Corbin elected new PNC/R Leader
By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
February 2, 2003

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FORMER Chairman of the People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Mr. Robert Herman Orlando Corbin, as expected, was yesterday elected the new Leader of the main Opposition party.

He polled 745 of a total of 831 votes at a special Delegates Congress of the party to elect a new Leader following the death in December of Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte.

His lone opponent, Mr. Artie Ricknauth, got 85 votes.

The election was by secret ballot.

As Corbin, 55, took up the mantle of Leader of the party at the PNC/R Sophia, Georgetown headquarters, he thanked members for showing confidence in him through their overwhelming support at the election.

He cautioned the membership that for the party to move forward, it was important for them to do so in unity.

"Comrades, now is the time for us to get back to work, and all of us have our individual talents which can be used to the benefit of our party. The important thing today is to recognise that our party will not go forward unless we go forward in unity," he told the wildly cheering crowd.

Noting that the PNC/R has a lot to do, Corbin who earlier in the day gave a 31-page report to the Congress, said he felt sure they can do it.

"Our major task has been outlined, that is - the organisation of our party; organisation for victory at the next election; inclusivity; shared governance, and working assiduously to ensure that this great land of Guyana genuinely called `Land of One People, One Nation and One Destiny' is all Guyana's, with all Guyanese living in peace and prosperity."

Reflecting on his years in the party which he joined while still a lad, Corbin expressed gratitude to his mentors and those who had been sources of inspiration to him, in making him what he has today become.

"As I sat here today, very humbled, I reflected on the many years I spent in the party from the YSM (Young Socialist Movement). I recalled being at Linden where I was very much involved in the Youth For Christ Group, giving some fiery sermons encouraged by the late Mr. Linden Joseph Nathaniel Aaron".

He said Aaron spotted this talent in him and thought he would do well as a politician. Thereafter he became a member of the party's youth arm, the YSM.

Corbin recalled that over the years he learnt tremendously from those within the party at all levels: "From our great Founder Leader, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham; our late Leader Hugh Desmond Hoyte; party elder and mentor, Dr. Ptolemy Alexander Reid; Mr. Ranji Chandisingh, former General Secretary of the party; Cammie Ramsaroop, ex-Chairman of the party (from whom I learnt a great deal in the party); and old party stalwarts Cecil Cunha, Kenneth Bancroft; Margaret Ackman".

He said that in every area of Guyana there were senior comrades who encouraged him along the way.

He said that they all contributed, "because they believed that knowledge was for sharing," adding, "and I believe that we can continue to do so in the future if our party is to be enriched."

The new PNC/R Leader admonished delegates: "We need to teach our younger ones and expose our knowledge to them so that the future of the party can be assured."

He reminded members that their job is "massive", having regard to the many tasks which they had outlined at Congress earlier in the day.

Throwing out a challenge, Corbin cautioned them, "We can only succeed if we stay focussed and disciplined, and I want to ask you to work with me to reinvigorate our members to be organised, to be disciplined, to be focused so that we can make our party strong."

Underscoring his appreciation to all those who have been a source of strength and encouragement to him, he pledged, "Permit me to say to you this afternoon, Comrades, that I intend to live up to your expectations."

He said that while he did not pretend to have all the answers to the questions and problems the party faced, he hoped that, as members of the party, they would help him find those answers so that "together we can work as a team and march forward to victory."

In concluding, Corbin pledged his efforts and support, adding that he looked forward to working with them over the period ahead.

"I hope that during the period I am Leader of the party, you will be proud."

Towards the end of the day of deliberations, as the delegates in the packed Congress Hall prepared for elections, Corbin was greeted with cheers and chanting for about three minutes as he entered and made his way to the platform.

As he was whisked to the platform by enthusiastic and supportive delegates, there were chants of "Our Leader! Our Leader!"

When the results were announced the cheering crowd went wild, screaming and waving, and again chanting, "Our Leader Corbin!"

"My first duty is to express my sincere thanks for the confidence which you have reposed in me this afternoon in entrusting this challenging responsibility in my hand," he said, adding: "I accept humbly, the task which has been assigned to me and thank you for your support today and hopefully in the future."

The new Leader described the afternoon's election process as "democracy at work", indicating that he was satisfied that there was the element of competition.

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