Home Letters Time for new and younger leadership in PNC
Immediately after the five agonising and harrowing months when combative warfare was waged by members of APNU/AFC to remain in office through rigged elections, the former Minister of Public Health and Chairman of the People’s National Congress (PNC), Mrs Volda Lawrence was sidelined from the main decision-making process of the party. Throughout the five-month ordeal, Mrs Lawrence and a few other PNC members were at the forefront fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the votes were counted accurately and in a transparent manner. Most of the senior members of the party were missing in action. So for the leader of the party to exclude the party’s top executive is clearly a reflection of his infantile and silly behaviour. And to the surprise of many, not a single member of the 35-member PNC executive group had issued a public statement condemning his atrocious, vindictive and ruthless action. To add insult to injury, without any justified reason, the leader single-handedly excluded the PNC stalwart from Parliament and handpicked his surrogate to replace her. It was a horrible decision, which if not corrected urgently could lead to the demise of the party, which is in the throes of being fractured permanently.
The reason why no executive member condemned his action is precisely because most of them were afraid of reprisals from the leader who demanded total loyalty from the PNC executives. Loyalty to the party leader has been one of the founding principles of the party, but that was more than 60 years ago when the party was founded. Today the PNC has evolved and should make room for independent thinkers, but it has not. It is still the rule that those who had opposed the leader would face strong disciplinary action with the possibility of being expelled permanently from the party. This has and continues to be the carte-blanche or absolute power wielded by the leaders of the PNC over the decades. The executive must remain loyal to the leader or face the consequences. It is the leader’s way or the highway. In an earlier period, a similar treatment was meted out to Vanessa Kissoon and Sharma Solomon and like with Mrs Lawrence, who is the most popular leader of the PNC today, the executives remained silent. Such undemocratic and dictatorial approach is absurd, offensive and outdated and must change if the PNC is to win elections long after their leaders have expired.
Several members of the ten PNC groups in the Tri-State region have to follow the directive of the leader to tow the party line and pledged their loyalty to him, if not, they too will be shunned by the party and their respective groups in the diaspora. At the turn of the century, the PNC leadership established an umbrella organisation known as the North American Region (NAR) whose primary role is to make sure that its member PNC groups abide by the rules. NAR is supposed to be a neutral organisation which means that it should not support any one candidate for the leadership within the party, but it did so on several occasions. Its actions have led to major disagreements with several of its member groups in the New York diaspora to the extent that many of them have rescinded their membership from NAR and are operating independently. Today, NAR has become redundant and is a complete failure.
Contrary to the belief of many in the PNC, the party remains divided into two factions—the Volda Lawrence faction and the David Granger faction. To end the factions, the current leaders who are in their 70s must be prepared to pass the baton to a younger, enlightened, compassionate, selfless and talented leaders like Vanessa Kissoon, Sharma Solomon and Thandi McCallister and others with Mrs Volda Lawrence at the helm to challenge the Government on all issues. It is time for new and younger leadership in the PNC.
Dr Asquith Rose