Corbin urges break with past By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
August 28, 2004

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THE main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) opened its 14th biennial congress yesterday with party leader, Mr Robert Corbin, calling for a break with the past to move Guyana forward.

He advocated a “paradigm shift” in the way Guyanese politics is conducted and to “close the chapter of the past” in the interest of building a secure and prosperous future for all Guyanese, particularly the youths.

Building the future of Guyana needs national cohesion, Mr Corbin exhorted at the party’s Congress Place headquarters, the congress venue. He said that in achieving this, issues of injustice, insecurity and peace must be grappled with and there must be genuine reconciliation, and if necessary establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to what was done in South Africa.

He contended that the Westminster political system has failed here and reiterated his party’s proposal for shared governance, even though the PNCR can win a general election.

He said the issue is not only about winning elections but about implementing and sustaining policies and programmes to develop the country into a modern state and satisfy the economic and social well-being of all Guyanese

In this regard, Corbin pledged to sit down with all parties and stakeholders, unconditionally, to discuss a course to take Guyana out of its crisis.

He said that a dogmatic approach to transforming Guyana should not be adopted, adding that in this process a “psychological transformation” of people is essential.

Hundreds of party members and well wishers gathered for the opening of the three-day event being held under the theme `Building a platform for Peace National Cohesion and Reconstruction’.

Members of the diplomatic community were also present.

A surprise feature at the opening session was the presence of Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green, a former party stalwart who was expelled during the tenure of the late PNCR Leader and former President, Mr Desmond Hoyte, because of internal political differences.

In his keynote address, Corbin declared that the PNCR is still the party of Hamilton Green and this drew loud cheers from the audience.

He also threw a jibe at the government while thanking members of the diplomatic community for attending the opening ceremony, stating that he hopes their presence would not result in a “Sorensen reprisal”. This was an obvious reference to President Bharrat Jagdeo’s expression of no confidence in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative.

Touching on electoral issues, the PNCR leader stressed that his party would not participate in elections where systems are not in place to ensure accuracy, fairness and a true reflection of the will of the electorate.

He called on the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) “to put its house in order.”

Corbin urged delegates to the congress to discuss an electoral system under which those who do not perform effectively after being elected could be recalled, particularly with respect to the local government system.

He also called on them to consider whether the party would enter local government elections on a non-party basis as it did on the last occasion, or to support individuals the communities choose.

He said the Constitutional Review Committee must be reactivated to further the process of constitutional reform. He said Guyana is in crisis and accused the government practicing bad governance.

Supporting his contention, he cited crime and insecurity, rampant corruption, unaccountability and the harbouring of death squads as a most dangerous development since the party’s last congress as some of the evils that have created a crisis in the society.

He charged that drug trafficking here has reached “monumental levels”, adding that “if this is not enough the issue of trafficking in persons has attracted international attention.”

Young people in Guyana, he contended, have lost hope and resigned in despair because of the decay in society.

Accusing the government of being vindictive, the PNCR leader remarked that there has been a decline of the economic and social conditions, with the government marginalising and ostracisng supporters of his party.

However, he encouraged party members not to lose hope as the situation could be reversed if they work in unity and with a sense of purpose and will to make Guyana a prosperous and modern state in the interest of all Guyanese.