Corbin not up for presidential race

PNCR leader Robert Corbin has announced that he is not going to be the main opposition’s presidential candidate at next year’s general elections.

Robert Corbin

The PNCR last evening confirmed that Corbin told a high-level party meeting on Saturday that he was “not going to be the presidential candidate for the 2011 general and regional elections” and that “a major challenge for the party was to find a consensus presidential candidate who could win the confidence of the majority of Guyanese” at the polls. “This, he felt, would have stimulated all to work together and recognise that it was necessary to demonstrate, by hard work and example, that they were capable of undertaking the onerous responsibilities ahead,” the party said in a statement last evening. “He also explained that his decision was motivated by his appreciation of the need to have all available persons working together for the greater task of building a better country for all Guyanese,” it added.

The decision, made at the PNCR’s first General Council meeting for the year, was framed as part of Corbin’s attempt to honour his “commitment to reconciliation” within the party. Under Corbin’s stewardship, the party has had to contend with the departure of a number of high-profile members and supporters, including almost all of the founders of its Reform component. Among those no longer within its ranks are former vice-chairman Vincent Alexander and supporters of his aborted campaign for leadership. Last year, Corbin withstood a strong leadership challenge by former PNCR Chairman Winston Murray, whose bid to lead the party attracted support from many former supporters, including Alexander.

Corbin has faced calls from within and without the party for him to step down since the 2006 general elections, where the PNCR recorded its worst election defeat. His critics have frequently questioned the effectiveness of his leadership.

During his address to the General Council on Saturday, Corbin stressed that the PNCR is bigger than any individual party member and their personal ambitions. “He called, therefore, on those who had personal grievances to put aside personal ambitions and work for the success of the party, irrespective of who might be occupying offices in the party, for the time being,” the statement said.

It added that unity is paramount if the ruling PPP is to be removed from office and a new government is to replace it whether led by the PNCR alone, or, in collaboration with other opposition parties and like-minded organisations under a shared governance arrangement.  In this context, the party said, he urged the General Council that others are unlikely to be attracted to the PNCR or to work with the party unless it is united and strong.

Corbin also called on party members to unite in order to direct all their energies towards ridding the country of “the corrupt and incompetent PPP regime,” which he said is shamelessly discriminating against non-PPP supporters and communities.

The General Council, which meets every three months, is the highest party forum after its Congress. The meeting saw several hundred participants from all ten regions and several special invitees included prospective candidates and campaign organisers from the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and the six municipalities.

According to the party, Chairman Cammie Ramsaroop reminded members of the major issues affecting the people, and he singled out the problems arising from bad governance and its disastrous consequences. He cited widespread corruption in government, mismanagement, incompetence, illegal spending and the abuse of financial rules and regulations and the blatant manipulation of the judiciary.

He also noted the poor performance of the sugar and bauxite sectors and the prospect of low production in the rice sector this year, in the light of the prevailing El Niño conditions. Ramsaroop, looking ahead to upcoming elections, urged members of the General Council “to remain on high alert and, in a state of preparedness,” in order to deal with whatever eventuality the future holds. “There is no substitute for hard work,” he was quoted as saying by the party.

A panel discussion and workshops on local government reform followed the two presentations. Discussions on Local Government Reform, Local Government Elections and Effective Campaigning were led by panellists that included Vice-Chairman Basil Williams, Director of Education and Co-coordinator of the central Local Government Elections Committee Alan Munroe and Assistant General Secretary Amna Ally.

The PNCR said the General Council concluded after approving the party’s programme for the period ahead, including, a schedule of outreach meetings across the country to brief citizens on the issues of local government reform and polls.

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