ADDRESS TO THE PNCR NORTH AMERICAN REGIONAL CONFERENCE BY MR. ROBERT H. O. CORBIN, M.P. LEADER OF THE PEOPLE'S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM CATHERINE MCAULEY HIGH SCHOOL BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, USA JULY 8TH, 2005



THEME: “Revisiting the vision of one people and a nation with the same destiny”

SALUTATIONS

CHAIRPERSON, STEERING COMMITTEE OF NAR, EXCELLENCIES, SPECIAL INVITEES, FRIENDS, E.T.C.



GREETINGS AND CONGRATULATIONS

I wish to extend sincere greetings to all of you on behalf of the Central Executive Committee and, indeed, all the members of the Peoples National Congress Reform, the Party founded by the late, great, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, continued by the late Hugh Desmond Hoyte and now organized and run by the younger generation who are committed to fulfilling the vision of a prosperous Guyana under the banner of One people, One Nation One Destiny.

We first need to thank the Almighty God that, despite the difficulties with which the world is faced, the tragic natural and human disasters currently being experienced, he has spared our lives and enabled us to overcome all difficulties to be here.

Let me immediately congratulate the organizers of this Conference who have done a remarkable job in making a reality of this project. When the overseas delegates met at Congress Place, our party Headquarters, shortly after the conclusion of the 14th Biennial Congress in August last, I was pessimistic whether in the midst of the busy schedules of our supporters overseas, the Committee that was established would have been able to organize all the groups to meet at a single venue in North America. In the noble tradition of our Party, however, they have made a reality of the Slogan of our former Guyana National Service:


“What the mind of man can conceive and believe he could achieve.”

They deserve our congratulations!


I wish to bid a special welcome and sincerely thank our special invitees, who have considered it worthwhile to share this opening session with us. I hope that you will leave here convinced that you can play an even more direct role in the future of Guyana. Be assured I have brought with me sufficient membership application forms for all of you.


We need to also congratulate and thank all the representatives of our overseas Party groups who have traveled from all over North America at great expense to be here. You have demonstrated your commitment to our Party and your continued interest in the future development of our green and great land of Guyana, the land of your birth. I salute your presence and assure you of our deep gratitude for your moral and material support to our Party over the years. More particularly, I wish to express sincere thanks for all your assistance to Guyana during our recent flood disaster. You have inspired us to continue the struggle for peace, development and justice. Your participation in this Conference is important to us and I hope that you not only share your knowledge and ideas over the next two days, but also commit yourselves to work with us in building the platform for peace, national cohesion and reconstruction of our country.


SIGNIFICANCE OF NORTH AMERICAN CONFERENCE


This Conference is of special importance to our Party and country. This is so not only because thousands of patriotic Guyanese find themselves overseas for various good and valid reasons, but because the PNCR recognizes that we need all hands on the deck of the MV Guyana, if we are to sail from the stormy seas of economic stagnation, insecurity, rising crime and hopelessness to the port of Economic prosperity, where all Guyanese will feel proud of being Guyanese. Proud, not out of nostalgia, but because the new Guyana offers all, irrespective of race, religion culture or class, an opportunity to live and develop their fullest potential in the land of their birth.

This conference is also important because we believe that all Guyanese, irrespective of where they live, have an equal stake in the country of their birth and must be given an opportunity to contribute to the plans for its development. This conference is important because in a few months time the people of Guyana will have to make some important choices about the future. We will have to determine whether we are satisfied with the direction in which Guyana is going at the present time or whether we want to change it.

Thirteen years ago in 1992 Guyanese had such a choice to make. Many at that time shouted that they needed a change and under the slogans, “time for a change” and “return to democracy”, the present PPP administration entered the Halls of Government in Guyana. Today, thirteen years later, we have to evaluate if that change was for the better or worse and, depending upon the answer, decide on the appropriate action that should be taken. I would, however, leave that determination to you after you have heard my address today, which will be brief and focused on our vision for the future, the address tomorrow by the Chairman of the Party, Mr. Winston Murray, C.C.H., M.P. and the extensive discussions anticipated in the workshops tomorrow.

I therefore look forward to a successful conference and hope that we use the time here constructively.



CONSTITUTIONALITY

Let me at this early stage clarify the constitutionality of this conference, having regard to queries, which some groups have made. Rule 11 of the Party Constitution deals with, “The Party Organisation: Regions and Sub-Divisions”. Rule 11. (3) (a) & (b) reads as follows:


“(a) The Central Executive Committee may authorize the establishment of Party regions outside of Guyana.

