What is the PNC's game plan?
November 21, 2002
At the biennial congress of the People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) in August party leader Desmond Hoyte put on the official agenda for the first time what he described as "adjusted governance". One session of the congress had been set aside to discuss various models of government that might have something to offer and Mr James Mc Allister, a senior party executive member, had done some research on the matter and was expected to make a presentation. However, the congress ran out of time and that session was shelved. It was however announced that the issue would be dealt with at a subsequent meeting of the central executive committee.
It had also been planned to have a session on the role of the Reform component which has been much criticised by various commentators, including Reform member Peter Ramsaroop. The thrust of the external criticism has been that the Reform has not lived up to any of the ideals it was believed to stand for such as more transparency and accountability and an end to unacceptable policies and practices and has had no visible effect on the direction and policy of the party.
Many reasonable people in the PNCR now privately accept that the party's real electoral support has always been about 40 to 42% (the election results in 1968, 1973, 1980 and l985 were, of course, entirely fictitious) and that given well established ethnic voting patterns since 1957 it will not be possible to win a fair election without a breakthrough due to new initiatives or indeed a fundamental reconstruction of the party on a new basis that stresses ideological or other policy considerations and downplays ethnicity. There is little evidence of such thinking at the top leadership level. Moreover, almost everything that has taken place since the l997 elections can only have the effect of consolidating rather than weakening ethnic voting patterns. Party policy seems to have been driven by radical, grass roots, ethnic elements rather than by any plausible vision of the party's future role. The leadership has been reactive rather than creative, there has been no sense at all of a crafted policy that makes sense for the future and in particular seeks to improve its electoral prospects.
Mr Hoyte's speech at the congress was seen by many as a major step forward. It raised the issue of new forms of governance in its broadest sense. That could include extending and strengthening the home grown dialogue process into a structured dialogue, setting up the agreed new parliamentary committees and the parliamentary management committee and giving more power to the municipalities and the neighbourhood democratic councils. It could also extend to more novel ideas such as executive power sharing.
Guyana has been in a crisis for some time and the danger of a return to the worst case scenario of the ethnic strife of the sixties cannot be discounted. Indeed there are those who already argue the need for some sort of regional or international intervention to help with the resumption of the dialogue process. But one continues to hope that the PNC/R and the PPP/C can still find it in them to respond positively and helpfully to the very welcome initiative of the social partners and get the dialogue process back on track themselves. (Interestingly, in last Sunday's Mirror an editorial from the PPP's journal Thunder in July 1963 was republished which referred to an explicit written proposal in December 1962 by the then Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan to the then Leader of the Opposition Forbes Burnham for a coalition government which was delayed and stalled by Burnham as well as subsequent British efforts in 1963 to promote talks on coalition which were also stymied by Burnham). One can read this as a reminder by that party that it has always been more amenable to shared governance than the PNC.
It will be more dignified if we can achieve our own salvation, though there can be no objection to external help as was the case in South Africa, Northern Ireland and several other instances of conflict resolution. Sometimes the divisions are so deep that it seems impossible for the politicians to overcome them and plan for a better future without the help of outside mediators.
One must hope that the PNCR still has on the front burner the topics of adjusted governance and the role of the Reform that were unfortunately bypassed at the congress.