The reason for the challenge to Corbin
Freddie Kissoon column
Kaieteur News
May 2, 2007

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The first point to note in the leadership battle that will soon unfold in the PNC is that none, not one, of Robert Corbin's challengers is ideologically different from him, and none, not one, has a different political culture from Mr. Corbin's. The PNC leadership's ossified politics, unrealistic approach to power, and unchanging sociological visage was conspicuously exposed when Raphael Trotman emerged as the Mikhail Gorbachev of the PNC.

None, not one, of the present hierarchy of the PNC supported the new political culture of Raphael Trotman. None, not one, saw that he had a different perspective and a practical plan to save the image and the credibility of the PNC before it entered the 2006 elections. Trotman had no canopy in the pre-2006 PNC structure and was in fact ostracised. Whoever is chosen to succeed Mr. Corbin will not be different. The leadership challenge is not about a reformation inside the PNC.

The PPP and the PNC are tragic organisations. They are victims of groupthink. Most importantly, these two formations are hopelessly trapped in the past. Guyana's PPP and PNC are negative rarities in world politics. They seem to be irredeemable organisations. Take Jagdeo. He assumed the presidency in his mid-thirties. Here was a young man that was born long after the old political culture had taken over the PPP's soul. Jagdeo had no personal experience of the mundane and perverse politics of the PPP in the seventies and eighties.

After he became president the word was spread that he joined the party at age thirteen. This was not possible since the PPP's constitution didn't allow for membership at such a young age. Jagdeo was just a peripheral member of the PPP while he was a teenager.

He then journeyed to Moscow to study and came back and enjoyed a measure of democracy in Guyana because Burnham and Hoyte retained him in the State Planning Secretariat on South Road even though he was East Indian and a PPP member, something Jagdeo ought to remember now that he has state patronage to share out.

Interestingly enough, Jagdeo was not an outspoken person or a PPP radical while he worked with the PNC Government because no one I have talked to from those days said that they remember him for any activism on his part. The logical outcome for someone like Jagdeo in any part of the world was to take on the role of a reformer. But look at the new boy after seven years in power.

There is nothing un-PPPish about Bharrat Jagdeo. Jagdeo is the embodiment and personification of the PPP. He thinks like a person possessed of the political culture of the PPP. He behaves like a typical PPP leader. He runs Guyana the way any PPP leader would have done. Jagdeo, far from being a reformer, has shades of Burnham. I honestly believe this.

All Guyanese should study what is going on outside Celina Atlantic Resort and remember the personality for Forbes Burnham.

So what is the point? Whoever succeeds Mr. Corbin (Mr. Corbin ought to call it a day) will not be different from any other PNC leader. Why the leadership challenge then? Corbin is being blamed for a lackluster performance as the leader. But this is no fault of Corbin. Any other leader would have had the same balance sheet. Any other leader would have faced the same choices since 2004 after the crime spree abated.

After 2004, two choices faced Mr. Corbin. Return to “mo fyaah” and “slo fyaah” to pressure the PPP to accept some form of responsible, transparent and accommodating politics.

The downside of this policy is that it damages Guyana's economy and image abroad and it dilutes the political capital of the PNC. But far more important than these two factors is the reality in Guyana that “mo fyaah” and slo fyaah” bring tremendous sympathy for the PPP from the citizenry that is tired of conflagration and suffering.

The other course of action was to remain in Parliament and fight for the necessary policies on which Guyana should embark, and continue to press the PPP using orthodox methods.

It would appear that although the “mo fyaah” and “slo fyaah” methodology was being pushed by some sections of the leadership, Corbin was able to persuade his backers that the parliamentary road was the correct one.

The turning point for Corbin came when Sherwood Lowe resigned from the party's inner circle citing lack of progress in the PNC's road-clearing for the construction of inclusive governance. Lowe's euphemism did not deceive political observers. The time for the resumption of the politics of protest had arrived.

Corbin's detractors in the PNC's emergency room were furious with the continuation of a wait and see policy. For them, Jagdeo was in overdrive and had contemptuously passed the PNC waving a flag on the parapet. The arguments for a leadership change were trenchant and vehement.

Corbin's challengers asked him what he has got from Jagdeo, his government and the PPP. There is still a Chief Justice to be appointed. There is still Mark Benschop going nowhere with his trial. The Integrity Commission has installed without the constitutional requirement of consulting the Opposition Leader.

In this context, it looked like Jagdeo did a Burnham on Corbin. Remember constitutionally Burnham had to consult Peter D'Aguiar on certain issues. Burnham walked into D'Aguiar's office, told him what he intended to do, then said to him, “this means I have consulted you.”

Maybe Jagdeo met Corbin at a cocktail reception, told him he was going to select the members of the Integrity Commission, and then tapped Corbin on the shoulders and said, “Well, Robert, don't say I didn't consult you.”

The by-passing of Ms. Ingrid Griffith in the Guyana Revenue Authority certainly didn't help Mr Corbin. In fact, the letter by a group of PNC leaders challenging Mr. Corbin was released about the same time Ms. Griffith would have known that she didn't get the job. Whoever succeeds Robert Corbin, it looks like the PNC may be going back to a pathway that for the PNC may bring results but create further uncertainty in the minds of Guyanese about the future of this country.