July 3rd events may have strengthened Hoyte’s hand
Unclear whether leadership challenge to be mounted
Stabroek News
July 24, 2002

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The events of July 3rd and the PPP/C attacks on the PNC/R for the part it played in helping to organise the protest march which preceded the incursion into the Presidential complex, have served to unify the PNC/R membership behind its leader, Desmond Hoyte and its central executive committee, sources say.

This now complicates the decision for Hoyte about the timing of his stepping down as leader of the party. Earlier this year, in a television interview he announced his intention to demit that office by March next year.

Closure of leadership nominations from the party groups for next month’s PNC REFORM (PNC/R) Congress is set for tomorrow but sources say the mood of this month’s general members’ meeting made clear that there is no one among the contenders for Hoyte’s post behind whom the entire party would unite.

The candidates who are seen as contenders for Hoyte’s post if he was stepping down are party chairman, Robert Corbin, the vice-chairman, Vincent Alexander and central executive member, Raphael Trotman. Party sources have told Stabroek News that the dilemma of the prospective candidates is whether to indicate their intention to contest the post given the inclination among a growing section of the membership that Hoyte’s hand at the helm is still needed.

However, informed sources say that the nominations will provide a barometer for the various contenders to guide what decisions they should make. The groups are required to nominate their choices for the leader, chairman, vice-chairman and the fifteen members of the central executive committee.

Some party knowledgeables have told Stabroek News that Trotman, whom a number of people outside the PNC/R would like to see emerge as leader, is yet to strike a responsive chord with a majority of party faithfuls. Others disagree with this. They say there are members in the central executive committee, the REFORM component of the PNC/R and among the general membership who believe, like Trotman, that the party has to reach out but they may differ with him on how to do it.

Trotman ran into difficulties for conceding in public statements that the PNC/R should shoulder part of the blame for the events of July 3. While his statements increased his stock among some sections of the society, Stabroek News understands that influential party faithfuls interpreted his statement as an abandonment of the persons he had helped to mobilise. Trotman, sources say, believes that the political circumstances of the country require a closing of the ranks now to address the problems facing the country and to halt the slide into anarchy.

The party’s official line was that it regretted the events that took place as a result of the criminal elements in the July 3rd protest but it accepted no responsibility for what happened at the Office of the President. It contends that it had no part in attempting to assassinate or overthrow the presidency as the PPP/C has described the intent of the incidents there. The PNC/R does not share the view that the objective of the attack was to assassinate or overthrow the government.

Corbin and Alexander have echoed the public stance of the party, acknowledging that the party mobilised its members for the march because it believed that the reasons for doing so were and are still valid. They, however, do not believe that the party is culpable for the events at the Office of the President.

Corbin and Alexander have grown up in the party with Corbin having the edge in terms of experience in the government and in the party. In the course of gaining that experience Corbin has accumulated detractors which could affect his ability to mobilise support outside the party. However, his supporters do not believe that he cannot overcome that impediment if he decides to answer the call of his party.

They say that the emphasis now is on building a team of leaders to take the party forward and as such the negative criticism would have less effect.

Sources close to the party say that the strategy now open to the party allows it to develop a more collective approach to leadership, which would allow a leader to emerge, behind whom the party could unite.

Another factor, they say, is the party’s stance on power-sharing.

Leading members of the PNC/R have for some time now been engaging the public in a debate on power-sharing even though it preferred the use of the euphemism, “inclusive governance”. Hoyte himself has never made definitive his position though his supporters say that during his administration he demonstrated a willingness to include persons who were loyal to Guyana, hardworking and competent in his government.

The party has also indicated its willingness to look at proposals from the citizens group that recently called for greater citizens’ participation in governance. The PNC/R says that Article 13 of the Constitution, which allows for increasing the opportunities for citizens and their organisations to participate in the decision making process is a good starting point from which the discussion should begin.

Hoyte has at times articulated the view that inclusiveness could be achieved through reform of the local government system which would allow an individual to be involved in the decision making process that affects his immediate environment. Hoyte is the architect of the present local government system which provided for the creation of more than 65 neighbourhood community councils.

Proposed reforms to the system would reintroduce village councils where there is a popular demand for them, and an electoral system, which would allow individuals to contest the elections at the level of the neighbourhood and village councils and allow for the election of councillors who are accountable to their constituencies.

Another mechanism for inclusiveness is the system of parliamentary sectoral committees provided for in the Constitution and the establishment of a parliamentary management committee that would reduce the government’s dominance

of the parliamentary agenda.

These committees were created to allow the opposition to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process especially on issues of national importance. The PNC/R sees the government’s opposition to its proposals for the constituting of the committees as an attempt to water down the roles they are intended to play.