Any new PNC leader should be elected by Congress in the proper way
Stabroek News
January 18, 2002

Dear Editor,

Aubrey Norton's response to me captioned "The party constitution provides for leadership changes" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (ll.l.2002) justifies the accusation that a group of so called longstanding PNC/R members believe they own the party. They puff their chests and brag about their years of political experience, as though it has earned them ultimate superiority. These members demand a monopoly on the views emanating from the party and attempt to ostracize anyone who goes against this philosophy, labeling them as "Johnny come latelies". Whenever they feel threatened, these individuals resort to rootless tactics designed to drive out others with independent and opposing views. But the PNC/R rebels do not own the party. They are in fact liabilities that impede growth and fuel strife and disunity. Their extremism is unattractive to moderate supporters and turns off many who share a common agenda.

Norton's diatribe about being involved in politics for thirty one years, be it fact or fiction, neither intimidate me nor relates to the matter at hand. I would suggest that he saves his impressionistic resume for his next job interview, since his every comment exposes his insolence and a temperament wholly incompatible with leadership or loyalty to party.

Mr. Norton and some of his colleagues demand that Mr. Hoyte resign because the party has failed to win three consecutive elections under his leadership. This is an opinion to which they are entitled but not a right. It is an issue that the entire membership must consider. As I have said before, I am sure that Mr. Hoyte agrees that he is not indispensable and recognizes that the PNC/R needs new blood and leadership. Indeed he has initiated this process by bringing into the fold dozens of energetic, brilliant and visionary young people like Raphael Trotman, Deborah Backer, Pat Woolford, Sherwood Lowe and many others. These members have emerged into power brokers and influential leaders, and have made significant contributions to the party and nation. My guess is that the Aubrey Nortons of the PNC will accuse these newcomers of stealing their birthright.

I reject Norton's suggestion that Mr. Hoyte should resign so as to trigger the succession provisions outlined in the constitution. The very constitution which he quotes does not require the resignation of the leader if that leader fails to win an election, or is even disliked by a few. Such an attempt will be a coup d'etat that subverts the will of the people. Norton's theory for replacing Mr. Hoyte relies on the law. He cites constitutional provisions which dictate that, under such circumstances, the Chairman of the Party becomes the Leader and the "Vice Chairman" becomes the Chairman. However he conveniently throws out the constitution and claims morality and decency as the basis upon which Mr. Hoyte should step down. What or who gives Aubrey Norton the authority to legislate on morality and decency in the PNC? What makes him more moral or decent than anyone else? Future leaders of the PNC/R must be on notice that they risk being undermined by a vocal, self righteous few, who may dislike them personally or have major disagreements on policy.

Everyone acknowledges that the party's constitution outlines a process for succession, should the leader resign. However, that same constitution also establishes a normal process for the election of the leader. If there is a consensus that change is necessary or Mr. Hoyte decides to retire, the next leader should be elected by the Congress. Should this be the case, I strongly suggest that it would be good for party unity if the executive and General Council can devise a process to determine a consensus candidate, who will be nominated for election by the congress. If this is unattainable, the alternative should be to adhere to the law and effect the usual nomination and election processes. At the conclusion, the entire party must unite behind whomever is elected to lead the party. This is how a civilized and democratic society functions. Mr. Norton's resignation scheme reeks of ulterior motives. It caters to a sinister, "bottom house caucus" that aims to wrest control of the party, and manipulate the nomination and election of the leader. Members must reject this ploy.

It is naive of Mr. Norton to conclude that Mr. Hoyte demitting office would be the panacea to all ills in the PNC/R, and that the party may majestically sail to victory in the future. The PNC/R may never win another election unless it initiates serious constitutional reform and the total restructuring of the electoral system in Guyana. The country needs a fair system that illuminates racial voting. A good head start was made by changing the formula for the configuration of the current Parliament. However, reform must not end there. The party must fight for further changes so as to create a democratic and fair process. The biggest and real enemy of the PNC/R is the very electoral system it created, and the best friend and ally of the PPP is this very system it fought against while in opposition. I stand firmly by my previous letter and maintain that the debate in the PNC/R should be about a vision for the future, and who is best suited to assume the mantel of leadership. It must be about creating a modern strategy for winning the Parliament and presidency. And there must be a willingness to create broad, effective and intrinsic collations through the ethnic and racial divide.

I agree with Norton that Mr. Hoyte has made mistakes in judgment as party leader. One such mistake was his decision to appoint Aubrey Norton, hitherto a virtual unknown, as General Secretary. It was Desmond Hoyte who went against conventional wisdom and made Aubrey Norton "somebody."

Norton and his backers should demonstrate the tenacity necessary for political leadership. They should cease hiding behind constitutional provisions and present themselves to the party as the alternative to Mr. Hoyte, if they so desire. As I have said before, those who wish to run for the office of leader must tell members why they deserve to be elected. They must share their vision for bridging the twenty first century and transforming the party into a sophisticated, viable political force. The PNC/R needs an honest debate about the future, not another internal fight that aims to destroy its foundation and political viability. The general membership should rise up and defeat the elements of disunity that threaten their political survival. Aubrey Norton does not have the best interest of the PNC at heart.

Yours faithfully,

Rickford Burke

PNC/R Member