Reading the mood
February 9, 2003
There are good vibes coming from the new leader of the PNCR. For the first time in five years citizens are daring to hope that we might be able to escape the political cul-de-sac in which we’re currently trapped, and move out onto the open highway, where meaningful destinations become a possibility. At this stage it doesn’t too much matter whether or not the PPP/C responds with a generous gesture; what matters is that the PNCR consistently maintains the party machine on the new road. If it does so, then the focus will shift to the governing party, which in due course will be compelled to change direction as well, whether it wants to or not.
As was observed in yesterday’s editorial, Mr Corbin made a great symbolic gesture on Thursday by visiting Annandale. It was the first public crossing of ethnic/party boundaries since the beginning of the current crisis, and gave credence to his statements at the special congress last Sunday that the PNCR would promote inclusivity, both at the party and at the national level.
The talk about inclusivity, however, was not the only interesting thing he had to say on that occasion. He turned the spotlight inwards, to address the question of indiscipline in party ranks, which he said existed not just among the rank and file. “We cannot be indisciplined at senior levels,” he told delegates, “and enforce discipline in our ranks.” One can only hope that all the senior members of the PNCR will hear his words and internalise his admonition, so that everyone on the platform at rallies (and elsewhere) in the future will be in step with their leader and set a public example.
And then there was the programme Mr Corbin announced for the re-education and re-orientation of party members, and of equal if not greater interest, the establishment of an economic organization, ‘Help Guyana,’ to provide assistance to the unskilled unemployed, the skilled unemployed lacking the resources to generate their own income, single parents and hinterland communities. In other words, he outlined a long-term project of some vision, and one can only hope that the party can find the resources and the tenacity to see it through.
Of course, vision or not, the new leader’s task will not be an easy one. The rank and file of the party which has become accustomed over the years to relieving its frustration on the streets, will be pressing for action and quick solutions. Leaving ethical arguments aside for the present, at a simple practical level it can be said that violent protests have proved a disastrous strategy for the party. However, convincing the grass roots that that is so, and conveying the message that there are no quick solutions, will surely test the persuasive skills of the leadership. They will need patience, persistence and determination to hold the new course against the internal pressure to revert to failed methods.
The task will be made doubly difficult because there are many non-PNCR voters, who simply will not believe that Mr Corbin and his central executive are sincere, or that the change of direction will be sustained. The main opposition must be thick-skinned enough to resist both the sniping and the constant harping back to the past. What matters at this point is the future, and the ultimate test will be the decisions and actions the PNCR takes from now on - consistency being the key, as stated above.
If the PNCR can stay off the streets; if it can move away from the combative weekly press briefings, and have its most talented members do serious work on a few of the problems facing the nation - as Mr Stanley Ming did earlier in relation to the Public Accounts - and then publicize alternative policies, it would be helping not only itself and its constituency, but all the people of Guyana.
It would also leave the Government exposed to full scrutiny in the matter of the discharge of its mandate, instead of deflecting attention away from its inadequacies to place the spotlight on episodes of violent and undemocratic behaviour perpetrated by some supporters of the PNCR.
And in that vein, now that Mr Corbin has been elected leader, the PNCR has nothing to lose and everything to gain by going back to Parliament to set up the appointive committee to allow the bureaucracy to function again, even if they withdraw after that. While they certainly have a principle to hold on to in the matter of the sectoral and management committees of Parliament, it might be in their interest to review their tactics, and bring them into line with the new approach the leader of the party has enunciated.
As things stand, there can be no appointments in the police force, the judiciary, the public service and the teaching service, and if the PNCR seriously believes that the parent who has to pay for extra lessons because no teacher can be appointed to teach his or her child’s class, is going to blame the PPP/C for the situation, they are being naive. The causal links in the argument for not going to Parliament on a one-off basis for the appointive committee as set out by the main opposition, are simply too convoluted for the average citizen to bother with. Parents want teachers in the classroom; most people would like to have judicial vacancies filled; and everyone wants a new Commissioner of Police - among other appointments. From the PNCR’s point of view, why in this suposedly new era, does it want to give the Government room for excuses?
Except in the one area mentioned above, Mr Corbin seems to have read the mood of the nation. For its part, the nation hopes that he continues to do so.