Legacy Editorial -Stabroeknews - Sunday, December 29, 2002

There can be no doubt that the late Mr Hoyte stood out for his ability to take accurate compass readings of the future at critical points in his political career.

He demonstrated this in the years following 1985 when he altered economic course and opened up the society, and most famously in 1992, when he carried the PNC into a free and fair election. Sometimes, significant elements in his party did not agree with his shifts in direction, although with the wisdom of hindsight posterity will undoubtedly judge him - if it has not already judged him - as having read the winds of political change correctly.

It is his actions in 1992 which the majority of commentators have seized upon as his greatest legacy to the nation. However, there is another which potentially could be greater, always providing that the party which he led for seventeen years elects to follow the course he mapped in a consistent way. At the last PNCR Congress he told the delegates that an adjusted system of governance, " - whether we call it 'power-sharing', 'shared governance', 'inclusive governance' or any other name - appears to be an idea whose time has come."

He went on to say that the PNCR "should not shy away from examining possible modalities for a transformed system of governance that meets the needs of our peculiar situation; nor should we be diffident, as a Party, about putting forward proposals as part of any national debate on this subject." In fact, in response to an invitation by the Social Partners, the PNCR did set up a committee which shortly before Mr Hoyte's death submitted what its chairman, Mr James McAllister, called a "discussion paper" on this very subject.

Implicit in the late leader's statements is the first recognition (at least publicly) by either of the two major parties that voting patterns are ethnically determined, and that given the ethnic arithmetic, the PNCR cannot be voted into office in the immediate term. (It must be noted, however, that Mr Hoyte said explicity it was not fated to be out of government for ever.)

Implicit too in his speech is the recognition that the political yearnings of the African population have to be given expression within a constitutional framework; there are simply no other alternatives. Perhaps it is fitting that it was Mr Hoyte, who after all saw the party through the vagaries of changing times, and not some subsequent leader, who looked the problem in the eye and advised the exploration of the only avenue available in "our peculiar situation."

It is true that he had not always favoured a 'shared governance' approach. During the constitutional reform process, he had expressed his reservations about it saying he did not know what the term meant, and pointing out, among other things, the danger of having no opposition in a democratic system. He was not wrong about the last-mentioned, and Mr McAllister's committee paid the issue due attention. However, as Mr Hoyte apparently concluded in the last year of his life, the fact that there will be problems in implementing a concept, should not preclude an investigation of its possibilities.

At the last Congress Mr Hoyte bequeathed something else to his supporters: a vision for re-invigorating the party. He proposed the establishment of a supportive organization in the PNCR for "mobilising... resources for training, education and fostering entrepreneurship, especially among young people, and for benevolent work in local communities." He conceded that party organization and work had experienced "some drift," and that this needed to be rectified. The party, he told his audience, was not just an instrument for periodic elections, but was intended to be "mobilised on a permanent basis for community and national development."

Apart from the obvious wisdom inherent in this approach, it might be observed that if the PNCR follows his suggested lead, then above all else they will need to be able to carry their supporters with them. The next leader, whoever he may be, will need well-oiled, functioning party machinery which will allow for educating constituents on the aims of the party, and how it is these aims are expected to be achieved. It will be necessary to persuade them that there are no quick fixes, that the route to shared governance will be a long and hard one, and that violent street protests will be inimical to the new campaign the PNCR is waging.

This phase in the PNC's history requires patience, persistence and above all else, the force of reason. In fact, Mr Hoyte himself had referred to the need to strengthen "grass roots" structures, and intensify training and public relations techniques.
If the approach which Mr Hoyte adumbrated is followed through in a systematic way, it will fundamentally change the character of the pitch on which the political game is played in this country. It will also put the governing party under pressure to respond in a meaningful way. Persuading them to do so will not be easy, since flexibility has never been one of their predominant characteristics.

However, if the PNCR is consistent in its advocacy, and if, as Mr Hoyte proposed, it places before the nation coherent programmes and policies, and establishes "modalities and mechanisms for identifying the major areas for national consensus-building and for deriving agreed broad-based policy positions," the PPP/C might discover itself sidelined in a strange way, and at the very least will find it virtually impossible to adhere to a line of no compromise.

Mr Hoyte left the blueprint; the issue is one of whether the party and its new leader can rise to the challenge of his vision. "Changed times require changed responses," he told the PNCR members in August. Hopefully, he was not too far ahead of them.