An important opportunity
February 1, 2003
Mr Robert Corbin will be appointed leader of the People's National Congress Reform today. This newspaper and other commentators have been critical of certain aspects of Mr Corbin's previous political career, in particular his major role in our infamous electoral past and his position as a hardliner in the inglorious days of paramountcy of the party during the Burnham regime. Some would judge him exclusively on that record and see his appointment today as a negative development, contending that this will render less likely an open minded exchange of views with the government on the possibilities for implementing major constitutional changes already agreed that involve more inclusive procedures in parliament, and exploring other avenues.
We believe it would be both a mistake and unfair to prejudge Mr Corbin in his new role. The country is desperate for imaginative political leadership that shows an ability to put the past firmly behind it and to introduce a more cordial and less confrontational political style. Since the government of which he was a part lost power in 1992 Mr Corbin has shown the determination, at a personal level, to pick himself up, qualify as a lawyer and go into practice. He also, at the funeral ceremony for his predecessor Mr Desmond Hoyte, indicated a willingness for compromise and to chart a new course. It would be quite wrong to conclude that the important new responsibility he is about to assume will not inspire him to rise to the occasion and to display qualities of statesmanship.
He assumes this major new role at a time when the country is reeling under a year-long crime wave, when the economy is stagnant partly due to this problem and when emigration of skilled and talented Guyanese continues apace. Many will hope for bold and conciliatory initiatives that show a desire to explore solutions. President Jagdeo confirmed this week in an interview with Mr Patrick Denny that he is ready to meet Mr Corbin for discussions.
The whole country will follow with interest Mr Corbin's speech at the party's rally scheduled for this evening. It can be a watershed, closing the door on the negative politics with which Guyanese are all too familiar and opening new vistas. His own party has put forward for discussion an initial proposal for shared governance. In the spirit of that proposal there is a need for a new politics, for the building of some level of trust between the two main parties and for the abandonment of the hostile rhetoric that has become the norm. A return to parliament under conditions negotiated with the president, for example, would be an important sign of a desire to create a positive momentum, to implement the many constitutional changes already agreed including new sectoral committees that could make the National Assembly a more productive and vital institution, and to restore a more normal political situation. After that, many other things would be possible. What is needed, above all, is a spirit of change and a fresh start.