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The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), formerly the People’s National Congress (PNC), is currently on national display given the upcoming 21st Biennial Congress to be held on a postponed date from December 11th to December 18th. The postponement resulted from an effort of the Executive in ensuring the safety and security of its members given the current challenges of COVID-19.
The Congress was statutorily scheduled for 2020 but rescheduled because of the pandemic. The agreement to have one, though not well with the now absentee Leader, was welcomed by the membership, most of whom after the 2020 Elections have lost confidence in his leadership. This congress, which will be held under a hybrid system, is the most consequential in recent times.
The emerging oil and gas economy and the setback the party experienced under Mr. David Granger administration, notwithstanding the positive, are of concern to supporters and Guyanese at large. Members of the Party are apparently looking to elect a Leader who can transcend self, is able to forge unity within the party, build bridges across the racial divide, and collaborate with various interest groups home and abroad.
Chairman Volda Lawrence, who currently holds the reign of power in the absence of Granger, is setting the tone on how this era of democratic expression within the party will be viewed. To her credit, given the challenges of COVID-19, Granger’s leadership and so forth, she is managing to pull off a Congress and meet the demands of the constitution and membership expectations to have leaders account to them in this forum, and change the guards if deemed necessary.
Lawrence has a legacy that may well be defined by this singular activity based on her ability to present a fair, transparent and credible process that would deliver a new Leader. Over the years, party members have exhibited various levels of freedom of expression, criticising their leaders, albeit some more than some have not been tolerant, but it has never stopped the people. This is not new. In conversations with older members of the party, they speak with admiration of being able to express dissent, to criticise Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. All that was expected was respect in articulating one’s view and providing evidence to support one’s contention.
After Burnham died, Mr. Desmond Hoyte took over as per constitution but had to face a Congress to be elected and was not without being challenged. He overcame challenges for the leadership position by former frontrunner Hamilton Green and other rank and file members. So too was Mr. Robert Corbin. Strangely, Granger happens to be the only elected Leader who seems perturbed being challenged.
Undoubtedly the PNCR has a vibrant and progressive culture that is second to none in Guyana, historically and in current times. Over the years this culture, enshrined in the Party’s Constitution which formulated under the leadership of Burnham, has become more evident with the advent of improved media and technology. The Party that has been labelled undemocratic by its detractors and political opponents has proven to be, with time and transparency, the one with the most profound democratic culture.
This grassroots party, spanning the length and breadth of Guyana, has always conducted elections and seen its leadership at all levels challenged by members. All are entitled to vy for any position. None is exempt. The only requirement to satisfy is financial membership. And though well-meaning and intended this is an area of its democratic practice, given the developing predatory and mercenary nature of Guyana’s politics, the PNCR may want to review. It is important to ensure that members who vy for leadership are well-intended towards the membership and constitution of the Party and Guyana as a whole.
The PNCR is a phenomenal organisation that has offered Guyana much. The vigourous campaign of those vying to be in the leadership of the PNCR should be a proud moment for all Guyanese citizens to watch Guyana’s politics evolving in keeping with the times. It should be a proud moment for every supporter watching the various tiers of leadership candidates discuss issues in friendly and unfriendly media.
Outside of its original form, Corbin-to his credit- sought to add to the party’s democratic process by implementing a system of primary allowing for persons to compete for the position of the Party’s presidential candidate. This removed what was felt to be an expectation that the Leader will be the automatic presidential candidate. The development ushered by Corbin took the PNCR further out of the league of other domestic and regional political parties. It has brought the party closer to the two major political parties of the United States of America whose politics are on display for worldwide observation and scrutiny.
The leadership in other political parties must be under political pressure. Their members will no doubt be stimulated by this expression of freedom exhibited in the PNCR and the opportunity for learning about the party. Politics will never be the same in Guyana although efforts will be made by detractors to malign this very progressive process and stifle a replication in their party. The PNCR has the winds of change continuously blowing and is proving to be an asset to Guyana’s development.