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Burnham and Hoyte survived challenges to their leadership

Recently, there have been several calls, from some sources, for Mr Corbin to resign. The challenge to the leadership of the PNCR is not new. The late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham and Hugh Desmond Hoyte survived such challenges and, for Mr Corbin, this too shall pass and the PNCR will become a stronger and a viable party for governing Guyana , since it was built on a strong foundation.

A few years ago, almost the same scenario was unveiled. A group of executive members felt that Hoyte should go. Among their expressed reasons were that Mr Hoyte was too old and was soft. One letter writer then accused him and the PNCR of being ineffective. (See SN 3.1.02, ‘The PNC is no longer an opposition of any consequence’ – letter from Aubrey Norton). In the SN of 28.12.99 there was a report entitled, ‘PNC faction wants new leader for next poll - regional conferences back Hoyte.’ The article provides useful insights on the attempts to get rid of Mr Hoyte, including references to a group of eight (originally ten) members of the central executive committee who were pressing Hoyte to step down, and the fact that Hoyte received approval from a general council meeting to carry on.

Just when it appeared that all was settled there appeared another letter from Mr James McAllister in the SN which contradicted a statement from the General Secretary of the PNC. SN then ran a story in their January 10, 2000 issue under the caption, ‘PNC leadership issue still alive – McAllister.’ It appears that the more things change the more they remain the same.

Christopher Ram, in his letter captioned, ‘Mr Corbin has an opportunity to put country and party before personal considerations’ (Sunday Stabroek 14.12.08) enunciated with some precision the departure of many of the prominent leaders of the PNCR during the period of Mr Corbin’s leadership since 2003. What he did not make clear to the readers was the fact that those persons left of their own accord and as far as I am aware no reasons were made public. Space does not permit a detailed examination, but let’s take two examples of the names mentioned by Ram.

SN of April 7, 2007 in reporting on Ms Supriya Singh’s resignation stated that, "Singh told Stabroek News that her decision was due to the amount of time she was spending outside of Guyana as a result of her work commitments. She is an interior designer… Singh said her relationship with the party and leader Corbin remains cordial."

In 2003, at a Special Congress convened soon after Mr Hoyte’s passing, Mr Artie Ricknauth contested for the position of Leader of the Party. He lost to Mr Corbin and there was no acrimony at the end of the elections. So much for those who now claim that there is no democracy in the PNCR. However, shortly after that Congress Mr Ricknauth left to pursue advanced studies in Canada . I believe he had a democratic right to make his own decisions.

It is unnecessary to deal with all the names referred to by Mr Ram but I am sure that they all had a good reason. What must be noted, however, is that none were expelled from the PNCR or stated any public disagreements. But even if there were disagreements, does it mean that the majority of the members of the party shared their opinion? I think not, because the party re-elected Mr Corbin in 2004 and in 2007 and the General Council recently reaffirmed their confidence in his leadership.

Mr Ram should also know that Mr Corbin has the full support and confidence of the groups, not only in Guyana , but also in North America . The North American Region (NAR) of the PNCR recently reaffirmed its support at its last regional conference in Toronto on November 7, 2008. If Mr Ram had engaged in proper research he would have discovered that there are many competent and qualified members of the PNCR in the diaspora who remain committed to the PNCR and whose only reason for being overseas is the discriminatory policies of the PPP regime. I am intrigued when Mr Ram wrote that Mr Corbin should put country and party before personal considerations. History would have been different if those who walked away for various reasons had put the country and party before their personal aspirations. We would have been more energized and the current debate about leadership may not have even existed. Moreover, we have to be fair in our analysis of this current leadership challenge within the PNCR.

Additionally, I am appalled at Mr Ram’s shallow analysis of the 2006 general elections. It may be instructive if he were to examine the campaign managers of the PNCR election campaigns from 1978 to 2001 under both LFS Burnham and Desmond Hoyte. In comparing the reduction of the PNCR percentage of the votes between 2001 and 2006 Mr Ram should also factor in the campaign managers and the party functionaries responsible in the various regions. That analysis may be very revealing, particularly in Regions 1, 2, 3 and 10. It would therefore be useful to continue such an analysis on a region by region basis and look at how those on your list of aspiring leaders and their surrogates performed on the ground in 2006 election. The point being made here is that no one person in a party can be blamed for poor performance, though it is admitted that the leader ultimately has to bear the cross.

What about the intensification of racial tensions and polarization under the PPP since 1992? Most analysts have described Guyana ’s elections as an ethnic census. Has Mr Ram considered this dimension? What were the negative effects of the uncertainty of the PNCR’s participation and their campaign of, "No Verification: No Elec-tion"? What of their last minute decision to contest? What were the adverse effects of the PNCR spending a great deal of time working for a broad coalition of opposition forces under the banner of ‘One Guyana’ and again deciding at the last moment to enter the polls virtually alone? What was the effect of the ACDA campaign that initially advised Guyanese that to vote was a waste of time?

The furor over recent disciplinary actions by the party in response to directions from the Congress and the General Council of the party should have come as no surprise to anyone who was aware of the inner activities in the PNCR. The decision was inevitable, unless the supporters of the PNCR want anarchy. No one in the PNCR, as far as I am aware, was against any leadership challenge to Mr Corbin. However, to do so at the expense of undermining the entire institution speaks more of selfishness rather than genuine concern for the future of the party.

The ultimate goal of each aspiring leader of the PNCR should be to energize the electorate and garner votes at elections. Those who aspire should also show by work and example that they are capable of the unenviable task ahead and not base their campaign on the alleged failings of the current leader. Unfortunately, one of the reasons for the performance of the PNCR at the last election is directly linked to the poor performance of many of the aspiring leaders who failed to energize their bases. We can speak authoritatively on this matter because we sent volunteers from the NAR who worked on the ground in that election and we have their objective reports.

It should be noted that Mr Corbin was responsible for the revitalization of overseas party groups since 2003 and the formation of the NAR which since its birth has been able to transfer valuable resources to sustain the operations of the PNCR in Guyana . We urge those who stand on the sidelines claiming to be concerned, but engaging only in criticism, to do likewise.

The views expressed above are those of the author/s and do not in any way reflect those of the publisher or members of the Boston # 1 PNC group.
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