The hats are in the ring
Guyana Chronicle
January 8, 2003

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FATE has led now led the PNC to confront what it has been avoiding over the past years: the election of a new leader to guide the party into a new era.

Ever since his second successive defeat to the PPP/C in the 1997 elections, calls began to resonate both within and outside of the party for Mr. Hoyte to prepare the way for his succession. Mr. Hoyte was to go on to lose the 2001 elections to a youthful President Bharrat Jagdeo, increasing the calls for him to step down.

The leadership issue has always been a central issue within the party over the past years since it was recognised that Mr. Hoyte could not carry on forever and that at some time or the other, someone needed to be identified to take over the leadership of the party.

In deference to the stature of the late Hugh Desmond Hoyte and the need to be respectful to his wishes to continue on, there was no definitive position on who would take over the helm when he departed.

Mr. Hoyte himself had declared the prophetic words that his seventy-fourth birthday would not find him as leader of the party. On Sunday December 22 last, Mr. Hoyte demitted this earthly life and went on to a higher council.

The central issue now facing the People's National Congress is the election of a leader. The party is not short of candidates, boasting a cadre of intellectuals and experienced politicians capable of assuming the role of leader. The contenders for the position are many and the membership will be best advised to study all the prospective contestants in order to decide who best should lead the party into the new and unfolding era.

A report in another section of the press had shown its favourtism for one candidate by inaccurately reporting that there were no challenges for the leadership, implying that the acting leader Mr. Corbin, a politician weaned on cooperative socialism, was the only candidate.

As it stands, someone was deliberately fed wrong information in order to throw other contestants off guard. The campaign for leadership has begun.

In response to this piece of misrepresentation, at least one potential candidate, Mr. Raphael Trotman who comes from a distinguished legal family, has indicated in a press statement issued yesterday that he was prepared to continue to work in any capacity in which he was allowed to serve. In other words, Mr. Trotman is opening himself up for nomination.

Many other such candidates cannot be discounted. Amongst them is the fast rising Vincent Alexander who heads the powerful Georgetown wing of the party and who at the last congress was elected as Vice Chairman of the party.

Then there is Mr. Derek Bernard, a former Minister of Education and now Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Guyana. He is highly touted as someone who can take over from the helm having had a close working relationship with the former leader, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte.

Then there is Mr. Oscar Clarke, the powerful General Secretary of the party who was a former Minister of Home Affairs and has in recent times seen the party through some turbulent times.

It is also conceivable that the new leader can be someone unexpected. With talk of new blood there have been whispers in recent days over the presence at the funeral of Mr. Hoyte of persons such as the present Assistant Secretary-General of the African Caribbean and Pacific grouping, Mr. Carl Greenidge, who was for many years the Minister of Finance overseeing Hoyte's economic recovery programme. The funeral was also attended by the former Minister of Legal Affairs and now esteemed member of the World Court of Justice, Dr Mohammed Shahabbudeen.

Not to be left out is management consultant Dr Aubrey Armstrong who is not lacking in bravado. He too is being touted as a possible leader of the PNC having worked and maintained a closed friendship with Mr. Hoyte. All of the above named persons cannot be deemed as outsiders in any race for the leadership.

We expect in the coming weeks that the tempo will be upped as the contestants try to woo the delegates who have the all important task of deciding who will lead the party in this challenging and rapidly changing future where the average age of the electorate keeps getting younger and younger.

Whoever is chosen, it is to be expected will face much public scrutiny both within and without the party.

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