by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 May 2007)
I have been quite intrigued by a few of the responses in the letter pages to the fact that the PNC’s leadership is being challenged. It seems there are some who would swear loyalty to Robert Corbin regardless of how poorly he has led the party.
I have to admit that I do not understand this type of loyalty to a public servant because I have always been taught that no politician should be trusted, every politician should be watched carefully and when a politician fails in his/her representation of the constituency, then it is time to find a replacement.
Using the standards I just listed, Corbin should have been ousted after his first term as party leader. Then again, by the same criterion, Jagdeo should have been replaced a long time ago too, but that is for another column. Let’s return to the leadership challenge in the PNC.
It is not as though I do not understand the Guyanese political atmosphere. In fact, I have taken great measures to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of this unique situation - even down to the little nuisances that race plays in the game.
However, I still do not understand why anyone would remain loyal to a leader whose performance was far less than exemplary for his/her constituents. To me, this is nothing short of political self-flagellation.
For example, on May 10, Desiree King wrote a letter to the editor that said, “The first question should be whether the group [the seven challenging Corbin’s leadership] was lured by the media, or was it that they contemplated such action? Whatever the reason, they have acted in a highly indisciplined and irresponsible manner, in which their own interest was paramount to that of the party.” [sic]
On May 18, Charles Callender wrote in a letter, “Party members, think seriously before you vote. Remember the saying: ‘Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts.’ Jerry Lewis sang a song telling us not to smile with a crocodile. He warns: ‘Don't be taken in by his welcome grin. He's imagining how well you'll fit within his skin'.”
The notion of party loyalty inherent in these letters and so ingrained in Guyanese politics is by far the most detrimental aspect of this otherwise vibrant society. I am not sure if it is a race thing or if it is some other facet that creates such an injurious allegiance, but it is quite clear how much it holds this nation back from being as great as it should be.
The whole point of a democratic society is that the people are free to choose the best person to represent them in government. However, if that choice is impeded by unseen obstacles that prohibit the ability to determine the best candidate for the people, then there can be no other conclusion than democracy has been compromised by something far less noble.
I can think of nothing better for the PNC (and by default, the nation as a whole) than for someone – anyone – to stand up and declare that they can do a better job than the current leader. It is never – I repeat, never – a bad thing to have an abundance of leaders that would challenge the incumbent.
The lack of choice when it comes to superior leadership is a dreadful condition and the very fact that the notion of party loyalty produces an atmosphere that promotes this condition is even more dreadful.
Those who are challenging Corbin’s leadership were accused of allowing their own interest to take place over that of the party by Desiree King, but has she ever considered that Corbin knew he should have stepped down a long time ago for the good of the party but for his own self-interest remained?
If anything, this move to challenge Corbin’s leadership could be the best thing to happen to the PNC in decades. The multiple name changes did nothing to revamp the party simply because the poor leadership was still intact. It is high time that some of the core members stood up and demanded something better than what Corbin has been providing.
If something is broke, it should be fixed. The PNC has been broken for so long that its constituents have begun to think the state of disrepair is normal and acceptable. It is like a door that keeps falling off of the hinges that no one will take the time and effort to fix. Anyone who walks through the door knows they must prop the door up if they wish to pass through safely.
The PNC leader has been propped up for far too long. It is time to get a new door and install it properly. Any calls for party loyalty will no doubt result in party suicide. The notion of party loyalty is an enemy to the people of Guyana. It has accomplished nothing but to produce lethargic leaders and stifle democracy.
The term “party loyalty” should become so disdained by the people of Guyana that they spit when it crosses their lips. The only loyalty that should be expected is that of the politicians to their people, which will only come when the people stop make excuses for their leaders’ incompetence and start demanding – by their vote – a government that cares about its constituents.
The challenge to Corbin’s leadership has nothing to do with the debilitating and undeserved notion of party loyalty and everything to do with a democratic attempt at providing a better representation for PNC members.
I do not know whether these leaders will do any better than Corbin, but they sure as hell can’t do any worse.