Thursday, December 18, 2008

PNCR backball crtics

The People’s National Congress Reform has taken careful note of the increase in activity to attack the PNCR and its leadership, including the call for the resignation of its Leader. The Stabroek News Editorial of Sunday, December 14, 2008 and a letter from Rickford Burke are very much in this vein.

They contain nothing new except that the language of the latter represents an ad hominem attack on Mr. Robert Corbin. The Party has grown accustomed to the rantings of Mr. Burke and is well aware of the political Agenda of Stabroek news. We leave the nation and PNCR supporters, in particular, to judge. What is new is the attack on the PNCR and Mr. Robert Corbin in a letter by Mr. Christopher Ram, which coincidentally appeared in the same issue as the Stabroek News Editorial in question. The PNCR leaves it to the Guyanese people to draw the necessary conclusion.

Mr. Ram is a member of the so-called intellectual elite which has reserved the right to pronounce on the internal matters of the PNCR. There is nothing necessarily wrong with such an attitude but one would have expected that Mr. Ram and the class he represents would be more responsible in carrying out its self assigned duty.

The PNCR is not fooled by such arguments that it should hold the Government more “accountable.” Translated in political terms it means that Mr. Ram and his fellow ideologues would like to see the PNCR take to the streets again where its supporters and members could become the battering ram for him and the less than courageous class that he represents. When the PNCR was in a more militant phase, it was people like Christopher Ram and the Editors of the Stabroek News who accused the Party of being violent and denounced its supporters “thugs” and “hooligans.” Indeed, one can go on to say that the Stabroek News took advantage of those occasions to seriously undermine the efforts of the PNCR to force the PPP/C to respect the laws of Guyana and the rights of the Guyanese people.

It must not be forgotten that it was this very class which urged Mr. Corbin at the inception of his tenure as Leader of the PNCR, to take a different route to effect change in Guyana . Mr. Corbin did not need such advice, but, having regard to the fragile political and economic conditions of the country, he decided along with his Party to exhaust all democratic procedures to persuade the Jagdeo Administration to respond to important issues affecting the Guyanese people. Mr. Ram cannot say that there has been no success.

The PNCR’s campaign against the death/phantom squads and the rule of law marches organised by the PNCR and others, led directly to the resignation of Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj. The establishment of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, while clearly intended to exonerate Ronald Gajraj from any responsibility for activities in relation to the death squads, painted a damning picture of the PPP’s handling of important areas of the security sector and their active collaboration in extra judicial killings and murder. The Roger Khan expose in the USA has confirmed that the PNCR was correct in its approach at that time.

Mr. Ram has also conveniently forgotten that it is the PNCR that led the charge to expose the extra judicial killings by the Target Special squad led by Supt. Fraser and Merai and forced the Jagdeo Administration to establish the Disicplined Forces Commission. For the first time, the Leader of the Opposition was able to appoint members to a Presidential Commission and Ms. Maggie Berne’s report still remains instructive. That Disciplined Forces Commission made significant recommendations for the improvement of the Guyana Police Force and the security sector.

Is the PNCR or the Leader of the Opposition to blame for the Jagdeo Regime’s failure to implement the one hundred and fifty plus recommendations? Where was Mr. Ram’s pen and voice when the PNCR repeated called on the Government to implement those recommendations? The Nation awoke, however, after the Lusignan and Bartica massacres. The same question may be asked of Stabroek News.

Where was Mr. Ram and Stabroek News when the PNCR and its Leader led the way in the disastrous floods of 2005 and 2006? Who was it that exposed the gross mismanagement, discrimination and corruption within the Government Flood Relief program? The PNCR did not only criticize and expose, but vigorously organized its own National Relief efforts and provided support to all communities regardless of race or politics.

The PNCR’s continued Human Services programme of bringing relief to the needy and elderly could not be unknown. So too have been its initiatives at empowering its supporters and its promotion of a vigorous Literacy programme, long before the Government was bold enough to acknowledge that there was a national Literacy crisis. Perhaps, Stabroek News had good reason not to publicise many of these activities. Surely, it would have conflicted with their agenda of promoting a new political party. The facts are however there and cannot be disputed. More particularly, however, the ordinary people, the beneficiaries, and the members of the PNCR are fully aware of these activities. Consequently, the vile propaganda by Mr. Ram and Stabroek news and the rantings of a few disgruntled people will not succeed.

It was also the PNCR’s relentless pressure on the PPP/C to open up the information sector that set the conditions for the historic judgement of Justice Ian Chang. The Party will not waste any further time in reiterating its successes, but merely wishes to remind those who conveniently forget that its firm opposition to torture compelled the Jagdeo Administration and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to hold an investigation into allegations made in this regard by many Guyanese citizens, even though the final report produced by the investigation, in the Party’s judgement, was far from satisfactory.

The question of the Value Added Tax (VAT) needs separate treatment. It is only the most purblind of its critics who would deny that it was the PNCR and its Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, who have pushed this issue to the top of the national agenda. The Party had warned before the 2006 elections of the negative effects of the tax rate set and the dangers if it was poorly implemented. The results are with us today as the cost of living has spiraled.

