-shot fired in voting hall during chaotic scenes
David Granger was returned unopposed as PNCR Leader after his main challenger Aubrey Norton withdrew in an accreditation row amid chaotic scenes in the voting hall at Congress Place during which a gunshot was fired.
The lustre would have been knocked off of Granger’s return as leader after days of tension with the party wing in its key stronghold in Linden, Region 10. That tension erupted yesterday over the accreditation of delegates and led to Region 10 members headed by Norton and regional chairman Sharma Solomon decamping party headquarters.
Despite the debacle, Granger, later declared at a press conference that the 18th Biennial Congress was successful despite “administrative difficulties,” and the party in a statement cited attempted sabotage for the events that occurred yesterday.
With the party’s image likely to be severely bruised by yesterday’s events, Granger also faces having to make probably the most important decision of his political life since 2011 – whether to support a motion of no-confidence against the government.
After announcing his decision not to participate in the elections yesterday, Norton gave an inkling that the events which have occurred over the last week have, for the first time since his joining the party in the 1970’s, forced him to consider whether there is a future for him in it. He said that he must contemplate the way forward, but clarified that whatever decision he makes it will not involve joining the PPP/C.
“I cannot participate in a process that is obviously flawed. For days we have been trying to solve the problem of having Region 10 delegates accredited,” a clearly frustrated Norton told reporters after he, Solomon and MP Vanessa Kissoon led a large portion of the party’s Linden faction from Congress Place.
The trio, followed by scores of supporters, exited the compound just minutes before Congress Place issued a statement to the effect that Granger was returned as leader unchallenged. Also returning are Basil Williams as party Chair, Volda Lawrence and George Norton as Vice chairs, and Ronald Bulkan as Treasurer.
With the exception of Bulkan none of the aforementioned were challenged. Stabroek News understands that Bulkan, who was challenged by Region Four Chairman Clement Corlette received almost three hundred votes, while Corlette received forty five.
“I took a decision that I could not participate in the process,” Norton told reporters, while adding that many Lindeners “did not opt to cast any vote because the process was flawed…” Norton says the “poverty of management of the process resulted in a situation where there was no delegates list going into Congress. This is the first time, he continued, this has ever happened.
He said that accreditation closed off since July 14th and that the necessary documentation should have been disseminated a week before Congress was scheduled to be held. Instead, he charged, the list was still being finalised up to Saturday night.
Norton and Solomon said that Region 10 ought to have had over one hundred delegates accredited, but that PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke, who was in charge of the accreditation process said this was not so.
On Friday, Clarke told reporters that Solomon had submitted a list which contained flaws. He said Solomon was informed of the flaws and asked to re-submit a list with the necessary corrections. Another list was submitted late Friday afternoon and Clarke said he was still running through it, and had already identified several illegitimate names.
Solomon and Norton say they were given assurances as recent as Saturday night that the matter would be resolved. However, the two said that when they arrived at Congress Place yesterday some of their supporters could not get into the compound because they did not have delegate cards. “We have been discussing it every day. Up to last night we were promised it was solved but this morning most of the Linden people were outside,” he shared.
Solomon told the press that even he had difficulty entering the compound because he, despite being an executive member of the party as well as a member of the accreditation committee, was not given a delegate card. He says that he was able to gain access into the compound only after he was identified by an accredited member who was already inside. “I was told by the General Secretary that somehow my card mysteriously disappeared…the internal process is one where there is not confidence,” Solomon concluded.
Accreditation committee met once
Solomon believes much of the problem is a result of fact that the accreditation committee, which had oversight of the accreditation process met on Saturday for the first time. He pointed out that whereas the accreditation committee for the last Congress met thrice a week the committee for the current Congress held its first and only meeting after the event was already underway.
During the post-congress press briefing yesterday, Lawrence told reporters that the committee had trouble meeting because of the busy schedule of its members. Instead of meeting therefore, she says that most of the committee’s work was done via telephone and email.
Congress Place is saying that serious efforts were made to address the concerns raised by Solomon and Norton. Its statement read: “…Solomon was issued with a copy of the final lists of approved delegates and Mr. Aubrey Norton one of the other leadership candidates was also issued with the official list of delegates so as to allow them to observe and scrutinise the list.”
“Earlier in the day two busloads of persons from Linden arrived at the congress venue; all claiming to be delegates. During the registration process they were advised that there were no delegate cards for them. Being very dissatisfied they proceeded to block the entrance to the auditorium where accredited delegates were assembling to votes.”
The release says that an “explosive sound was heard” during the “confusion” which ensued. It is reported that the “explosive sound” was that of a gun which was fired to restore order, although Granger and other members of the executive committee, during the same press conference last evening, said they could not confirm that it was a gun that went off.
Kissoon finally accredited
Meanwhile, after much strife Kisssoon was finally issued with her delegate card which she says was given to her by PNCR member Winston Felix. She admitted though, that she does not know that the issuance of her membership card means the issue between her and Clarke has been resolved. Kissoon had been suspended by the PNCR over an altercation with Clarke. She had argued that this suspension was unconstitutional.
A party divided?
When it was put to him that the ongoing spat between Congress Place and its Linden group signals a serious division, Granger did not deny that division exists. He said though, that the magnitude of such division was not something that is worrying.
While he noted that several persons followed Norton, Solomon and Kissoon out of Congress Place he believes “the number of persons that remained gives a more accurate picture of the reality…up to the last minute most of the delegates remained here. I don’t know how many people left, might have been 30 or 40 but even people from Region 10 remained here, so I mean it was unfortunate but we did have a successful congress.”
There have also been claims that Norton’s supporters were abused by Granger’s supporters. PNCR member Carl Greenidge says this has become a norm over the last three or so Congresses. Granger though, said he has not been officially briefed on any cases of abuse. He said that any such cases would be investigated and promised that anyone found guilty of such would be dealt with accordingly.