OPINION: Say what you may about the PNCR. It’s a more democratic Party than the PPP

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 May 2024, 19:36 by Writer

By Retired Rear Admiral Dr Gary Best 

Apart from the glimmer, glamour, and dancing imitations, not to mention the short skit showing disdain for the nation teachers’ struggle for better salaries and benefits, the PPP’s exceptionally long-overdue congress brought nothing new. Certainly, no real changes. What the PPP said were ‘changes’ is a camouflage for it remaining the same. In fact, it has raised serious issues within the Guyanese body politic, which may even touch on unconstitutionality, an important matter to which I’ll return to momentarily.

Say what you may about the PNCR., it’s a more democratic party than the PPP. Importantly, the way a government governs is directly related to its party’s political philosophy. If, the party’s political philosophy is democratic centralism/Marxism-Leninism, as is the PPP, its government will be for friends, families, and favourites to maintain domination and control. If, it’s political philosophy is social democracy, as is the PNCR, it’s government and governance will be participatory with outcomes/benefits for all Guyanese. Importantly also, the political philosophy of a government can be gleaned from its internal party elections.

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is expressed and retained through three decision making bodies. It’s highest level of decision making is its Congress – scheduled every two years; it’s second decision making level is its General Council – scheduled for meetings every quarter, and its third level of decision making is its Central Executive Committee (CEC) – scheduled for meetings at least once a month. These three levels of decision making in the PNCR represent embedded and entrenched democracy. Full points for the PNCR.

Further, the Leader of the PNCR is directly elected by all the delegates at the party’s congress, unlike the PPP, where its leader, called General Secretary, was indirectly elected by 35 delegates (its Centcom) at its congress and not by the 2,000+ or so delegates in attendance! What type of democracy is that? Importantly, the 15-member CEC of the PNCR is directly elected by all the delegates at the party’s congress. Unlike the PNCR’s Exco, the PPP’s 15-member Executive Committee was also indirectly elected by 35 delegates (its Centcom) at its congress. And not by the 2,000 +or so delegates in attendance. Again, what type of democracy is that? Clearly the PPP is afraid of direct elections for their leader and decision-making body.

For context, the PPP’s 2,000+ or so delegates elected 35 members to its Central Committee (Centcom). Supposedly its highest decision-making body. Like any race, the results were vertical, from first (1st) to thirty-fifth (35th). So far, so good. But Centcom is not the day-to-day decision-making body of the PPP. That is left to its Exco. As pointed out above Exco was indirectly elected by 35 delegates. Here is where PPP democracy fades rapidly. The 35 Centcom members then sat and voted for the 15 members of the PPP’s Exco.

Well, the announced results of the PPP’s Congress reflect a strange phenomenon that even social/behavioural psychologists would find difficulty to analyze. One would have thought that the first 15 of the directly elected 35 members would have been elected/selected to form the PPP’s Exco. Not at all! PPP’s democracy is different. Imagine candidates who were voted into 26th, 34th, 21st, 29th 16th by the 2,000+ or so delegates were then elected/selected by the 35-member Centcom to the PPP’s 15-member Exco. While candidates that came in 8th, 13th, 12th and 15th were not elected/selected. The PPP would have us believe that candidates within the first 15 would sit, as part of the 35-member Centcom, and vote against themselves. Most unlikely! So much for the 2,000+ or so delegates who voted to determine the order of the 35 Centcom members. What kind of democracy is that?

The PPP’s Congress reinforced its view that democracy ends at the casting of votes, instead of democracy beginning after the casting of votes. That’s why the PPP’s General Secretary was unapologetic to his comrades in deciding to retain democratic centralism, an ‘ism’ that’s connected to Marxism-Leninism and socialism that the PPP’s Congress purportedly removed from its constitution.

Secondly, the ‘C’ in the PPP must be addressed, particularly, how the PPP/C may well be a contradiction to the constitution. It is common knowledge, unless recently changed, that Civic members of the PPP are ineligible to be elected to its Centcom or Exco. Therefore, they hold no political power in the PPP. Yet they are eligible to hold political power in the PPP led government. Isn’t that a contradiction? It means they are selected and not elected. It is therefore the PPP that gives power to the Civic. Naturally, a serious concern arises as to authority. What kind of authority would such a PPP/C minister exercise? Are the Civic decision takers or decision makers? Is PPP/C a coalition as the PPP contends? Is the Civic a political Party? I think not. What is certain is that the APNU+AFC is a coalition of several political parties, not the PPP/C!

Even if I’m wrong and they are members of the PPP who can participate, why have a Prime Minister who is unelectable to the PPP’s Centcom and Exco, yet hold such high office? Why have a Prime Minister who is unelectable to the PPP’s Centcom and Exco with authority to act as President. Notably, Article 101(2) of the constitution provides thusly: “The Prime Minister shall be the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his executive functions and leader of the Government business in the National Assembly” How is a PPP Prime Minister executing these functions when he/she has no political authority in the PPP? That may well contradict the Guyana constitution.

Clearly, the ‘C’ in the PPP/C is there to capture talent otherwise difficult for the PPP to capture successfully, but without any political reward for that talent. Of course, those who serve as Civic do so with full knowledge of this type of political discrimination. If the PPP/C is really one unified political party, why discriminate against its own members? If not, it raises issues of legitimacy and accountability. It certainly makes the Civic look like decision takers. The PPP/C should follow the PNCR. All members of the PNCR are electable to any office in the PNCR structure.

Finally, the PPP’s Congress’ decision to retain democratic centralism (an ‘ism’ itself), while at the same time saying ‘isms’ such as Marxism-Leninism and socialism are no longer relevant to PPP is at best a ruse – a trick. It is certainly not the equivalent to a Board of Directors, as claimed. Democratic centralism is a communist/socialist political philosophy where power is centralized at the top and exercised/directed by one man. It is no different from the Marxism-Leninism and socialism that the PPP now spurns. And the General Secretary of the PPP is aware that many in his Party have called, over the years, for the abolishment of democratic centralism.

Lastly, the PPP inherited a market-based economy and philosophy from the PNC – since 1992 – which had transitioned Guyana’s economy along that footing beginning in 1987. The PPP wants us Guyanese to believe, on the eve of another general election, that after some 37 years it has now realized that it is no longer a Marxist-Leninist Party, underpinned by democratic centralism – which is practiced and executed through domination and control. Oh, no! Fool me once!

Is it PPP or PPP/C? We may never know. As for now, I see no real change in the PPP. I am obliged to repeat this opinion’s headline. Say what you may about the PNCR, it’s a more democratic Party than the PPP.

Retired Rear Admiral Gary Best is an executive member of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform.