Changing the image Editorial
Stabroek News
April 16, 2002

Related Links: Politics
Letters Menu Archival Menu

At a press conference last Thursday PNC/R Chairman Robert Corbin made some remarks that deserved greater prominence. He said the party expected that the increasing lawlessness and banditry that had descended on the nation would cause the police force to focus on the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. He then said that the party was calling on all citizens to provide the police with any information and support which could lead to the apprehension of the five prison escapees and their accomplices. "The PNC/R wishes to make it abundantly clear, our party is on the side of law and order." He recalled that party leader Desmond Hoyte, during his tenure as President, had asserted that no one was above the law and that included policemen. That is why the party had spoken out stridently against extra-judicial killings by policemen. The extermination of wanted persons by policemen could never be a substitute for sound police work and for due process, he said. It was the substitution of brute force for proper investigative techniques and good community relations that made the task of recapturing the five escapees difficult. He said that the party had always been on record as condemning crime and over the years had called for a commission of enquiry into the functioning of the police force.

Even the strongest critics of the PNC/R will welcome these remarks as a formal official acknowledgment at the highest level of the party's condemnation of crime and commitment to law and order and Mr. Corbin must be congratulated on his forthright and unequivocal statement. The critics will then, however, immediately go on to claim that elements in the party have cynically and deliberately recruited and used criminal elements as part of their public political protests which has led to unfortunate attacks on innocent victims who are not perceived to be supporters of the party, that Congress Place has been used occasionally to harbour certain persons involved in violent activities (one remembers the remarks of former Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis), and that there are persons in the party who countenance and support violent tactics.

The party has an image problem which the PPP/Civic is well aware of and frequently seeks to exploit in statements and press releases and electoral campaigns. It arises from some of its activities in the early sixties, from the manner in which it held power from 1968 to 1992 and from its willingness to engage in extra-parliamentary resistance after losing elections in 1992, 1997 and 2001. Mr. Corbin's remarks are an important step towards addressing this problem but a great deal more soul-searching is required. The present juncture when the party's leadership may change in four months time could be a good opportunity for this kind of rethinking and open examination.All political parties have made compromises of one kind or another, some have been involved in acts of violence or terrorism at some stage, but that does not permanently delegitimise them. The PNC can be deconstructed and understood partly in terms of the ethnic problems in Guyana and partly in terms of the opportunities presented to Mr. Burnham in the cold war context as the alternative to Dr. Jagan, seen to be an ally of Moscow, which he seized and which led him eventually down an authoritarian path. But it has and has always had within its ranks people of integrity and ability. We believe that one of the tasks of the new leadership is to redefine its image clearly and without equivocation, to reinforce itself as a vital part of the political mainstream, to remove doubts and dark areas and to put itself forward as a vibrant, democratic party. In so doing it will not only revitalise the party and perhaps attract a new cadre of bright young people but it may shake the ethnic assumptions which now shape politics and voting patterns.