Would the PNCR Elect a new leader at their 2024 Congress?

Dear Editor,
When Aubrey Norton was elected PNCR Leader over Joseph Harmon in December 2021, and was subsequently elected as Opposition Leader in April 2022, there followed a marginalisation of key PNCR members like Basil Williams, Anna Ally, James Bond, Ronald Bulkan, Dr Van West-Charles, Simona Broomes, Carl Greenidge, Winston Jordan, Dr George Norton, and even David Granger. Has the old PNCR guard been discarded?
From an outsider’s viewpoint, that move was to quell any power struggle that would ensue. Notwithstanding, ruptures began to appear, and there have been periodic reports of a power struggle within the PNCR party. However, while such power struggles tend to vary in frequency and intensity, they are common occurrences among political parties.
What is not common is how power struggles are mediated and controlled. The failure of Aubrey Norton to convene a PNCR Congress by the end of 2023, on the pretext that the party had no funds for this purpose, has been disputed, as the Party was able to fund several of its Members’ (MPs) travel to a Washington Conference. Thus, suspicion over the convening of PNCR Congress continues to swirl.
Some names, including Roysdale Forde, SC; Annette Ferguson and Amanza Walton-Desir, have been floating around that they might challenge Norton for his top job as PNCR Leader. For purpose of this analysis, however, we will focus only on one candidate.
Amanza Walton-Desir has become a noted figure in the PNCR party, and she is well known among party members and supporters. She is smart, possesses elements of charisma, and is articulate. Some PPPC members had initially regarded her as an emerging political leader. Unfortunately, their perception of her rise began to whittle consequent to her utterances of derogatory remarks about Indians during a Politics 101 interview with Dr David Hinds.
Desir said: “Part of the political divide, on the PPP/C, have a base that if they [PPP] say this is going to happen…they believe that, because the burden of sorting things out for themselves is too great, and so they remained trapped. All the while, believing that they are free to think and self-determine, they do not have the right of self-determination, because true freedom requires work. It is okay for me to remain in bondage because someone is responsible for me…you have a bunch of mentally lazy people.” (In the local media on 11/29/21)
Dr. Swetha Parthinand (11/29/21) slammed her for making those ugly remarks, noting that she is not qualified to speak on Indian psychology; while the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) described her remarks as “racially insensitive and offensive” (5/3/21) and referred the matter to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). Guyana’s Attorney General, Hon Anil Nandlall, noted: “Her utterances are downright racist, discriminatory, and absolutely repulsive. Utterances like those have no place in any modern, democratic and civilized society.” (Guyana Times: 5/2/21).
Despite these condemnations, Dr David Hinds did not see anything repulsive about Ms. Desir’s remarks, and sought instead to invoke false equivalence to absolve her behaviour. Dr David Hinds insisted: “I stand in solidarity with her…I say emphatically that the offending statement is neither offensive nor racist.” (5/4/21). Really?!
But former President Hon Sam Hinds provided some insights into Dr Hinds’s subtle application of the race card.
Referring to the bauxite industry, Dr Hinds stated: “The continued subsidizing of the sugar industry in the form of massive bailouts has directly benefited the mainly Indian Guyanese community. The PPP never did the same for sectors heavily populated by African Guyanese. In fact, it sought to remove the electricity subsidy from Linden.” (10/6/2016).
Hon Sam Hinds called out Dr Hinds for making incorrect and race-based arguments, and listed the various measures taken by the PPPC Government to save the bauxite industry, including the annual Gy$3 billion electricity subsidies. The annual per capita subsidy per bauxite worker is more than twice (2.56 times) that for the annual per capita subsidy per sugar worker.
Because Desir has refused to apologize for making those derogatory remarks, and because she believes that these would evaporate with time, she does not think that this would hurt her political career. Well, a new allegation has arisen which could force her to rethink her position. At her 2024 Budget debate, she was accused of another subliminal attack on PPPC supporters (sugar workers). She claimed that the PPPC can readily find billions of dollars to subsidize sugar workers, but could not find funds to award teachers a better wage and benefits’ package. A top PPPC operative says that Ms. Desir has shown no concern for the plight of the 7,000 sugar workers (most of whom are Indo-Guyanese) who were dismissed, but has expressed unconditional love for the teachers.
When these subtle race-based comments are combined with her fuzzy math, it is not clear if the PNCR party would regard Ms. Amanza Walton-Desir as a viable candidate, since they must consider whether those allegations might hurt their prospects at getting crossover votes. For the PNCR to have a fair chance of winning the next elections (2025), they must elect a leader who could muster crossover votes as they did in 2015. The PPPC won the 2020 elections by a narrow margin… (The PPPC got 50.69% vs APNU+AFC’s 47.34%, and the other parties got 1.97% of total valid votes).
My sense is that future elections would be competitive. My prediction -based on ongoing reports and anecdotal evidence – is that Aubrey Norton would return as Leader and would consolidate his position.

Dr Tara Singh