by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 August 2007)
As I read over portions of Raphael Trotman’s address to those gathered at the AFC’s first conference last Saturday, I could not help but compare it to Robert Corbin’s address from just the week before.
The feeling of Trotman’s speech left a completely different taste in my mouth than Corbin’s. In fact, Trotman’s tasted like refreshing chocolate ice cream with nuts (my favourite) on a scorching hot day. Corbin’s tasted like the repulsive liver my mom forced me to eat even when she knew it made me throw up every time.
It is good to see that the AFC is holding strong to the ideas of democracy within the party. I was highly impressed with Khemraj Ramjattan for refusing to be reinstated as the party’s leader so as to adhere to the AFC’s policy of leadership rotation.
Ramjattan’s move made Corbin appear even smaller – if that is possible – on the political stage. Corbin embarrassed himself with some sneaky moves to keep his position of party leader of the PNC at all costs (the biggest cost being democracy) and a week later Ramjattan comes along and nonchalantly gives up his position willingly.
I have to admit that I was one of those who did not understand the need for leadership rotation in the AFC. It was an original idea, but seemed unnecessary. Moreover, when this idea was introduced, all I could see is a leader getting settled into her/his position just in time to relinquish it to the next person. It made no sense at all.
However, with the PNC and the AFC elections being held so closely together, it is now crystal clear why leadership rotation is so vital to Guyana’s newest opposition party. The desperate need for new leadership in the PNC – and Corbin’s refusal to step down for the good of the party - punctuated the brilliance of the AFC’s leadership rotation.
This new opposition party is just the breath of fresh air Guyana has needed for a long time. The fresh ideas and original leadership approach is just what the doctor prescribed for a nation of jaded voters. That old opposition party is stanky.
I have been waiting around to see if those in the AFC were truly capable of putting Guyana before their egos – and it appears they are indeed. If there is one thing Guyana’s politicians are not short on – it is ego. In fact, there are so many overblown egos in Guyana’s politics that I sometimes wonder how on earth they all fit into one country.
Very, very seldom do we see these megalomaniacs able to restrain their exaggerated sense of self-importance long enough to do right by the people to whom they are honour bound to serve. Enters Khemraj Ramjattan – who makes all those squirrelly sort a laughing stock for all to see by doing what none of them have the decency to do.
Let us return to the comparison of Trotman’s address to the AFC and Corbin’s address to the PNC. Corbin left us feeling as if the “muzzle” was put on and it was time to run for a corner and hide from the big, bad wolf. Trotman’s words birthed hope and reinforced faith in democracy.
Corbin’s words made me rejoice that he was not the leader of Guyana. Trotman’s words made me wish he lived in the Presidential Palace. But there is still a long path ahead of the AFC before the next general elections to prove it can hold unrelentingly to the sentiments it displayed last weekend.
Of all the obvious comparisons that can be made between the AFC and the PNC during the past two weeks, the one that stands out the most is that the PNC leader refused to step down for the good of the party - and thus for the good of the nation - while the AFC leader appears to have insisted on stepping down.
This proves beyond a shadow of the doubt that the PNC is most certainly not Guyana’s future opposition party. The PNC is the past, and a sad and scary past at that. The AFC is now Guyana’s opposition party of the future.
After Corbin’s undemocratic verbal retaliation toward a leadership challenge from some of its most senior members and the PNC’s subsequent decision of disciplinary actions to be taken against those who challenged Corbin, it becomes difficult to hold on to any hope that Guyana has an opposition party worthy of the nation’s citizens. Which is why it is good to have the AFC around right now.
During the last elections, a large number of PNC supporters voted for the AFC. I predict today that come the next general elections, the AFC will become the primary opposition party in Guyana. Who knows, maybe it will even be the ruling party in short order as well?
If those from Team Alexander are as smart as I think they are, they should be thinking about joining the AFC, but only if they are as capable of putting their egos aside for the good of the country like Trotman and Ramjattan. Otherwise, they should just stick it out in obscurity in the PNC as it continues to sink into a black hole of dictatorial oblivion.