Why not Van West Charles?

Dear Editor,
I refer to a letter by Mr Patrick Barker entitled ‘Van West Charles is not the man to lead the PNC or be president’ (SN May 16). Mr Richard Van West Charles has chosen to return to his homeland, Guyana, to take up active political duty within the realms of the opposition force of the People’s National Congress (PNC). Mr Van West Charles indicated from the onset that even though he was living outside of Guyana, he was still very in tune with all that was happening – especially politically – within Guyana. He also indicated that he had always remained a member of the party, even during his absence from the country. This former Minister of Health under the PNC’s rule went on to more serious work with an international health organization.

It is not quite certain if the PNC had anything to do with his appointment there, or if it was on the strength of his academic qualifications and experience that he was appointed, but what is evident is that Mr Van West Charles led his part of the organization with pristine leadership. Now retired, he has the dignity and respect of persons and an organization of international repute.

Anyone who pays attention to the political landscape in Guyana would know that the PNC is in dire need of strategic leadership. Since 1992, the PNC has continued a steady slide into the political graveyard of Guyanese politics. At present Guyana has an almost impotent opposition force.

One young man who arose within the PNC with the testicular fortitude to challenge the movers and shakers at the executive level of the party for leadership, had to leave.

Now it is that same individual along with another man who shared almost the same fate as he did at the hands of his party, carrying the fight to the current administration. Could you imagine if he was the leader of the PNC at present? The PNC has lost the confidence of a fair number of its supporters.

Many opportunities presented themselves for serious decisive action by the ‘leading’ opposition force and they failed miserably to capitalize on those opportunities. This has been happening since 1992.

Many would agree that Mr. Corbin is not the most inspiring of individuals to lead a large number of people politically. Mr Barker is very certain that Van West Charles is not the right person to lead the party and goes on to suggest a few names. Well in my opinion the only name of consequence I recognize is Mr Murray – but why not Van West Charles? Barker lays out an argument that goes back in time to when the first of the two leaders this country ever saw (the other being Cheddi Jagan) was ruling. He writes quite emphatically that Van West Charles said nothing against Burnham’s policies that oppressed the Guyanese people. Now I would like to know if the late Hugh Desmond Hoyte who took over from Burnham as President and leader of the PNC spoke out against any of Burnham’s policies when he was minister. What about Corbin?

Did he speak out? Who from the group he mentioned spoke out at that time? Is ‘speaking out’ a pre-qualification for leadership of the party? In the recent past an esteemed member of the PNC dared challenge Mr Hoyte on some issues and he was almost expelled. Just recently a few members were also disciplined for their revolutionary behaviour where leadership of the party was concerned and this is not Burnham ruling! The PNC has struggled so badly with leadership that we as Guyanese people might be lucky the PNC did not win an election because I am not quite certain if they were and are ready to lead this country.

Mr Barker is right when he writes that “the PNC must renew its image and move away from the old and tired political retreads that the party feeds its supporters.” That is so true.

New blood is needed. Fresh perspectives are needed. The PNC needs a leader with vision and strategy. That leader must be able to bring about serious change for the betterment of all Guyanese. The mantra of modern politics as we know it today is change. And Guyana needs change.

Whoever leads must be able to envision where they intend to take the country and how they intend to take it there. Whoever leads the PNC must be able to inspire people with their mere presence. There must be sound demonstrations from the opposition benches of parliament that show the Guyanese people at home and abroad that the opposition is indeed acting like a watchdog to the government, providing checks and balances.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reinventing oneself. I’m sure Mr Van West Charles has brought with him fresh ideas and perspectives and a broader mind. He has managed on an international level and I’m sure he understands leadership and what should obtain. The infighting within the PNC does not do well for its image. People don’t want to see their dirty laundry.
At the end of the day the people within the PNC would have to judge who leads the party. The leader reflects the people who elect him. So let’s see who the PNC decides is worthy of turning it around and making it an electable political force to reckon with.
Yours faithfully,
Richard Francois

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