Corbin sees challenge to leadership as healthy sign
Stabroek News
May 12, 2007

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Leader of the People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) Robert Corbin sees the challenge to his position as leader as a "healthy sign".

But Corbin noted that it was the party's membership which makes the ultimate decision.

Those challenging Corbin's leadership and who met with him recently are Deborah Backer, James McAllister, Dr Dalgliesh Joseph, Vincent Alexander, Ivor Allen, Joe Hamilton and Hamley Case.

The main opposition party will hold its biennial congress from July 20 to 22nd, almost a month before it is actually due.

Quizzed on the decision to bring forward the party congress, Corbin told the media on Thursday that it was because of the public discussion taking place which he feels has been "diverting the energies of our members away from important tasks."

He added, "We have important tasks and (we have) to get important issues out of the way to chart the way forward as we approach our 50th anniversary."

Previously Corbin had reserved comment on what he thought of the competition heading his way and in an interview with this newspaper said he was still available to serve his party and the country and if nominated and elected at the party's biennial congress, he would continue to serve.

Additionally, during that interview, Corbin commented on what he deemed "the vicious personal negative campaign being waged in the media" and the possibility of a challenge to his leadership.

He said "Throughout my political career I have faced elections within the party and I believe such processes are necessary and healthy. The party is a God-fearing party that acknowledges the God as the master of the universe. I am a believer in the great Jehovah and in Him I have always placed my trust. He has never failed me even when situations are not very clear to all men. I therefore place my political fate in His hands and the membership of the PNCR."

However at the press conference on Thursday, Corbin said the party is one with a high democratic tradition. "And so it is alright for any member to express interest in any office and contest for such …there is no impediment with members aspiring to be leader," Corbin asserted.

But why did Corbin disagree with the group of 7 [those challenging his leadership] for going public? In response the opposition head said, "I disagreed because they went public…it is not the culture of our party. If rules are to be changed in fairness to all members, those principles and rules could be discussed."

He conceded however that while the party was not unaccustomed to active campaigning within it at congress time, the issue is usually not taken into the public domain.

Corbin however refuted suggestions that the bringing forward of the party congress was an opportunity to catch his opponents off guard and noted that the various persons would still be able to do their campaigning.

"So to a question of whether there would be any disadvantage I say no but if any only maybe the candidates … so I don't agree that it will catch anyone off guard," Corbin said.

Former PNCR chairman Alexander has since offered himself as a candidate for the post of leader of the party at its upcoming Biennial Con-gress.

This newspaper saw a leaked copy of the letter and when contacted initially Alexander did not comment on the details about the timing of the announcement, and he did not want to take responsibility for the leaked letter. However, he emphasised that despite what he described as "wild rumours" about an attempt to overthrow Corbin, the executive group supporting him is utilising the democratic process of the congress. "We are not talking about getting him out of office before his term expires," he said, while adding, "We are prepared to work with him afterwards but the contest is on and we will participate."

Alexander wrote to PNCR party groups to inform them of his availability, after members of the party's Central Executive Committee notified Corbin that they intend to lobby for support for a candidate to contest at the August Congress. "I am not trying to overthrow Mr. Corbin," he explained in an undated letter seen by Stabroek News, "My intention is to contest for the position in keeping with the provisions of the constitution of the party."

Since this has been made public a number of citizens have through letters to this newspaper given their views on the matter.

Corbin led the PNCR to its fourth successive defeat at the polls last year, and its worst performance since 1992.

The party won 22 seats, five less than at the previous elections. Commentators subsequently criticised him for his decision to run as presidential candidate and there was also a row with the party's youth arm -the Guyana Youth and Student Movement-over his choice of youth representatives in the National Assembly.