The PNC is in trouble – there is barely an opposition party in Guyana today

The PPP and the PNC have much to distinguish them. This month, we will observe the 52nd anniversary of the closure of the Demerara-Berbice Railway system by Forbes Burnham and the PNC. As the PPP continues transforming Guyana with new highways and bridges across our mighty rivers, the President and VP are ratcheting up the talk of a new railway system in Guyana.
The PPP builds; the PNC dismantles and destroys.
Viable opposition parties are vital to sustaining a strong democracy. Despite the brutality of the dictatorship between 1968 and 1992, Cheddi Jagan and the PPP never allowed Forbes Burnham and the PNC to relax. They never gave up the fight for freedom and democracy, and to hold the Government accountable. But we need not go back so far. As Leader of the PPP and Opposition between 2015 and 2020, Bharat Jagdeo was a thorn in the flesh of the PNC. The PPP was in their face, in Parliament, and outside the communities. It is the reason that democracy permitted the people to end the PNC’s one-term Government before it caused even greater damage.
Opposition parties around the world have, in the 2015 to 2020 period in Guyana, an example of how opposition should function within a democracy. The PPP kept the fight in the face of the PNC even when that party tried to silence the PPP leaders with fake charges, and even when they took total control of GECOM. David Granger, the Leader of the PNC and APNU/AFC, was no match for Bharat Jagdeo. In the period 2015 to 2020, with the PNC in full control of the election machinery, the PPP won massive victories in two local government elections (2016 and 2018), a no-confidence motion in Parliament in December 2018, and a general election in 2020. Even the clumsy thieving attempt in 2020 and a judiciary that bent backward to accommodate could not save the PNC.
The PNC now becomes more dysfunctional every day since August 2020. The leader now thinks he has to manipulate the party elections to win. Senior members of his executive are on record expressing dismay about party elections being free and fair. Their nomination day last Monday occurred even without membership rolls validated. The membership roll for Congress is not likely to be available until just before Congress, and the missing CPU is a mystery still. The declared challengers to Norton could barely muster 13% of the nominations. It is a sad state for the PNC. Forbes Burnham has been disgraced by those who have taken over his party.
News broke out this weekend that a handful of small one-man, one-woman political parties, which together with the PNC and the WPA constituted a coalition named APNU, met and agreed to have an unannounced election, in which they dumped Aubrey Norton as their leader. The Leader of the PNC, Aubrey Norton, is or was the leader of APNU up to this past weekend. He claims he is still the leader because he did not convene any meeting and did not call any election.
The truth is that APNU was always the PNC. When the famous Cummingsburg Accord was signed with the AFC, that coalition also became the PNC. It was a convenience. Can anyone say who are the members of Keith Scott’s party or Jaipaul Sharma’s party? Who are the members of Halley Sarrabo’s party? As for GAP, can MP Henry state who are his members? As far as the WPA is concerned, they left a long time ago, but they need the PNC to continue to breathe. Someone in the PNC stated accurately that the PNC was APNU and that APNU was PNC.
The PNC have always tried figuring out how to present themselves to the public in some form of incarnation. The name change is for almost every election. It is easy to see why – they carry baggage that everyone knows, whether they live in Guyana or in the diaspora. They are the party that depends solely on rigging, whether it is national elections or internal elections. They are also a party that always neglects the people when they are in Government. In two distinct periods of government – 1964 to 1992 and 2015 to 2020 – they failed miserably. From 1964 to 1992, they stayed in Government through blatantly-rigged elections. In the 2020 elections, the rigging efforts were again blatant, but even more clumsy than rigged elections between 1964 and 1992.
With this kind of well-known history, one would have thought that, with all eyes on the PNC for its hurriedly-called Congress at the end of June, all energy would go to dispel the rigging albatross they carry around their necks. Instead, every action by the leader and his supporters reinforce the rigging DNA that remains totally intact and totally undiminished.
Monday was the close of nominations for leadership at the PNC Congress. Out of 218 groups that made nominations, Aubrey Norton gained nominations from 177 groups (81%). The combined others garnered a measly 19% of the nominations. This signalled two things: Norton appears to have the leadership struggle resolved, and in spite of all the machinations, 19% of the groups do not want him as their leader. With elections coming up in 2025, this is catastrophic.
Reflecting on the sad state of the PNC and the APNU fiasco, there is a kind of poetic karma in play. In late 1953, with Cheddi in jail, Burnham called an illegal PPP congress to take over leadership of the PPP. Seventy-one years later, a PNC leader is thrown out of APNU by a group that called an unauthorized meeting. The PNC cannot escape their past.