Norton seems to advocate tribal politics of a confrontational mode
Stabroek News
January 16, 2002

Dear Editor,

Aubrey Norton professes to hate Mr Hoyte and love the PNC. In obsessively (some may say sadistically) pursuing the dictates of the former, he is unfortunately damaging the latter. His public fulminations against Mr Hoyte are grist for the mill of the PPP at a time when ironically national appreciation of Mr Hoyte and the desirability for his leadership is growing as Guyana lurches down the slippery slope of economic rack and ruin.

The tone of Norton's initial letter suggests that he despairs of the PNC ever broadening its core support sufficiently to supplant the PPP at a national election. This pessimism, most likely reinforced by the election results in nearby Trinidad and Tobago, has emboldened him to adopt the approach that you hold what you have and use this as a bargaining chip to enter the corridors of power. Tribal politics, even of a confrontational mode, seems to be his preferred approach. It is a frightening proposition to all sane Guyanese on both sides of the political divide.

Hoyte, more mature, more sophisticated, much wiser knows that Norton's preferred course while providing short term satisfaction and a certain emotional high will not propel the PNC into office. He appreciates that while furthering the interests and concerns of his party's constituency (as any credible party will do) he has got to adopt a national posture which would win new converts to the fold. It would be in these circumstances electorally suicidal for him to scuttle the dialogue as Norton is advocating. But he can, as he has done, point to the shortcomings and insincerity of his dialogue partner.

Norton claims to speak for the younger emerging party leadership aspirants. But his animus at Hoyte for the manner of his removal as PNC General Secretary still rankles (and undoubtedly this matter could have been handled much more sensitively) and strongly influences his public posture which is not only reflected in the letter columns of Stabroek News and some TV channels but at various watering holes in the city at which he delights in holding court. Hoyte appointed Norton as General Secretary because he wanted to inject young blood into the leadership ranks; he did not remove him because of his youth.

It was Desmond Hoyte who rescued Aubrey Norton from political anonymity and he has repaid him coinage of political ingratitude and disloyalty. Any future leader of the PNC, therefore, would have to think twice in considering Norton for any senior position in the party. But even while he still publicly disavows any pretensions to the leadership he is obviously actively seeking it even if it results in a pyrrhic victory.

Desmond Hoyte's stature is undeniably at its highest since he demitted office in 1992. Many Guyanese are hankering for his steady hand at the till and a return to the astute guidance and policies which characterized his tenure as President as the ambiguous (non) policies and directionless leadership of the Jagdeo administration plunge the country into a bottomless pit.

Mr Hoyte's tactic of allowing the regime to be hoist by its own petard is not a non policy as Norton argues; it is a prudent one. It shows up the shallowness and ineffectualness of the administration. And it enhances the electoral prospects of the PNC by inclining the PPP's core constituency to place bread and butter issues ahead of the security/ethnic solidarity concerns in their scheme of things. Admittedly, the PNC's failure to distance itself from Mark Benschop, Ronald Waddell, Basil Bradshaw and Roger Moore in the 2001 elections undermined this approach and may have cost the party a parliamentary majority.

Norton's second letter (11/01/02) is irrelevant. No leadership vacuum or vacancy exists in the PNC so the measures he refers to are not applicable. What he should be doing is converting the PNC rank and file to his way of thinking and promoting his preferred candidate to supplant Hoyte at the proposed Congress in August. He should be doing so within the confines of the party and not in the public domain.

As a former General Secretary and Foreign Service Officer, Norton should appreciate the need for confidentiality and tact in discussing organisational affairs. It behoves not the PNC to wash its dirty linen in public. But don't tell this to Norton, it does not fit in with his desire to be centre stage (where paradoxically it was Hoyte who pitchforked him) and to sock it to HDH.

Yours faithfully,

Arnold Gibbon