(b) Where a Party Region is located outside of Guyana, it shall have power to draft rules for regulating its organization and procedures subject to their ratification by the Central Executive Committee.”


I wish to report that at its statutory Meeting held on Wednesday July 6th the CEC approved the Establishment of a North American Region. It is not the first overseas region as we have had a UK Region for over three decades. I welcome North America to the fold.


CONFERENCE THEME IS RELEVANT

It is noteworthy that you have chosen as your Conference theme, “Revisiting the vision of One People and a nation with the same destiny”. The theme is most relevant coming as it does after our last Biennial Congress, which was held under the theme, “Building a Platform for Peace National Cohesion and Reconstruction”. At that congress we not only analysed the nature of the impediments to progress, but also the various approaches to be used in guaranteeing development and achieving peace, national cohesion and reconstruction in Guyana.

We recognized that a major obstacle to reconstructing our nation’s economy is the lack of cohesion in our society; the lack of cohesion of spirit, of will, of purpose, and of effort. The net effect over the decades has been that our human resources are underutilized and working at cross-purposes. No country today can hope to prosper under these circumstances. It is only by tapping to the fullest, the physical, intellectual and creative skills of all our citizens in a shared vision that we can hope to realize our vast potential. There is simply no other route to development. Consequently, it is important for the conference to consider why national cohesion has eluded us. I suggest that one reason is that our political system and culture have conditioned too many to exploit the differences and distinctions among us for partisan political gain. Even as I speak there are new developments in Guyana, all motivated by the same old reasons and which will certainly have the same result.

We in the PNCR are, however, convinced that Guyana has nowhere to go and has no realistic chance of revitalization without peace and reconciliation. A peace that is based on justice and the recognition that the rights and aspirations of all Guyanese, whatever their ethnic or racial origins and whatever their social backgrounds and religious beliefs. These rights and aspirations must be respected, protected and enforced since they are the foundations of a stable society. The need to revisiting the vision of One People and a nation with the same destiny could not be more relevant.


THE HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE PNCR QUALIFIES IT FOR THE MISSION TO SAVE GUYANA

Many in Guyana today are seeking to rewrite history and it is sometimes necessary to remind ourselves where we came from, if only to reinforce confidence in our capacity to overcome the tremendous obstacles that we now face. A Nation that knows not its history is bound to make the same mistakes again. There are some in Guyana and elsewhere who write and speak as if Guyana only came into existence twenty-eight years ago and for our young people who have no point of reference the true picture of Guyana over the years is distorted. Many forget that Guyana was once a slave colony with years of British colonial exploitation and all its adverse effects; that in the long struggle for Independence there were other Governments before 1964 in Guyana; that at the time of Independence there was barely a mile of paved roads in the whole of Guyana; that Guyana was bankrupt in 1964 after seven years of corruption; and, that there was racial strife, if not warfare, caused among other reasons by the desire of some to transform Guyana into a Soviet styled Communist State. So while I emphasise that it is necessary to close the pages of the past and concentrate on the glorious future we must not forget.

We must always remember that this is a party with a rich and proud history; that led Guyana out of colonialism to political independence; that reshaped our Economy and placed it on the road to economic progress; but, more particularly, led the way in the psychological transformation of Guyanese, giving them confidence to think independently; that helped Guyanese to have confidence in themselves and to believe that they had the capacity to undertake the Herculean task of making Guyana a modern, developed and independent state.

This is the same Party, which, as part of the original PPP, entered Government in 1953 with a landslide victory; that, after the suspension of the Guyana Constitution by the British, broke ranks with the then PPP and in 1955 became the Burnhamite PPP with JP Latchmansingh as its first Chairman and Eugene Corriea as its treasurer; that had stalwarts throughout its history committed to the cause of Guyana. Stalwarts such as Jane Phillips Gay, Winifred Gaskin, John Carter, Ptolemy Alexander Reid, all deceased and some such as Margaret Ackman, Hulda (Precious) Walcott, and Cammie Ramsaroop who are still with us today.

