Last Updated on Friday, 22 October 2021, 9:29 by Denis Chabrol
Prominent Attorney-at-Law, Roysdale Forde Thursday night came out with a ringing endorsement of Joseph Harmon for the leadership of their People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), saying there was no place for a tribal or divisive leader.
Mr. Harmon has also publicly accused the governing largely Indo-backed People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of discrimination against Afro-Guyanese.
In hailing incumbent leader David Granger’s “leadership, sacrifice and dedication” for increasing the opposition’s support from 114,000 votes in 2006 to 139,000 in 2011 and 218,000 in 2020, Mr. Forde said “the record shows that he moves the PNCR forward and we cannot afford to have a leader who will take us backward.”
Mr. Forde urged party faithful to vote for a leader who would be able to consolidate the gains made by the PNCR rather than engage in race-based division and tribalism. “Essential to consolidating the gains of the People’s National Congress Reform is recognising that the PNC is not a tribe . It is a political party in which all the citizens irrespective of race must know and feel that their interests are protected,” he said.
The lawmaker for the PNCR-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) stated that a leader that is perceived to be divisive could not advance the cause of the PNCR supporters and could not much more advance the cause and the interests of the people of Guyana as a whole.
“We must not use statements , we must not use euphemisms, we must not use the word ‘grassroots’ to mean a return or an acknowledgement that the People’s National Congress Reform is a Black people party. It is not a Black people party. It has not, it has never been and it must never be. A leader that is tribal , a leader that is tribalist cannot advance the cause of the people that support the People’s National Congress ,” he said.
According to Mr. Forde, Mr. Harmon has the capacity to be at the helm to defend and secure the interests of PNCR supporters without alienating supporters.
Mr. Forde’s comments about Black tribalism came days after Harmon’s main rival, veteran PNCR member Aubrey Norton found himself defending his stance in the face of perceptions that he was stridently pro-Afro Guyanese and could not be elected President of Guyana. “I don’t know why people see me as ethno-centric. I believe, unfortunately, when you are defending a right some people run down the road of saying you’re ethno-centric. Now, I believe I have the right to defend any ethnic group. At this point of time, I’m defending African Guyanese who are being discriminated against by the PPP. I’m defending Indigenous Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese who the PPP perceive to be APNU+AFC who are under attack including burning down one of their buildings and so I believe that one has to defend all those who are being done wrong. If you consider that to be ethno-centric, then you’re down the wrong path,” he has said on Politics 101 with David Hinds. Mr. Norton highlighted that when he had been a University of Guyana lecturer no member of any ethnic group had ever complained that he had discriminated against them. “There is not one incident, there is not one case for wherever I have been in government, be it in the Foreign Service, Ministry of the Presidency where I was cited for racism because I do not become involved in racism. I, however, am race-conscious and I believe all of us should be race-conscious,” he said. Mr. Norton is confident that he would be able to mobilise support from across all ethnicities.
Mr. Forde also said he considered the qualities of past leaders and they included a record of distinguished service to the PNCR, respect for authority and “none of them ever abandoned” the party. Over the years, Mr. Norton had found himself at odds with then PNCR Leader Desmond Hoyte and more recently with Mr. Granger.
Dr. Richard Vanwest Charles, who is also running for the PNCR’s leadership, had joined the Alliance For Change (AFC) in 2018, but later maneuvered himself back into the executive of the party that his late father-in-law , Forbes Burnham, founded.
Mr. Norton has recommended that the housing communities could structured, contracts awarded, establishment of all of the mechanisms of the Ethnic Relations Commission and electoral reform to “attenuate the race problem”.