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The PNC at sixty (Part 5) -a president and protests

 By  October 13, 2017  stabroek news

Was on a brief overseas vacation so I missed all the Georgetown celebratory activities marking the 60th anniversary of the People’s National Congress (PNC) last weekend.

But political ironies and coincidences can abound. And frequently do. If the PNC was celebrating its glorious sixtieth anniversary on October 5th the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – PNC’s political rival and nemesis – was gleefully, ruefully observing that very date (October 5th) when they wrested power from Desmond Hoyte’s PNC in 1992 ending twenty-eight years of PNC reign, domination and control over our Big Beautiful but Blighted Republic.

However today I conclude my own personalized review and remarks relevant to what I both perceived and knew about the only political entity of which I was once a paid-up member for a while, beginning in 1973.

Nineteen-seventy-three meant that PNC “Founder-Leader” Forbes Burnham had already dumped the United Force (in 1968) his rightist political “coalition” partner of convenience. It was a virtual decade after the PNC’s arrival in government (1964) and the Maximum Leader/Prime Minister was solidifying his hold on the nation. The Party had welcomed both Independence (1966) and Republican status (1970)

Elections were held on Monday, 16th July 1973. The PNC outdid itself at the polls vanquishing the PPP – 243,803 votes to 92,374 votes. Frankly speaking, the Party seemed to have created the technique of “electoral engineering.” For better or for worse, my own convenient morality – as a new 1973 PNC member – regarded the PNC’s elections maneuvering as an appropriate counter to the other side’s racial voting and majority ethnic bias. (Poor me, in those days.)

Strangely, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) did little or nothing to condemn the PNC’s elections. After all Burnham was an architect of both CARIFTA and CARICOM. No wonder Cheddi Jagan thought little of CARICOM. But PNC Leader LFS Burnham had quickly become something of a visionary statesman, hand-in-hand with his burgeoning autocratic tendencies. A competent Cabinet of Ministers moved the country forward during the Third Parliament under Burnham’s PNC Administration. This era featured names like Reid, Hoyte, Ramsaroop, Green, Jack, Hope, Ramphal, King, Naraine, Field-Ridley, Carrington, Clarke, Duncan, Nascimento among others. But Burnham delayed the next General Elections because he and the PNC had a Master Plan.

From an organised referendum (July 1978) to a Constituent Assembly a new Constitution was born and passed in the National Assembly on Valentine’s Day 1980. Forbes Burnham became Guyana’s first Executive President. The man’s political mind was phenomenal. The PNC became a paramount institution. Even though it never had the people’s paramount majority support!

(On a personal note I feel like mentioning that LFS stopped me and a small group of trained teachers from proceeding to Kenneth Kaunda’s Zambia. Quite correctly and justifiably. Also, I was selected to coordinate the PNC’s Public Relations for the General Election campaigns of 1980, 1985 and 1992).

 

Desmond Hoyte’s PNC

These personal random notes cannot ever do justice to the development and transitions of the PNC. So now, a brief passage on Hugh Desmond Hoyte.

To me, frankly speaking, Mr. Hoyte was a reluctant “comrade” and politician. A defence attorney who represented PNC accused during and after the race riots of ’62 to ’64, he was artfully persuaded into PNC politics by Leader Forbes. It was also a Party political bombshell when Burnham catapulted Hoyte to Prime Minister over popular Party strong-man Hamilton Green. (One source said that Burnham wanted the technocrat Hoyte to marshal his ministers whilst Hammie was to keep the party “intact.” To me Forbes was also keeping a tactical eye on Hammie’s popularity and base. Hammie, are you reading this?)

So Hoyte became President on the passing of Burnham in 1985. The PNC won the elections of December 1985, Hoyte’s victory was “rampant”, 54 seats to 11 (others). But Guyana’s economy was in shambles. Thousands of the country’s finer minds had migrated or were fleeing to greener pastures. Banned consumer items gave rise to a flourishing type of vendor-import trading and various parallel markets. President and PNC Leader Hoyte was forced into fashioning an Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) even as he eased up on “Socialism”, reintroduced Press Freedom and tried to find a new image for his Party.

The first George Bush, American president, Britain and Canada insisted on free and fair elections through America’s most successful ex-president, Jimmy Carter. To his eternal credit Hoyte succumbed and his Party had to lose the Elections of October 1992. The PNC’S 28 year rule ended.

More analytical, hopefully non-PNC minds will attend to a full objective history of the PNC sometime in the future. Right?

 

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Trump, protests, guns…

American President Donald Trump has to go down as one of his country’s most colourful Commanders-in Chief. His current Housing Secretary, the famed Dr. Ben Carson once described him as “a playboy millionaire.” Mr. Trump is a kind of Republican Rebel, essentially a business-minded mogul and dealmaker. I doubt whether he can ever sustain a presidential persona.

Amongst his varied internal challenges, he is now aggressive against those who protest against injustices by not standing for the American anthem, and disrespecting the American flag. His Vice President just protested against football protestors by walking out of a game when they kneeled instead of standing for the anthem.

Anti-Trump critics say that the protestors’ actions are protected by their Constitution as the Supreme Court ruled – in June 1990 – that even burning the American flag was an example of constitutionally protected free-speech. Furthermore, others argue, that Poor Donald is not morally empowered to preach patriotism as he avoided the Draft (army service) five times! Wow!

Please ponder…

1) American First Lady Melania Trump is a relatively recent immigrant to the U.S. She is probably uncomfortable when her husband speaks about immigrants and refugees.

And Michelle Obama could have complained: “an immigrant is taking my job.”

2)  I suspect that PNC Historian-Leader Granger will one day write a complete history of the Party. And a Biography of LFS Burnham.

3)  What does PNCR-1G mean?

4)  Do you know one-man band Stitchie’s medley – Ruckatucks? I heard the other day all the way in Manhattan, N.Y. USA!

Til next week!

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