Though the mechanisms of control might be different from the PPP, the PNCR is also a centralist party but change is slowly occurring, according to former party Chairman Vincent Alexander.
In a letter in the Kaieteur News, Alexander, who in 2007 had aborted his candidacy for the post of PNC leader before eventually distancing himself from the party, observed “a striking similarity between the PNCR and the PPP although they are strikingly different political parties.” He had pointed to an APNU column that referred to the PPP’s anachronistic internal structures (anatomy) and its centrist procedures (physiology).
Here, he said, the PNCR, like the PPP, is in a state of somnambulism with regard to its own problem with freedom of expression and democratic election of its leadership. “Imagine the PNCR criticising the PPP for “freedom in discussion – unity in action” (democratic centralism) and ascribing to that practice the meaning that “once a decision had been arrived at, it was no longer open to dissent.
“All members are required to accept the applicability of those decisions and, thereafter, to subordinate their own individuality to the majority.” While the ascription might be correct, the irony is ‘pot telling kettle that its bottom is black’,” Alexander wrote.
“Though the mechanisms of control might be different, the PNCR is also a centrist party,” he said, while adding that this centrism affects much of the operations of political parties, NGOs and even the churches in Guyana. “If only these erstwhile critics could humble themselves and introspect, the political culture of Guyana may witness a beneficial transformation to Good Governance which is so evidently absent, both in terms of a demonstrative understanding and its practice,” he said.
Speaking with Stabroek News, Alexander noted the maximum leader culture in Guyana saying this is present in the PNC as well. He pointed out that people tend to give in to what the leader says and tend to be “vexed” if what the leader say is contested. He said that the culture has created a mechanism where the decision making is highly centralised.
“It has invaded the political life of the country,” Alexander said, pointing to, among other things, football and cricket. He said that leaders are able to manipulate the system to maintain themselves in leadership positions.
He noted that the PPP had declared its system of democratic centralism and while the PNC does not, there is a culture of acceptance of the maximum leader. In terms of the difference in the mechanisms of control, he noted that in the PPP, the Congress elects the Central Committee which then elects the executive while in the PNC, the congress elects the executive but who goes on to the body are highly influenced by the leader.
Alexander said that he could not say whether this culture is present in APNU but pointed out that the grouping operates largely as a parliamentary grouping and he does not know the different mechanisms they use. The parliamentary system tends to develop its own views of things and the party defers to it, he added.
He also emphasised that while the process of how the PPP and PNCR go about making their decisions is the same, their belief systems are not. He said that the process is not good governance as people have to participate in a meaningful way.
In Guyana since the last elections, Alexander noted, the political configuration of the country has changed and the administration, because it does not have a majority in the National Assembly, now has to give information and this is an opening where it is now forced to have more participation and consultation.
He noted that in the PNCR, given what happened with his leadership bid, a push has started in the direction of opening up the system. “The process is not complete but it has started,” he stated. “The process is slow… it’s good that it’s happening.”
He noted, however, that one of the problems is that the political leadership does not seem to be listening enough. If this is done, that could be a catalyst for change, he said, while adding that there are forces in the parties that are pushing for this. “There are challenges taking place that could lead to change,” he asserted.
Alexander also noted that at the level of government, the PPP preaches good governance and is talking this up in parliament. He said that speaking the language will eventually push for a demonstration of what it is speaking of. He also said that persons who join the party because of what it is speaking of will become agents of change because they believe in what is being spoken about and would want to see this being demonstrated. “They now come and challenge you to behave in cognisance of what you are saying,” he said.