PNC/Reform has changed its ideology and its economics
Stabroek News
February 12, 2002

Dear Editor,

Your editorial of Monday 4.2.2002 captioned "Big decisions awaiting PNC/R" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] was an amusing and illogical piece of confused writing made all the more so by your pretence at objectivity and independent comment for what was in fact a well worn path of criticism of the PNC/R. The editorial is a clumsy attempt to distract public attention from the harsh economic and social consequences of the incompetence, confusion and rampant corruption of the PPP/C government. We in the PNC/R are not averse to criticism and indeed welcome it as a necessary part of the process of democratic politics. When that criticism is unjustified, we do uphold our right to defend ourselves vigorously in the pursuit of truth and accuracy.

The first point we wish to make is that the undue speculation concerning the leadership of the PNC/R and the intentions of Mr Hoyte are not discussed with any sense of objectivity. The most important point of context is that the PPP/C has no leader and does not appear to be making any effort to appoint or elect one. If the PPP/C can run a government without a party leader and this is presumably acceptable to the editorial opinion of the Stabroek News, why should you be so worried about the PNC Reform leadership? There has been comment in other sections of the press and in political debate about the lack of dispatch and consistency of the decision making processes in the PPP government that may be attributed to its unique and enigmatic leadership arrangements. The Stabroek News has been conspicuous in the absence of editorial comment on this matter, which is of far more current importance to the national welfare than the management of the opposition party. It is true that there has been a significant volume of speculation in the Stabroek News pages and by at least two of your staff but political gossip is as entertaining as it is unrelated to hard political thinking. The constitution of the PNC/R places the responsibility for the election of the leadership of the PNC/R in the hands of party members and their delegates to our congresses. Therefore it is their opinions and not those of the chattering dilettantes in Georgetown that count.

Your editorial makes four points and we wish to rebut them individually.

First you state that new leadership of the PNC/Reform must confront its past. I can think of no political party which can claim to have reversed itself as profoundly as the PNC/R. It has changed its ideology and its economics. It relinquished control of a large public sector, privatised vast chunks of the economy, liberalised the press, and laid the foundations for the economic, social, cultural, physical infrastructure and political development of our country. If the Stabroek News thinks the elections of 1992 were fraudulent, it should have the courage to say so and have the decency to move on and look to the future as we in the PNC/R have done. We are firmly focused on the future, on the modernisation, and development of Guyana. It was the progressive policies of the PNC government that attracted major private investments to Guyana. Those who do not prefer to dwell in the past will find the PNC/R a creative and progressive political home. It is passing strange that the writer of this particular editorial has never been known in public or through your columns to call on the PPP/C to repent of its past. Why hasn't the Stabroek News called upon the PPP/C to repent and apologise to the nation for the murders, bombs, burning of cane fields and other acts of economic sabotage, the terrorism and bullying of the Indo Guyanese communities and mayhem committed in the past? What about the PPP/C openly racist "bottom house" propaganda within Indo Guyanese communities? Is the Stabroek News blind and deaf to the shortcomings of the PPP's sordid past? An objective analysis of the modern history shows clearly that there was no one villain or guilty party. Obviously a partisan of the PPP/C may wish to blame the PNC/R for all the nations historical issues and that is their right. Surely, however, a national newspaper should not become a tool of such national deception.

Your second problem is your disagreement with the PNC protest marches and skepticism about the causes of those marches, the electoral fraud. We find this a most incredible assertion. In the first place, any reading of the evidence and the judgement on the election petition on the 1997 elections would, in any unbiased mind, justify dissatisfaction and political action. The capacity to disregard serious problems is the privilege of the mindless. It is a fact that only a few weeks ago, thousands of people were still receiving their ID cards. Mr Editor, that means they could not vote! On Election Day, they flocked to Congress Place in their thousands to express their distress. One assumes that that was because those thousands of disenfranchised voters including those who were expected to leave Georgetown to vote in Lethem were PNC/R supporters. If you find their anger and frustration tiresome, you have a contempt for the popular will and the rights of the masses, which is both alarming in its arrogance and dangerous in its irresponsibility. The Stabroek News obviously does not read the news from other countries published in its own columns. In our view, and given all the circumstances, the PNC played a very important politically mature role in restraining its more incensed supporters in the interest of national survival. It is the PPP/C's ambivalence to private capital, along with its record of corruption, indecisiveness and incompetence that has made it difficult for the regime to attract large scale private investments. Legitimate protests over proven electoral malfeasance should not be blamed for the regime's failures!

Thirdly, you seem to feel that survival of dialogue between the President and the Leader of the Opposition is somehow hostage to the possibility of leadership change or otherwise in the PNC/R. This misapprehension is evidence of misunderstanding of the functioning and decision making mechanisms in the PNC/R. The hard facts are that the PNC/R decision to engage in dialogue was a collective one albeit articulated by its leader. It is one which is constantly under review by its Central Executive and General Council. The issue of the continuation of the dialogue rests more squarely on the uncooperative tactics of some of the PPP/C participants and the constant attempts of some PPP/C ministers including the Prime Minister to undermine the work of Mr Jagdeo. It is a fact that some PPP/C ministers and members of parliament have failed to attend a single meeting of their allocated committee! This evidence of disunity in the PPP/C government is of course of no apparent interest to the Stabroek News no matter how important to the national interest. The success of the dialogue can only be assured in an environment of inclusive governance!

Finally, you raise the question of the likely attitude of the PNC/R to constitutional change. The Editor of Stabroek News cannot be unaware of the fact that the PNC/R, starting with its submission to the CRC, has been consistently progressive in its attitude to constitutional change, to reform, and to experiment. In the Constitution Reform Commission and the subsequent deliberations in the parliament and in the oversight committee, the PNC initiated change and when the change came from other institutions, we were constructive and helpful. Getting the PPP/C to agreed to constitutional change has been like pulling teeth. The fact is, that some of the changes agree to, have foundered on the dilatory and/or obstructionist tactics of the administration. The PPP/C hierarchy seem bent on frustrating the implementation of any of the agreed constitutional reforms which have been passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President. Their machinations provide ample evidence that they are not committed to inclusive governance. The Stabroek News argument seems to mirror the illogical position of many who argue that the PNC/R should advocate change whether or not the PPP is willing to negotiate or cooperate. There must be a limit to the PNC/R's initiatives if only because the PPP/C as the government has the responsibility to focus on issues of governance for the national good. The PNC/R has been and continues to be proactive for change. Even the current dialogue is clearly the result of a PNC/R initiative!

Finally, we wish to assure the nation that the PNC/R will go about its business in an orderly and constitutional way in the best interest of the nation. The PNC/R is the only hope for bringing Guyana out of its current morass of incompetence and economic stagnation. We take that responsibility seriously!

Yours faithfully,

Oscar Clarke

General Secretary

PNC Reform