by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 12 August 2007)
Over the past few weeks there have been some words spoken by Robert Corbin that I have not been able to shake. These words were quoted in the July 21 issue of Stabroek News from Corbin’s speech to the PNC party on July 20 in which – referring to the challenge of his leadership position by Team Alexander - he said, “democracy or not, no party interested in cohesion would tolerate the kind of indiscipline which was recently displayed.”
When I first read these words, I had to stop and re-read them from sheer disbelief that an opposition leader in a free country, in front of so many people, would speak such words. I have already written a column comparing Corbin’s nasty little speech with that of the AFC’s Raphael Trotman at his party’s conference, but I feel these particular words spoken by Corbin should be examined in greater depth.
At face value alone, these words are some of the most dangerous words that could proceed from the mouth of a leader. However, when taken in context – that is, when we consider that these words were spoken because some in this leader’s party were challenging his position – these words are quite chilling.
I believe in democracy for one reason and that is because I do not trust one man or an elite group to oversee the best interests of an entire nation of people. Whether a sole leader feels he is divinely appointed or has right to leadership because he has “royal” blood, I believe humans in such a heady position to be dangerous.
Democracy provides protection against the evils that can emanate from an unchecked leader. Or rather, it should. Even when the people establish a healthy system of checks and balances, ego-tripping leaders still find ways of pursuing their own selfish agendas.
However, the thought of reverting back to a life of tyranny again where no one is free but those who have power and money is all that is needed to keep me singing the praises of democracy. I want my children to marry whom they please, to worship what they please (if they want to worship at all) and to come and go as they please without the permission of a slimy lord who imposes his will on them.
Can you imagine such power in the hands of someone like Robert Corbin or Robert Persaud? What a terrifying idea. Which is why it really pisses me off when I think of Corbin’s words, “democracy or not, no party interested in cohesion would tolerate the kind of indiscipline which was recently displayed.”
In short, this statement implies - to hell with democracy, everyone one of you had better do as I say or suffer the consequences. This statement, and many more made by him on July 20, shows Corbin expects loyalty above all else – even if he does not deserve such loyalty (and he does not).
From this statement alone, it is clear that it is Corbin who should be standing before a disciplinary committee. If the members of the PNC have a loss of confidence in anyone, these words show that it should be Robert Corbin.
How dare Corbin think he can sweep democracy away in one wide stroke to serve his own purposes? That whole horse and pony show was nothing more than Corbin’s attempt at swaying those in attendance to his side so he could serve yet a little longer as the bungling leader of the PNC.
Mark my words; the PNC will not be any different in a year than they are today. A sad reality that might have been averted had Team Alexander been given the chance to speak its mind before Corbin poisoned the conference with his dark words.
If anything, the PNC – under Corbin’s ongoing leadership - will remain the pawn of the PPP or become even more subservient to the wishes of the ruling party. As such, nothing will change for the better in Guyana because the ruling government has no motivation to alter its modus operandi for the likes of Robert Corbin.
Is it any wonder why those who challenged Corbin’s leadership operated outside of party lines? It is quite clear that within the confines of party regulations, Corbin would not have allowed his leadership to be challenged. If the members of the PNC were to have a choice of candidates – as well they should have – it was only going to happen the way it did with Team Alexander.
Even through the route taken by the challengers, which was to let the nation know fully what was transpiring in the party, Corbin still had the audacity to damn democracy and demand obedience in front of the world.
It is not a strong leader who acts thus. If a leader cripples democracy, this leader is the weakest link in the entire system. Those who re-elected Corbin as the PNC party leader have just enfeebled Guyana’s entire democratic state.
Corbin should have been flatly rejected as a leader after the people heard the words, “democracy or not, no party interested in cohesion would tolerate the kind of indiscipline which was recently displayed.” The PNC members should have responded to Corbin, “To hell with cohesion, no party interested in democracy would tolerate a leader with so little regard for democracy.”
Corbin’s words continue to ring in my ears weeks after they were spoken. They are words that will no doubt bring much suffering and pain.