Last Thursday, Mr. Joseph ‘Joe’ Harmon, Leader of the Opposition and Central Executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), officially launched his candidacy for Leader of the party. Whilst the PNCR has not begun the process of nominations for the various posts in its leadership at its upcoming Congress, scheduled to be held in December, this is a notably progressive step. It suggests Mr. Harmon and others, who will likely launch their candidacy before official nomination is closed, are confident they could be nominated by the members or are vying for such nomination.
The PNCR continues to set progressive standards in Guyana, reflecting an ever-evolving world and politics, which says much about democracy in the party, and the spirit of same amongst its members and supporters. It was the PNCR that revolutionised 21st Century Guyana party politics by moving in 2009 to elect a presidential candidate that opened opportunities for others who are not necessarily the Leader of the Party or in the party’s leadership.
Similar attainment by any other party electing a presidential candidate has not been seen. It is noted, however, in the 2020 Election the People’s Progressive Party/Civic copied having a former military officer in its top tiered leadership (Prime Minister Mark Phillips). The identification of Mr. Phillips in 2020 predated the 2015 election nonsense of Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo who, on the campaign trail, sought to drive fear into the minds of the electorate that the presence of military officers, notably, then presidential candidate Mr. David Granger and others in political leadership, would result in persons’ home being invaded. The demonisation, wickedness, and hypocrisy aside, it is said imitation is the best form of flattery.
At the launch, Mr. Harmon promised should he be elected Leader of the PNCR he would pursue financial resources for the party and create a party that is “inclusive.” Whilst the PNCR has within its ethos, including the Party’s Battle Song, a culture of inclusivity, that Mr. Harmon sought to make inclusion a political pitch suggests he recognised the grumblings of party members and supporters. It is no secret under the current leadership of Mr. Granger the paucity of inclusion is one of his major failings.
The PNCR, for the good of Guyana and its body politics, should return to the politics of inclusion not merely by uttering the word but through actions. It was the PNCR that gave Guyanese, across the diverse spectrum, a sense of belongingness to the country. Ethnic holidays became national pride, incorporated in legislation, policies, programmes and participation. The ethnic other did not have to fear that their religious practices, including marriage, would not be recognised and practiced as part of who we are as Guyanese.
Under the PNCR government the barriers of religion, gender and money to access education were toppled. It was the PNCR, through legislation, that guaranteed equality to young girls and boys having the same education under a co-education system that was free from nursery to university and devoid of a dominant religion. Children learned and were being moulded to appreciate each other for who they are. It was the beginning of forging a young nation, whose peoples evolved from diverse experiences and history, into learning to appreciate the necessity of peaceful co-existence as One People, One Nation, One Destiny.
Moulding Guyana into a cohesive society was and remains no easy feat, given the historical polity of ethnic division, mistrust and hatred. The fact that the PNCR sought to change this adverse history into a tolerant, inclusive society, and respecting each other says a lot about the party, its contributions to Guyana’s development, and its capacity to do more.
May Mr. Harmon and the other candidates, who are yet to officially launch, discuss the strength and future of the party and what they together can do to make Guyana a better place. Discuss ideas, not attack each other. Show Guyana and the world the PNCR at its best- a party with members and supporters who can spiritedly present their ideas absent of the intolerance for the contenders and their supporters. The Party’s constitution makes it possible for all the eligible to contest and may a thousand flowers and ideas bloom. The vanguard nature of the PNCR must survive.