Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News
April 29, 2007

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I was not taken off-guard by the report that seven members of the Central Executive of the Peoples National Congress Reform have indicated that they will be supporting a challenge to the leadership of the party.

Incidentally, at the same time has come a report that co-leader of the Working Peoples Alliance and at one time its Presidential candidate, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, has decided to resign from the leadership of his party.

I do not know whether the two issues are related. So far there is no link between the two stories but the Peeper has felt from sometime now that given the recent politics of Dr. Rupert Roopnarine that he would not be out of place within the Peoples National Congress Reform.

The report on him however did not suggest that he was leaving the party that he founded. It merely indicated that he was leaving the leadership to concentrate on his new job as the Principal of the Critchlow Labour College .

I saw no reason why he could not continue to function within the leadership of his party while holding down the job of principal. He had over the years retained his position within the leadership of the Working People's Alliance while working for periods outside of Guyana and therefore it is hard to see why he needed to quit at this time. At sixty-four years of age, Rupert may however be signaling that it is time for him to retreat from political leadership.

His resignation from the leadership of the party he helped found cannot however be equated with the challenge that is presently being assembled against the leader of the Peoples National Congress Reform, Robert Herman Orlando Corbin. Roopnarine's departure from the leadership of the WPA in terms of national significance pales into comparison with the developments within the Peoples National Congress Reform.

The WPA is no longer a party of any real electoral strength. It did not contest the last general elections even though it was likely to have done so had it been able to secure an agreement on a joint opposition slate to oppose the PPP. This plan did not materialize and so today the once influential Working People's Alliance finds itself in the political wilderness, very much in the same position to which Burnham once relegated the PPP.

The PNCR on the other hand faces a crisis. Having lost significant electoral ground in the last election (its national support declined to 35% of the electorate that voted) it is now for the first time in its history facing a serious challenge to the leadership of the party at the forthcoming Congress of the party slated for August of this year. No incumbent leader of the PNCR has ever faced such a challenge at a Congress. Not Burnham, not Hoyte.

Hammie did in fact indicate an intention to contest for leadership against Hoyte but he withdrew after he was convinced to do so. Hoyte was never challenged again, and when he died a Special Congress was held to elect a leader. Uncle Bob won the elections at that Special Congress and has not since faced a challenge to his leadership.

From the reports in the press, he will soon. It is reported that seven members of the Central Executive, a significant chunk of the leadership of the party, has indicated that a challenge to the leadership is likely to come at the next Congress. Tactically I think it is an astute move to have given early notice that a candidate will be supported to challenge for leadership. It will be now be impossible to accuse these persons of sinisterly plotting to replace the leadership of the PNCR. It also will help to retain the unity within the party something that would be good for any new leader that is likely to emerge after Congress.

I am not so certain however about there being any new leader within the PNCR. I do not think that the challenge will be an earth-shaking event even if it does materialize.

A great deal of what will happen depends on Uncle Bob. Those who are challenging him do not understand his political experience and his influence within the party.

It is all up to Uncle Bob. If he wishes he can nullify any challenge and retain his position of leader. There is no one within the PNCR that can successfully challenge Uncle Bob if he opts to contest the leadership. Make no mistake about it. Uncle Bob is a seasoned politician that understands the PNCR better than most. Trained at the feet of Burnham and having gained valuable political experience under Hoyte, Corbin can successfully hold off any challenge to his leadership without breaking a sweat.

The question is whether he wants that; whether he feels that he should stay or whether it is time for the party to have a new leadership to contest against the new person that the PPP is likely to put forward for the next elections.

He has said before that he does not want to die in office and would go when the time is right. It is for him, however, to decide whether he feels the time is now right for him to depart the PNCR or whether the party needs him more than ever before to see it through the period of rebuilding.

It is his decision. It is all up to him.