Corbin should step down, McAllister says
Stabroek News, December 7, 2008 @ 5:08 am In News | 22 Comments
– sees Murray as transitional leader
Former PNCR Executive James McAllister says Robert Corbin should step down as party leader, accusing him of abusing his authority to drive out challengers while presiding over a decline in fortunes.
 Robert Corbin
McAllister, who was ousted as a Member of Parliament (MP) last Wednesday, believes that current PNCR Chairman Winston Murray should be appointed as a transitional leader to reunite the party and bring new and exciting faces into the fold as it rebuilds to contest the next general elections.
On Friday, former PNCR Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander and members of a team that supported his candidacy for the PNCR leadership announced that they had withdrawn from the party, resigning from official appointments and allowing their membership to expire. Among their reasons for their decision was continued persecution against members who sought to challenge the leadership at last year’s congress and they cited treatment of McAllister who was suspended and recalled as an MP. Alexander also sounded a call for the party to look at fostering a new political culture in order to accommodate new ideas essential to its future.
In a telephone interview with Stabroek News, McAllister said there is “distrust and disenchantment” within the party as result of Corbin’s leadership. McAllister, who is currently overseas, said the party’s image has been severely damaged by Corbin’s disregard of party rules in pursuit of vendettas against him and others responsible for the aborted challenge for leadership. As a result, he said the party would have to convince the public that it can be trusted as it seeks to re-establish itself as a viable political force.
He predicted that the results would be “devastating” if Corbin attempted to run as presidential candidate or to anoint a surrogate at the next general elections, warning that the party could lose even more ground.
He has ruled out returning to the party under Corbin’s leadership.
McAllister blames Corbin for the party’s poor showing at the 2006 general elections, where it lost six seats. Prior to the elections, he explained, the party had seen polls that suggested that while the PPP/C would win the presidency at the general elections, it would not have gained a parliamentary majority, thereby necessitating a power-sharing arrangement among the parliamentary parties. The PNCR had been promoting power sharing as a governance model for Guyana. At the time, however, all the data available to the party showed that the results were contingent on Corbin not being the presidential candidate. In this regard, McAllister noted Corbin’s indication at the 2004 congress that the party leader need not necessarily be its presidential candidate and the later attempt to form a multi-party 1-Guyana platform. “It was not a genuine statement,” McAllister said, recalling that at the last moment Corbin named himself as the candidate. The result he said was that the PPP/C increased its margin of victory, while the party lost ground.
As a result, McAllister thinks a new culture needs to be inculcated among the political leadership. He noted that there is an attitude of unquestioning support for party leaders, with change only coming when they die or volunteer to give up power. “I expect a leader who recognises that he is detrimental to support would be willing to go his way,” he said. While saying it is a situation that obtains in both the small and large political parties, he noted that the difference is between parties that have no seats to lose and one that is watching its constituency whittle away.
To ensure that no one person is entrenched in office, McAllister said the Alexander campaign was in favour of setting term limits for the party leader. “So, I believe we should have a culture, where if a leader recognises that he is no longer beneficial to you, he will voluntarily step aside,” he added. Admitting that it is not a stance that the party has embraced in the past, he called it a point that the group hoped to reach.
But McAllister does not believe that the situation is irretrievable. He said he was offended by the notion that a party that commands over 40% of the electorate’s support could not find somebody to lead. “I want to reject the notion that the PNC cannot find somebody,” he said. “I see Winston Murray as the only person to act as a transitional leader who might be able to reunite the party and bring in new and exciting faces and to prepare the way for the 2011 elections.” He added that out of the process, a new leader could emerge.
McAllister faced eleven charges of misconduct for his activities during Team Alexander’s campaign as well as two secret charges for his conduct afterward. The party’s disciplinary committee found him guilty and recommended that his membership be suspended for one year and his recall as an MP.
He has charged that the committee was not comprised properly and included opponents at the congress. He said even before it became apparent that there would be a leadership challenge, Corbin had been trying to force the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) to put together a disciplinary committee. McAllister recalled that one of the discussions before the CEC centred on the criteria for prospective members of the disciplinary committee but Corbin was against it. “It sent a clear signal that he had no interest in a process that was fair and balanced,” he said. “Instead it is a political tool used against opponents and to keep the faint at heart in check.”
McAllister, however, was also surprised that Corbin has been allowed pursue what he maintains is still a vendetta against him and other persons who had a different view of the needs of the party. “I am surprised that some members of the committee allowed themselves to be used in this way.”
He described the charges against him as “utterly false” and refused to participate in what he deemed a charade. Although he received no documentation relating to the secret charges against him, he was informed that it was alleged that following last year’s congress he left the country without informing the party and that he also failed to account for party property. In response to the former claim, he said he has registered mail to prove that he alerted the party about his decision. He said he also sent e-mails and he remained in contact with the party whip.
On the other charge, he explained that after last year’s congress he received a letter from the party’s General Secretary informing him to hand over the PNCR’s Region 3 chairmanship. McAllister explained that the party’s constitution is clear that the CEC can only remove regional officials upon an investigation and he maintained that his removal was unlawful and ignored the correspondence. “If the CEC asked me for an audit of the things under my control – fine; but the minute that they broke into my office and into the cupboards, it was a coup d’état,” he said. McAllister said all the locks were changed.
He also expected to be recalled from the National Assembly but was surprised that it did not happen a year ago. McAllister served as an MP since 2001. He described the recall law as draconian and undemocratic, saying that it has undermined the democratic gains made in the parliament. He said flawed disciplinary proceedings were used as the basis for his recall, illustrating the legislation’s potential for political abuse. What is more, he said the PNCR’s support for the legislation has undermined its commitment to democratic principles and usurped any moral authority it had to question the PPP/C’s undermining of democracy.
McAllister says he is not angry about the situation, but he is extremely disappointed. He said that he joined the party in his early teens and worked for twenty years for the party. “There wasn’t a day that I got up that I didn’t have something to do concerning the party, therefore this situation is a tremendous disappointment,” he said. He was disappointed with members of the party whom he believed were capable of reining in Corbin’s excesses, saying that their decision to turn a blind eye to his actions would always be questioned.
Nevertheless, he said that he was prepared to deal with the fall out of the campaign. He did regret that the team did not start its operations sooner, pointing out that the congress was moved to an earlier date to head off the challenge. He said he did not regret the decision to go public with the campaign either, since any modern and democratic political party must be willing to allow its members to speak publicly about their positions.
He added that he always thought the party could have set the example for political parties in how it operated and thereby win the confidence of the people. “I always believed that we had the capacity, inclination and vision to transform the PNCR into a party − notwithstanding the allegations of its past actions − that was modern and transparent and could have won the trust of all Guyanese.”
Alexander and members of his team have already ruled out the establishment of a new political party and so too has McAllister, who says his experience has not affected his resolve to always stand by his principles in his future involvement in politics and the development of Guyana.
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