And for the record, this is the same Party, when in Government, though many claim it did nothing in twenty eight years, that was responsible for most of the major agricultural infrastructure in Guyana today such as the MMA, Black Bush Polder extension and the Tapacuma Irrigation schemes; that is responsible for building the entire coastal road network in Guyana from Essequibo to Corentyne; that is responsible for several of the Educational Institutions such as the six multilateral schools spread across Guyana, the Technical Institutes in both Georgetown and New Amsterdam; that in responsible for several other landmarks in Guyana such as the Cultural Centre, the Canje Bridge, the Demerara Harbour Bridge; that is responsible for establishing Guyana’s social security system, the National Insurance Scheme; that is responsible for fostering and promoting cultural development through activities such as Guyfesta; that is responsible for recognizing religions in Guyana and making their holy days as national holidays; that developed and promoted the Guyana National Service to train and prepare our youth to face the challenges of a newly emerging nation; that is responsible for free Education from Nursery to University that made it possible for many children of the poor to develop their potential.

Today, when I read or hear some of those beneficiaries writing and speaking as though their development and personal achievements were by divine miracle; when I hear some of them distort the contribution of one of Guyana’s great, if not the greatest, visionaries, Forbes Burnham, his successor Desmond Hoyte and the PNC, I lament and beg that fate will not judge them too unkindly.

I can continue listing many other achievements over the 28 years, but my real purpose is not to respond to those blind critics. I wish to emphasise that with the mammoth task before us to rebuild and reshape Guyana, the PNCR has the appropriate credentials, CV, experience and capacity to lead the mission for a new, modern and developed Guyana. AND we are not alone. We continue to reach out boldly to others with capacity as we have done throughout the years of our existence. If there is anything I should really boast about, it is that the PNCR is the only Party that has demonstrated its willingness and readiness to work with all Guyanese, irrespective of their past political affiliation and views, once they share our vision for a better Guyana. It would take too long to give examples.

GUYANA TODAY: A TROUBLED LAND

Guyana today remains a land of great potential, but one that somehow is never able to realize it. I propose, however, to share the PNCR’s vision of the future rather than spend much time on its problems. This is not because the problems are unimportant, quite the contrary, but it is necessary to understand their root causes if solutions are to be found. I have already spoken about them on numerous visits to this Region and, in any event, all you have to do is to read our daily newspapers on-line.

Our economy is still in crisis, with relative little investment and minimal economic growth. This remains the case despite the huge debt write offs that Guyana has recently benefited from. Mismanagement, lack of accountability and corruption have reached unbelievable levels, with crime, particularly the drug trade, reaching alarming proportions. The unprecedented levels of unemployment, HIV / AIDS, the rising cost of living occasioned by outrageous electricity bills, high water rates, etc. have all had their impact on the rising levels of poverty and the decline in standards of living. It is sufficient to state that Guyana is in urgent need of a comprehensive recovery programme to survive and make it a modern twenty first century state. I will leave the analysis of these conditions and details of the PNCR programme to the Party Chairman who, in his address tomorrow, will deal with some of these matters. The PNCR believes that the way forward must rest in setting a clear, shared vision for the future with an appropriate system of Governance.



THE WAY FORWARD:

On March 31, 2004, in an Address to the Nation, I stated,

“I address you and share some of my views and those of my Party on the way forward.

I sincerely believe that, irrespective of our race, religion or social class, we all yearn for a society, in which we can live together in peace and harmony, eschewing racial prejudices and conflicts; where we have a strong and sustainable economy that encourages wealth-creating processes, develops the skills of our youth and works to the benefit of all, justly distributing the rewards of success; where the system of governance guarantees equal opportunity for all our citizens to improve the quality of their lives; where jobs, job opportunities and services can be available to all without discrimination or corruption; where all forms of corruption, entrenched privilege and inequity are eliminated; where crime would be minimal; and, where our environment facilitates peaceful and harmonious living.

In simple language, we want peace and a reasonable quality of life; we want to be treated fairly and justly; we want our children to have equal access to all opportunities for advancement; we all want to participate in controlling our own destiny; we want to know that we can live without fear of criminals invading our homes and robbing us of hard earned property; we want to be free of all forms of violence whether racially or criminally inspired; and, most of all, particularly our youth, we want to know that they can have a future in Guyana and not elsewhere.

The question we all face is, how do we work together to achieve this?

Regrettably, after nearly twelve years, of simmering conflict, confrontation, division, corruption and mismanagement, our dear, great and green land of Guyana has become a bloody, fearful, poverty-stricken and lawless land.