PNCR leadership challenge is response to call from members - Alexander By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
May 6, 2007

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PNCR Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Vincent Alexander's move to vie for leadership of the party is in response to calls from the general membership, supporters, and some CEC colleagues who feel the party is not doing enough as main opposition party.

In addition, he said, "One of the biggest problems the party faces in opposition is the fact that the government is not prepared to give much to the opposition as it [the government] prepares to advance its own cause to the exclusion of others."

The problem also includes people not getting opportunities they deserve because the government would do some things against the rule of law. "There are times also when the rule of law does not matter, even to the President," he said adding that citizens need to know more about governance issues and the decision-making process.

He told the Stabroek News in an exclusive interview yesterday that there is need for greater representation and for the party to be engaged in activities that would address the issues affecting its members and the nation as a whole, including empowerment and job creation.

"There is need for the party to be more pro-active and more visible to cause the government to sit up and be more responsive," he said.

Alexander was one of seven CEC members who met PNCR Leader Robert Corbin, the party's Chairman, Winston Murray and General Secretary Oscar Clarke last week to indicate that they would be putting forward a candidate to contest the leadership of the party at the next biennial congress due in August this year. The others were Deborah Backer, James Mc Allister, Dr Dalgliesh Joseph, Ivor Allen, Joe Hamilton and Hamley Case.

"Once the election is free and fair, I stand a chance of winning," Alexander said.

Asked if there was rigging in the party's elections, he said, "one never knows. People could become so emotional on these issues."

Following reports of the challenge in the media, the party had issued a release which said: "It was most unfortunate that, before the commencement of this process, this group has chosen to publicise what is essentially an internal party matter, notwithstanding informed advice given to them that this action would be in inimical to the party's best interest at this time." Alexander said he did not agree with the issue being an internal matter since the party was a national institution with support from the general populace.

Alexander said there was nothing clandestine in his action. He said it was a conscientious move to respond to the party's needs and to all intents and purposes, with elections due three months away, they have begun their campaign. When an institution is a national one like the PNCR or the PPP, he said, as much as one may try not to expose these matters, they do surface in the press. "How could you avoid it, anyhow?" he asked.

He said there would be no violations of the constitution because at the appropriate time all that was required would be done. However, he has declared himself an eligible candidate and would be campaigning as the incumbent always has some of the advantages of the office he holds.

Since he has declared himself an eligible candidate, Alexander said, he has met no hostility from anyone but some have been asking, "What has gone wrong in the party and with its leadership?"

When asked this question, Alexander said that following the last general and regional elections, the party, as a national institution, had not been responding to some of the more important things it had articulated in terms of activism; and it has not been able to get the young people, in particular, galvanized to take on leadership roles, to start reorganizing. "We don't need to wait for 2011 to start preparing for the next elections," he said.

The party, he said, needs to go through a process of revitalizing, moving to a more formal arrangement, including the development of a larger core of middle-level leadership, which calls for leadership training.

He said the young people in particular have been speaking for themselves and expressing their dissatisfaction through letters to the editor. This had never happened before, he said, and some who readily identified themselves were deemed "ill-disciplined."

Asked why he felt he could beat Corbin for the leadership post when it was being bandied about that he had lost previously to Corbin and that he had once served as the party's campaign manager and the party lost the elections, Alexander said, "I am responding to a need within the party and I sense the support."

He explained that at the 2000 Biennial Congress they both were to contest a post created by the CEC called a 'successor leader.' "Nothing came out of it. We, the Central Executive had created a position called a 'Successor Leader.' The position was never accepted. It was mopped out during the congress."

During his speech, then leader Desmond Hoyte had referred to it and a section of the crowd said "No way". Even before that congress, Alexander said, Hoyte was not in agreement with a successor leader and had tried to persuade the CEC to abandon the suggestion. Alexander believes that some persons had been mobilised to oppose the idea and when Hoyte referred to it, they opposed and the matter ended there.

When Hoyte died, Alexander said, some people asked him to seek the post of leader but he instead threw his support behind Corbin.

Asked whether his challenge was also because he was not returned to Parliament, Alexander who served one term from 2001 to 2006 said he was simply responding to a need from within the party. He was consulted on the issue and had no problems not being put back as a Member of Parliament.

Asked about his experience as an MP, he said trying to make a contribution to the country's development and being "hardly able" to make an impact on policies with the government using its majority to push aside the best of intentions was disappointing and frustrating.

He said it was also frustrating when the government circulated some draft pieces of legislation then withdrew them. One such piece, he said, included the draft broadcasting bill, which the PNCR objected to because of the content. It has since not been presented, he feels because the present state of affairs suits the government. The passing of the broadcasting bill would see the introduction of other radio stations and this might not be good for the present administration, he said.

However, he said parliament was not a waste of time since chances are if there was no parliament the government would not exercise caution in dealing with some matters.

In response to whether he felt he was being forced out of active politics, Alexander said he did not feel he was being pushed out. He said he never "intended to back out of politics" but if it appeared as if he was not as active in recent times, it was because he was completing a post-

graduate programme in legislative drafting. "With that completed I can now return to my previous level of activism," he said.

How would his intentions clash with his new position as commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission? Alexander said if and when he was elected leader, he would have to look at the options and might have to resign his position as commissioner.