President David Granger has charged the North American Region of the People’s National Congress Reform — the largest party in the governing coalition — to examine the past and future strategies for remaining in office, even as he pledged his firm commitment to the ideals of his party’s Founder Leader, Forbes Burnham.
“Whatever you will choose to discuss today and the weeks and months to come, I think there are several questions that you have to ask yourself as you look to the future. You have to ask yourself ‘how did the PNC gain office in 1964?’ Ask yourself ‘how did the PNC remain in office?’ and ‘what did it do during that period? Ask yourself ‘how the PNC regained office in 2015?’ and ask yourself ‘how would the PNC retain office after 2020?’
These are big questions. These are big questions. It’s not guess work. This is spade work. This calls for the work of all our members and our regions,” he said in an address to the 5th Biennial Conference of the PNCR’s North American Region (NAR) in Atlanta, Georgia.
The PNC secured power in 1964 through a coalition with The United Force (TUF) before that political arrangement had collapsed. Since then critics have long accused the PNC of retaining power through rigged elections until 1992. During the 1997 general elections, then-PPP presidential candidate, Janet Jagan had warned party-faithfuls in the Corentyne, Berbice, against splitting the vote.
Following Granger’s controversial unilateral appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), which are also part of the governing coalition, have vowed to remain vigilant against any electoral malpractices.
The WPA has gone as far as saying that it would pull out of the coalition if there are any electoral irregularities but ruled out teaming up with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
President Granger said “the most important decision” and “burning question” to be made is whether the PNC is a Burnhamite party and if he is a Burnhamite. He said at one time he was convinced that people only joined the PNC because Burnham died. “They boasted about it. They boasted about their resistance, objection and they tried to embrace something new. Some people actually opposed the use of the word ‘comrade’. Some people repudiated a lot of the ideas and ideals that Forbes Burnham introduced into our party. Some people tried to de-Burnhamise the PNC and you know what I’m talking about.”
Remarking that even within the last several years when he established the Berbice Educational Scholarship Trust, Burnham Book Trust and Burnham Research Institute, Granger said “some people decided to stand aside”. However, the Guyanese leader pledged to promote his party Founder Leader’s ideas that are relevant to what Guyana had became.
“I intend to protect and preserve and promote those ideals which I believe are still valid,” he said to applause.
After Burnham died in August 1985, the PNCR appeared to have undergone an ideological shift from socialism to a market-oriented economy under Desmond Hoyte who succeeded him as party leader and President until 1992. Years later, Hoyte had attracted a group of professionals and businessmen to join the Reform component of the party.
Burnham has been credited with leading Guyana into independence and republican status, developing and providing free education and healthcare, promoting multiculturalism, building high-quality housing, developing physical infrastructure, establishing a robust foreign policy, creating the Caribbean Community (Caricom), restoring political peace and reconciliation, and promoting local food production and consumption.
“My brothers and sisters, that is where I take my ideas from, my ideology from, and it’s good for you to know that. The PNC is not a fly-by-night party. The PNC is a party of historical depth and vision,” Granger said.
However, Burnham’s detractors said his administration was responsible for rigged elections, human rights abuses of critics and political opponents, violation of press freedom, economic collapse, and the banning or import restriction on basic food items.