Despite the warning of the Party, many people voted for the PPP/C in 2006 and it is quite clear that many have regretted that decision. The Jagdeo Administration continues to reap a windfall from this tax while the Guyanese people continue to suffer. Now that many have ignored the advice and leadership of the PNCR and are experiencing the adverse effects of that tax, they expect that the PNCR’s “thugs” and “hooligans” would rescue them from this dilemma. The moral of what has transpired is that a nation gets the Government it deserves. The PNCR would therefore not be persuaded to call on its grassroot supporters to aid those who blatantly ignored and insulted them when they placed their “bellies on the line” for those very classes to benefit. Perhaps the Staborek News and Christopher Ram should take their own advice published in the Editorial of Stabroek News of April 22, 2004 entitled, “Civil society must get involved”:

“ ……. The breakdown of the constructive engagement process is a call to arms that we ignore at our peril. For if we continue to be apathetic about becoming involved in the affairs of our nation we will continue to be prisoners in our homes, waiting for the knock in the night that takes one of our loved ones away to be seen again dead and abandoned in some desolate area of the town or countryside.

If we heed the call we can address Corbin's caution about individuals or organisations pursuing the interest of one or the other political party; we can be assured that in any discussions the interest of the nation would be uppermost in the priorities of the participants. Most of all we will ensure that we could yet bequeath to our heirs a Guyana worthy of their loyalty and dedication and to which their minds can remigrate as they see the prospects for a better life at home than in some far off land.

There are too many people today who have little understanding of Guyana ’s political history and they therefore tend to rush to shallow judgement without analysis. It is not unknown that parties in opposition tend to encounter difficulties which could lead to the exit of important members. The PNCR is mature enough to accept this fact. Even the newly formed AFC experienced this phenomena when one of its leading founding members, Ms. Gomattie Singh made her exit. Any serious researcher can find evidence of the hemorrhaging of the PPP in the 70’s and beyond when it was in opposition. The PPP lost many important members such as Rahaman Gajraj, Ranji Chandisingh, Halim Majeed, Vincent Teekah and Harry Lall. Are these not people of talent? Were these not representatives of important political capital of that party? Did they not take with them important institutional memory? Indeed, looking at the hemorrhaging of the PPP at that time, one would have also concluded that the Party was weakened beyond repair. The reality is that parties do recover as internal and external circumstances provide the space for them to do so, as the PPP did, and the PNCR will. Perhaps Mr. Christopher Ram a former active member of the WPA is allowing his judgement to be clouded by those experiences and is trying to judge the PNCR in the same light.

It is unproductive to allocate blame for the performance of the PNCR at the last elections. The PNCR’s strategy was carefully outlined at its 2004 Congress when it called for a united opposition and advocated shared governance. The party actively pursued those objectives and those who ignored that initiative did so at their peril. Those who now seek to find excuses for the miserable performance of the Jagdeo Administration and find someone to blame, must therefore engage in serious self evaluation. The PNCR, like any responsible political party, conducted its own evaluation that would guide its future action.

The PNCR is not afraid of criticism. Indeed, the Party welcomes it when it is constructive and intended to help defend the interest of the Guyanese people. Moreover, the PNCR has never claimed that it is a perfect political institution without any weaknesses. The Party expects, however, that those who have elected to become its critics should be careful in assembling their facts. If their assertions do not square with the concrete reality in which the Party finds itself, it will naturally reserve the right to reject those criticisms as ill-informed and tendentious. It is rather ironic that the Stabroek News, which waged a continuous campaign to undermine the PNCR and promote the Alliance for Change (AFC), should now attempt to shed crocodile tears for the PNCR’s perceived demise. It is also laughable that Christopher Ram, who for several years waged a private campaign of vilification of the Leader of the PNCR, should now express concern for an “effective opposition”. All he has done is to seize the opportunity to boldly express what he has been spewing in cocktail circles since 2003. The party will not be deceived by such antics. In such circumstances his motivations are highly suspect.

The PNCR urges its members and supporters to, “be steadfast: In season and out of season”. Many predicted the demise of the PNCR after the death of Forbes Burnham in 1985. Other such predictions were also made after the sudden death of Desmond Hoyte in 2002. It has not happened and by now those prophets of doom should realise that the PNCR is resilient. It will survive the storm and like the phoenix, will rise from the ashes to lead Guyana to sound development.

It is the membership of the PNCR that elected Mr. Corbin to that Office. They re-elected him as Leader at the last Congress and at the Party’s General Council meeting on November 6, last, reaffirmed their confidence in him and the actions taken by the party. Those who claim to embrace the culture of democracy and feel that they have the authority to call for his resignation should understand the contradiction. It is time that they have respect for the views of the membership of the PNCR and not insult their intelligence. Or perhaps those misguided persons exhibit such intellectual arrogance to believe, like some, that, “the masses are asses”.

Finally, it must be understood that there are myriad problems facing this country and it would be fool hardy to expect the PNCR solely to carry the struggle in trying to resolve them. The PNCR has said before and repeats, that the people of Guyana must take ownership of these problems and join it and other responsible elements of the opposition in trying not only to resolve them but in bringing the Jagdeo Administration to sanity. The Party is confident that once the people of Guyana have seized ownership of these problems, the Jagdeo Administration will be more respectful of the laws of Guyana and the interests of the people. WE urge the Stabroek News to take their own advice and perhaps, as a service to all Guyanese re-publish their entire Editorial of April 22, 2004.

People’s National Congress Reform

Congress Place, Sophia

Georgetown, Guyana

Wednesday, 17 December, 2008

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