In a move that would have embarrassed the party, a section of the PNCR’s Linden faction staged a protest at Congress Place yesterday during the opening ceremony of the party’s 28th Biennial Congress
Among the motives for the protest was the non-accreditation of several Lindeners as delegates and the perceived unconstitutional manner in which the party’s upper echelon is handling the Vanessa Kissoon-Oscar Clarke altercation. Kissoon was suspended by the PNCR Leader David Granger over the matter but she has since said that this was ultra vires the party’s constitution.
The opening ceremony was well underway when about fifty persons, decked out in red and black and white and black combinations, congregated at a barricade set up in the compound of the party headquarters. Though she was not situated in a prominent position amongst the demonstrators, Kissoon, Member of Parliament (MP) representing Linden, was noted in their midst.
Several minutes later they began chanting criticisms at the way the People’s National Congress Reform’s (PNCR’s) decision makers
were going about the party’s business. They held placards depicting past party leaders and were heard shouting that issues were dealt with differently under past leaders, particularly the party’s founder, Forbes Burnham.
Security officials who were posted at the barricade were seen trying to dissuade the demonstrators from protesting but they would have none of it. Attempts were also made to prevent them from moving beyond the barricade but these efforts were feeble as security officials seemed keen on not provoking a conflict.
“As you were,” one demonstrator yelled as he organized the group into two lines in preparation for a march to the hall where the Congress programme was in session. As the group approached the hall several persons exited and mused at was taking place. One woman was heard saying “they should be shame fuh do duh,” while another exclaimed, “eh eh, ah wuh dis.”
But the procession did not remain outside. With placards raised high the protestors entered the hall as a cultural item was underway. Heads turned and puzzled looks were exchanged as those who were seated in the hall looked on at their fellow’s party members’ protest. The procession moved up the main walkway undisturbed and the demonstrators took their seats eventually. The programme went on as if the demonstration never occurred.
A rift has emerged between the party and its Linden arm over the last few weeks. The PNCR’s Linden committee is unsatisfied with the way the party’s leaders are dealing with the Kissoon-Clarke dispute. They also perceive attempts to disenfranchise some Linden PNCR members from delegate status at the Congress. During a press briefing on Tuesday, the Linden committee told reporters that Congress Place is refusing to accredit some thirty persons who reportedly qualify for such.
On Thursday night, Member of the Central Executive Council of the party Sharma Solomon wrote Granger on behalf of Region 10 listing various concerns and calling for an emergency meeting to settle them. It is unclear if any such meeting was held yesterday.
Solomon, also the Chairman of Region 10, had said that Region 10 delegates were still to be duly accredited and members were still awaiting their membership cards. He noted that according to Rule 8. (4) “Possession of a valid and current Membership Card shall be prima facie proof of membership of the party.”
Further, Solomon said that he was in receipt of a letter dated 14th July, 2014 advising him that “only persons with both 2012/13 and 2013/14 membership would be eligible delegates at the upcoming 18th Biennial Con-gress.” Solomon charged that this advice was contrary to Rule 15 (2) (a) Each Group shall be entitled to send to Congress one(1) delegate for each ten(10) financial members.
Solomon added that Region 10 has 11 groups and over nine hundred and fifty 950 members. Therefore, based on Rule 15 (2) , Solomon said that the region should be allotted no less than 96 delegates rather than the 60 apportioned. Solomon added that Congress Place informed him that Region 10 had four additional groups. “As a leader in this region I am unaware of these groups, their members and leaders and would like to be provided with the information”, Solomon asserted. Solomon also complained that as a member of the Accreditation Committee, his position was that the work of the committee leaves much to be desired and the opportunity to establish the credibility of the membership roll and entitled delegates was not honoured, given that the committee has not met despite several efforts by committee members.
“The logistics in running the elections, along with members (having) their membership cards are key to ensuring the integrity of the process”, Solomon added, raising again the spectre of concerns about the fairness of internal PNCR elections.
Solomon, who is also contesting for leadership of the PNCR said in the letter “Mr. Granger, this party is presently under your leadership and we cannot afford to project an image the party does not practise transparency, accountability and is incapable of running a credible election, and leaders are foisted on the people and not elected by people. It is with disappointment that the Central Executive meeting that was scheduled for (Thursday) night was cancelled. This meeting would have been critical for the party leadership to discuss the congress and evaluate the plans thus far. As a matter of urgency the request made to have the Accreditation Committee meet before the start of congress to address these outstanding matters would (be) most welcomed. I am ready and prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the integrity and interest of the party is protected and looking forward to a fruitful congress consistent with the Party Rules.”
Meanwhile contender for the PNCR leadership, Aubrey Norton told reporters that up to yesterday he was still sorting our membership issues with Clarke, the PNCR’s General Secretary (GS). “We have a number of people that are entitled to membership and when they arrived they are told that they don’t have membership.” He also complained that some of his supporters are being abused by the supporters of current leader Granger.
Supporters of Carl Greenidge faced similar abuse when he challenged Granger two years ago, Norton said. Norton, who has been a PNCR member since 1972, said though, that he will not back down. With regard to membership he said that he will meet with Clarke today to iron out the existing issues at the three-day congress. And, Clarke has promised to listen to Norton’s claims and deal with them accordingly.
The GS says that he submitted a list of names to the PNCR’s Linden outfit informing it of several names that were disqualified for various reasons. He said that Norton resubmitted several names late yesterday afternoon and that he did not have much of a chance to peruse the list, although he said that from the little he has seen he noticed seven of the names resubmitted still do not qualify.
He nevertheless pro-mised that the matter will be resolved before voting tomorrow. Asked what he thought of Kissoon’s, presence at the Congress, the GS said he did not even shake her hand when she offered it as she, in his opinion, was there illegitimately.
Meanwhile, former PNCR leader Robert Corbin says he is inclined to accept the Central Executive Council’s decision with regard to the Kissoon-Clarke dispute. Asked if he believes the party acted in accordance with the constitution in deciding to suspend Kissoon, he said “I am a disciplined cadre of the party and if the Central Executive Committee of the party took certain decisions I support those decisions…anybody who feels as a member of the party they are dissatisfied, the very constitution of the party provides for appeals, and, this congress is the highest forum of the party where people who are aggrieved can discuss their problems.”
Also, echoing the sentiments of several other party members, including Granger and Chairman Basil Williams, Corbin said the party’s business should play out internally and not in the media.
The demonstrators made their way into the hall as security officials looked on. (Chevy Devonish photo)