’s National Congress Reform on their decision to have a leadership retreat this weekend. According to information it is hoped that this retreat would in the end produce a strategic plan on the reorganization and repositioning of the party for the 2011 general and regional elections.
A retreat of this nature is opportune at this time given the derelict state of the party and especially if there are going to be any serious and concerted attempts at bringing the party back on course to political relevance. It is now public knowledge that the PNCR is beset with problems.
The first of these is the leadership crisis which is more evident than before and has resulted in disunity within the ranks. The problems of leadership have to be placed squarely on the present leader, Mr Robert Corbin. It is under his stewardship the party has been relegated from one of the most militant political parties to one of no consequence, while at the same quite a number of persons have disassociated themselves from the party. These include influential intellectuals, professionals and business leaders such as Vincent Alexander, James McAllister, Winston Murray, Rickford Burke, Ming, Trotman, Supryia Singh, Jerome Khan, Dalgleish Joseph, and the list goes on.
Secondly, the leadership crisis has manifested itself in the disconnect between the masses and the party itself. Evidence of this includes the declining performances at the polls (2006) and the inefficiencies and non-functioning of the arms of the party − the NCW and the GYSM. These organisations are headed by groups who are disconnected from the constituency they claim to represent, are ill prepared for the task and whose only claim to fame is that they support Robert Corbin. Robert Corbin himself lacks the political acumen to attract quality and reputable individuals to the party. Based on his previous track record as leader, he has failed, and it’s time for a change.
The third problem is the failure of the party to adequately manage the resources at its disposal, and to garner additional resources for its constituency. The end result of this has been a reduced emphasis on the empowerment of the masses. As a party in opposition, being cognizant of the discriminatory nature of Guyanese politics, the onus is on the PNC to show that it has the capacity to move Guyana forward. It is my view that such leadership capacity should be first demonstrated within the party`s own constituency. This includes mobilising the adequate financial human and material resources necessary for the empowerment of it support base. Along with providing these resources, it should have a plan to transfer the necessary skills and knowledge to the constituency to manage the resources in a sustainable manner. The argument here is that empowerment should not be seen as a political slogan, but rather as a means to an end.
Another point I would like to comment on is the peripheralisation of youths in the party. In recent times ‘youths’ have been seen as populist campaign slogans for the PNCR, but not really as powerbrokers or decision-makers. At present, it’s a challenge for the party to identify a young cadre of professional leaders at any level including the GYSM. To emphasize this point, the party’s executive has approximately 38 members of which only two GYSM reps are there at the level of the parliament. The presence of these young people at various fora is token, since these young people have no constituency. In essence, youths have no say in the major decision-making fora of the PNCR. This is not healthy for the party, especially since Bureau of Statistics projections indicate that in 2011 60% of the electorate will be young people under the age of 35years. These are just some of the numerous problems that plague the party.
My plea to the party’s leadership is that for the retreat to be meaningful, the following conditions are necessary:
First a clearly defined timeline for the exodus of Robert Corbin from the leadership of the party must be developed. This must be done in tandem with the identification of a succession plan and also a plan for the complete overhauling of the leadership at all levels of the party. The new leadership must have a broad-based appeal and be representative of all sections of the Guyanese society.
Secondly, an overarching programme for the recruiting of young intellectuals and professionals into the mainstream of the party must be developed forthwith, and the fact should be accepted that the GYSM, in its present state, is incapable of providing the adequate policy support in terms of research and information flow to the vital organs of the party.
Thirdly, an extended programme of civic political education must be developed and implemented. This is necessary for the masses to keep track of or be informed of the necessary changes or leadership directions of the party.
Fourthly, the party leadership must revisit its mobilisation strategies. The revised mobilization strategy must include analysis to ascertain the needs of the various groups in the society, and plans must be devised to mobilize such.
Fifthly, policies and programmes for the party must be devised within an overarching framework for the development of Guyana. There is a vital need to move away from the knee-jerk reactions to the PPP/C and to advocate clearly the party vision.
Finally, the party’s vision for Guyana must be outlined after careful consideration of the social, political economic, international and other factors that impact life in Guyana.
It is time for the PNCR to reposition itself as the alternative government rather than a mere opposition party bankrupt in terms of ideas.