Working with Comrade Corbin Frankly Speaking...
By A.A Fenty
Stabroek News
January 17, 2003

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Hold it! Read on first erstwhile comrades and former fellow-enthusiasts. And current ambitious oppositionists. I refer not to my past twelve-year active association with present People's National Congress (PNC) Chairman Robert Herman Orlando Corbin.

Rather, I'm merely conjuring up (fantasising?) a scenario which, I suspect, many thousands of Guyanese - that silent majority who don't take to the television or the streets - would love to see and experience. Pure imagination now, I picture myself working, once again, with the interim leader of the major political opposition. (These days there seems to be an active murderous criminal opposition too. I'm trying not to envisage that "branch" as an arm of any other established organisation.)

You see, after reading the recently-honoured, internationally recognised, overseas-based Guyanese/Caribbean journalist and commentator Rickey Singh, this past Sunday, I've decided that I can dream, wish and hope that his subject, R.H.O Corbin, could conform to a few of the things (ideals?) Rickey seems to be dreaming of, as well. After all, so many others have been using their pens and computers to speculate about Corbin and the consequences of his possible leadership. And I do know a little of the PNC's political product I worked with for twelve-to-sixteen years.

So read on; come along with me through the following paragraphs as I resume an old-time professional/political relationship. Only that now, in crime-plagued, nearly ungovernable Guyana, I am comrade Corbin's political adviser/P.R. Consultant. Just what would I advise the political attorney?

Comrade Corbin's call (CCC?)

First of all, I would tell my one-time sometimes boss that even an eminent respected critic like Mr Rickey Singh has written these words for the whole Region and elsewhere to read: "His controversial militancy may have earned him the now undesirable reputation of an inflexible, hard-line decision-maker. This may no longer be accurate and we could yet be surprised by his capacity for flexibility, very much as Hoyte was to prove as President - after the passing of Burnham."

I would then inform or read on further for Comrade Corbin, who surprised me a wee bit by qualifying as a West Indian-trained lawyer after 1992, even if always Junior to his daughter. A significant achievement. Singh, a credible regional analyst, also hoped: After Burnham and Hoyte, Corbin deserves to be objectively assessed for leadership at a time when the Party may very well be at the crossroads.

The question is whether Corbin will feel confident enough, and has that vision of the future, to break with the negative hostile politics associated with Hoyte once out of power...who, as Opposition Leader, was yet to retreat from the threat to make Guyana ungovernable, at the time of his passing. It is therefore Comrade Corbin's call. He could either use his assumption as the new Constitutionally appointed Leader of the Opposition to end a period of brutal negative politics in 2002...or he could stay the present course and let the PNC and the country continue to suffer the damning consequences...

Please Comrade, do four things ...

Of course I would have already told my old comrade that like Rickey Singh and others - including those who are dropping hints from within his party - I share the view that the PNC will on February 1 next, utilise "Party Unity" as the expedient "to cover other problems, differences in personalities, as well as issues in shaping the post-Hoyte policy agenda, with answers yet to come on the future role of the 'Reform' wing of the Party". In a word, I know that the comrades will "Rally to the PNC" and elect him.

Then is when I'll risk being frank in telling him that I know he is a (proud) creature of his Party; that he is generally inflexible; that his baggage will forever haunt him, especially amongst the old die-hard PPP/C opponents. As well as a few within his own outfit - some no longer around; I will tell him that I recall evidence and instances of his Burnhamesque/Hoytian hard-line executive skills manifested on their behalf. Then I would tell him that, never-the-less, he has a glorious opportunity to out-Trotman the younger Trotman, Lowes, McCallis-ters, Khans, Mings - and even Nortons! Even though he has not yet exhibited any genuine conciliatory gestures to indicate a desire to please - or erase - history. And to embrace a political future Guyana badly needs.

Regrets: I shall advise the Veteran Elections Campaign Director that he doesn't have to be a seemingly contrite Hammie Green. Don't apologise for his Party's excesses which plunged us into the poverty of the eighties and sullied our name throughout the region and the world. But I'll say, "you can score everlasting points with a beleaguered populace if you just express regrets over the agony some of your policies caused. That won't be any betrayal of your past leaders or current flock. Rather, it would be a beginning of your own statesmanship."

Even if my old boss rejects that advice, I will proceed with my second charge: stridently renounce and reject all forms of the current criminality. Announce the PNC's intention to join with Mr. Gajraj and Mr Felix to take the fight against crime right into any and all safe-haven enclaves.

That, I'll tell Corbin, will elevate his stature amongst all current local leaders. I'll urge him to do all that publicly.

Thirdly, I'll advise him to lead his Party back into parliament. Go back Robert, I'll plead, if even selectively at first. For certain vital pieces of legislation. Feel better morally about earning the taxpayers' money as MP's now enjoying all the benefits out of parliament. (You would never have allowed the poor PPP that privilege!)

Finally for now I'll then support him thus: Having done those three basic nationalistic things, comrade leader, let us now use local and international sources and resources to pressure the PPP/C and its President to honour, in spirit and letter, all pledges made. Let us do every non-violent thing to get concessions from the Administration now. With the whole of Guyana and the world as witnesses!

I shall then dash across to Freedom House and urge Mrs Jagan, Mr Ramotar and Mr. Jagdeo to match Mr Corbin's significantly-burgeoning statesmanship. Get together a team to match the PNC and social partners teams to agree on limited shared governance. By then I'll be exhausted but my groundwork will be somewhat completed. So I'll then leave the more academic, intellectual and constitutional enshrinement of power-sharing to the more competent.


Bang-Bang! I shall not conclude my scenario of desirables above by writing that I was jolted out of my reverie or delusion by rapid-fire gunshots outside my window.

That bandits had just shot an old lady and were bolting towards some East Coast, Demerara safe-house. To some location wherein Cde Corbin could venture - and feel quite safe and secure. But not Eusi, Ravi, Manzoor, Carolyn, Bharrat or me. My dreams shattered? Let's hope not.

Freedoms, Rights, Security

I'll have to expand on this theme next time. However, while I'll not yet support the letter-writer's (Ms Forde's) call for curfews, I'll certainly advocate a limited state of emergency.

This is to provide law-enforcers the lawful authority to detain and investigate for longer periods - among other abilities. You see, as the Americans metamorphosed after September 11, 2001, I know that it is time for us to sacrifice for long-term security. We must be prepared to be inconvenienced - by firm but polite police - at road blocks, public concerts, random sudden searches.

Our sense of security must be forever sharpened from now. We won't have guns.

But we must have good-neighbour networks, secret security features at business places, police-support groups. If even the confidentiality has to be placed at the top only. I state again: temporarily, be prepared to concede some "freedoms" for long-term security. 'Til the criminals are captured or eliminated. (I can guess at the reaction to this...)


1) I'm out of space so "sugar and the public servant" and "Prof. Bishnodat on Hoyte" next time.

2) I waited years and years for Mr. Talewa's letter of this past Monday in the Stabroek. It justifies the PNC's electoral rigging! Great Stuff!!

3) Should the Government - the Mashramani Committee - consider coming out of calypso altogether?

'Til next week!

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