PNCR ready for ‘constructive engagement’
-Corbin By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
February 3, 2003

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Newly-elected leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Robert Corbin on Saturday night said that his party is prepared for “constructive engagement” with the ruling party but wants to see evidence of a change in its attitude and performance.

Corbin, addressing a mammoth crowd at the Square of the Revolution hours after he was elected leader at the specially convened congress, said that “enough has been said to suggest to the administration that the People’s National Congress Reform is prepared to act responsibly in the interest and welfare of the citizens but it will not be taken lightly and be used for cheap propaganda and photo opportunities.”

“Of course we have to talk, don’t tell me I don’t have to talk, I have to talk, I have to talk, but I am not going into dialogue because that is a bad word. We shall have to have some constructive engagement to ensure that our people’s welfare is looked after but we must have evidence, we are not moving until we see evidence of a change of attitude and performance. If we see the performance then we might be in a position to review our situation,” Corbin, who replaced the late PNCR Leader Desmond Hoyte, told his supporters.

Following his election as leader, President Bharrat Jagdeo wrote Corbin congratulating him and inviting him to a meeting at the Office of the President at a mutually convenient time and date. The President also restated what he said was his openness “to engagements which can bring about improved relations between the government and the main opposition party in the interest of our nation”.

Taking to the podium with shouts of “Our Leader! Corbin!” the new PNCR boss noted that many people believe that the answer to the country’s problem is his party’s return to parliament without taking time to look at the issues that caused the party to boycott in the first place.

According to the former Sunday school teacher and longstanding member of the party, the PNCR would not end the parliamentary impasse if it means that no progress would have been made.

Therefore, he said there will have to be constructive engagement since the doors were not closed. “The lines of communication are still open, what we want is not communication we want reasonable approaches to decisions so that we can get on with the affairs and business of this country.” Since dialogue broke down between Jagdeo and Hoyte early last year and the PNCR pulled out of parliament, there has been a political stalemate in the country and crucial parliamentary bodies including the service commissions have been frozen.

Corbin also touched on the non-appointment of Commissioner of Police designate, Winston Felix, stressing once again that his party’s absence from the national assembly is not hindering Felix’s appointment as is claimed by the government. Observers have argued that the Police Service Commission (PSC) cannot be reconstituted without the presence of the PNCR in Parliament and that Felix should only be appointed by a fully functioning and properly constituted PSC.

Stressing the need for something to be done to bring relief to the troubles plaguing the country, Corbin said there is need for something constructive, “shooting and killing doesn’t bring relief. Killing a policeman doesn’t solve our problems, it gives us the belief that we solve the problem.” Since the start of a crime spree last year 18 policemen have been murdered by gunmen and numerous others injured.

Corbin said the way forward is bringing genuine improvement to the lives of the young people in troubled communities

“And we have set up a parallel economic organisation which will be independent of any political influence as an NGO that will seek funding from donor agencies that are so anxious for many things to take place in this country and we would say to them if they are anxious for peace and normalcy to return the real answer is to let us provide the necessary resources so that we can generate employment opportunities and help to provide a better way of life for our youths which the present administration has been neglecting and not attempting to do,” he argued.

Speaking of his recent visit to the troubled village of Buxton following a police raid which sparked anger, Corbin told his supporters he did not visit the village to waste time but he went and spoke to young people and asked them what their problems were.

“I went and I spoke to a lot of young men and I said `gentlemen what really is the problem’ and you will be amazed how articulate some of those young men were. Deh say `we ent get nothing to do skipper, wah you want we do.’ One a dem told me `skipper meh motha ent get nothing to give me this morning for breakfus I got three sisters and deh ent gat no food in the house how a go live?’”

Corbin asserted that there are serious social and economic problems in the village, however, he acknowledged that Buxton is not the only community with wrenching problems.

He said that he would be returning to Buxton but would also visit other villages on the East Coast, “but because Buxton seems to be like the danger zone, you ent see deh mek it like South Africa, already we are having partition in Guyana so I must go to find out if deh could vote in the next election.......”

He disclosed that he recently had discussions with “some big businesses” which are concerned about the young people and one donor promised that he would make all his tractors available to plough a thousand-acre swathe of land behind Buxton while another promised to assist Corbin to mobilise funds to purchase a tractor, trailer and a plough which will be donated to the young people of Buxton before the end of the month. Another businessman from Linden pledged $500,000 for job creation in the village.

“What I am appealing for now is for a volunteer of technical people who can join with me, let us go and see the potential of the community and let us see if we can fashion a project that can gainfully employ the young people of the community.”

“Our villages throughout the country, not only on the East Coast and this is a mistake that we are making, the only reason that people are focusing on Buxton is because Buxton has a more militant approach to their problem. But every village in this country, each one of them are facing the same problem,” Corbin said.

He argued that while the government is in a state of denial the poor people in the country are dying and the youths are hopeless.

According to Corbin for one to understand the crime and security problem in the country “we have to go to the root causes of these problems so that we can address (them) in a responsible way as Guyanese that are concerned about our youths, our adults and the future of the country.” He pointed out that that is the message his party has been sending the government for years.

He recalled that the late leader Desmond Hoyte’s investment programme for Buxton was rejected by the government who said Hoyte was holding the country to ransom.

According to Corbin the country is in a “desperate political struggle...... The struggle, however, is not between Guyanese brothers and sisters of various ethnic groups, this is a struggle against incompetence, corruption, nepotism, discrimination and the many ills that characterise the many practices of those in government.”

He said it is a struggle for jobs, inclusiveness, a proper system of governance that will serve all people, and for justice.

Corbin also touched on issues such as extra-judicial killings by the police and the announcement of a hike in charges by the Guyana Power & Light. He also spoke at length on the economy of the country.

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