PNC needs an experienced leader
Stabroek News
March 28, 2002

Related Links: Letters on the PNC leadership
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Dear Editor,

In the last month a number of persons have joined the debate on the person to succeed Mr Hoyte as leader of the People's National Congress. I am in the group of persons who formally believe that this issue is not a straight internal party matter, since the person finally elected will be playing a major role in the public life of the nation. I however know that only the delegates at the Biennial Congress would be electing this new leader. These delegates will therefore have a great responsibility to all the supporters of the People's National Congress in making the choice that is best for the party in regaining governmental power.
Mr. Alvin Jones's letter (20.3.2002) stated, "Mr. Trotman entered politics during the era of fundamental democratic changes so there is no training in the politics of the 1960's ." I have heard it put less diplomatically by others. It means that party stalwarts with years of experience must either be distrusted or are too tainted for the present leadership. It means that those who had an association with that great son of the soil, Mr. Forbes Burnham, are part of an era to be forgotten. By this argument persons of the calibre of Allan Munroe, Winston Murray, Yvonne Yearwood-Benn, Ivor Allen, Vincent Alexander and Robert Corbin must be discarded.
Well, I am in the group that believes the PNC needs tried and tested leadership at this juncture. We know fully well of the PPP/C's ability to marginalise PNC supporters and we must use all our experience and talent against them. To those who argue that the PPP/C was not afraid to pass its leadership to a very young man in Mr Bharrat Jagdeo I say, firstly Mr Jagdeo was never elected leader and we still debate who is really in charge of the party; and secondly when Mr Jagdeo was made President at age 35, he already had over 20 years political experience in the PPP.
Messrs Deryck Bernard, Ivor Allen, Robert Corbin and Vincent Alexander are therefore the persons to be considered as the leader if the PNC is to successfully challenge the PPP/C. What the party needs is not so much restructuring, but revitalising - all its groups, districts and regional bodies must be made operational and strong. These possible candidates understand this task and have the quality and experience to organise it. They are all relatively young independent professionals and/or businessmen.
Mr Bernard served as education minister and was a senior member of the PNC for a number of years. Mr. Allen served as Regional Chairman of Region # 2 and is a successful businessman. Mr Corbin served the party at all levels and held a number of ministerial appointments. Even those who label him a hard-liner acknowledge Mr Corbin's political experience - perhaps his only sin was working too hard for the PNC in its foundation years. Mr Corbin has recently demonstrated that he is intellectually capable when he obtained a LLB in law. Mr Alexander served the party for years even though never being in government or parliament. Mr. Alexander is also well respected for his contribution to the
ongoing constitutional restructuring and is an authority on local government.
All these gentlemen bring different levels of political experience and intellectual depth to the PNC's leadership. The party would therefore be wise to keep its choice within this group.
Mr. Trotman's newness in the political arena can be a liability to the party's organisational structure. It would be obvious he does not command the respect or the loyalty of the leadership at all levels of the party. Thus if elected he would of necessity adopt the Machiavellian principle and change the old guard. Those who were around long enough would recall what a disastrous effect such a change had on the party in the mid eighties. In fact in some ways we are still recovering from the dumping of a number of tried and tested cadres. A badly organised political party cannot win political power, thus the first task of the party is to develop the organisation - a task in which Mr. Trotman will be out of his depth. In fact unlike the other candidates, we have no knowledge of his views on a number of important national issues. Thus whatever he is bringing to the table is not enough for now; with more experience he may be considered in 5 or 10 years time.
On the question of a consensus candidate Mr Bernard may stand out; but Mr Hoyte has been doing the right thing - promoting debate on the succession and staying clear from endorsing anyone. The party's membership is wise and will do the right thing, if all the candidates keep the debate clear and void of personal attacks.
In closing, many of those who are maligning stalwarts of the PNC benefited the most from its years in office through educational and business opportunities that were available particularly during the first fourteen and the last seven years of PNC rule.

Yours faithfully,
Naomi Hopkinson