Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon and the group he leads have restated their belief that the rules of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) were not adhered to during the party’s 18th Biennial Congress, bringing into question the transparency and fairness of its elections.
“It also bring brings into question if the will of the people were truly made known,” Solomon said in an evaluation of the secretariat’s treatment of the party’s electoral process for the congress, which was released yesterday.
This analysis followed a detailed explanation by Solomon of the events which resulted during the July 25 to July 27 Congress, where David Granger was re-elected unopposed as leader amid accusations of disenfranchisement.
Feeling that efforts were afoot to disenfranchise Lindeners, Solomon, along with Aubrey Norton, both of whom were nominated to challenge Granger for the party’s leadership, led protests against the perceived efforts.
PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke and several other ranking party members have sought to counter accusations made by Solomon and Norton but both men are maintaining their claims, although they have expressed interest in burying the hatchet while continuing to work at resolving residual issues.
With regard to the accreditation of delegates, Solomon said yesterday that the PNCR has 805 members in Linden, which, according to party officials, gives the region a total of 119 of the 794 delegates cleared to participate in the voting.
He says that Linden party members filled out application and renewal forms to ensure they received party membership cards in accordance with Rule 8 (4) of the party. The rules further require that a person be a financial member for at least two years prior to a current congress. As such, persons who were members as of 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 qualified while 2014 members did not.
Solomon says Region 10 officials, on March 19th, were told that they needed to configure all Linden party groups based on the national electoral boundary lines. Granger, PNCR chairman Basil Williams, Clarke and Region 10 MP Renis Morian attended this meeting, he said.
He said that Linden complied but learned during another meeting on May 29th, that the configuration of groups based on boundary lines was a requirement the secretariat made only of Linden. He further said that a subsequent decision was taken to dismantle the groups formed on boundary lines, with consultation with the leaders of the Linden groups or the regional leadership.
“This reconfiguration resulted in members being moved into groups that were not in existence before and without their knowledge or approval. Before these groups were allowed to be recognised by the secretariat, minutes had to be submitted, or we were told they will not be recognised,” Solomon said.
Solomon also said that this reconfiguration posed problems in determining delegates as Linden was guided by their original groups and Congress Place insisted on using their reconfigured groups.
“For instance when Linden said X amount of persons were entitled to be delegates in Y group based on membership roll, the secretariat would say only A amount are entitled to be in this group because it has only B amount of members. And where C was named as an entitled delegate in Z group, the secretariat said Z group already has its entitled delegates’ quota. This matter was never entirely resolved even though assurance was given it would be,” Solomon elaborated.
He further stated that action taken by the secretariat was inconsistent with the party’s constitution. He says that while paragraph 2 of Rule 10 (1) (b) “allows the General Secretary in “special circumstances” to form groups with “smaller numbers and [he] shall report to the Central Executive Committee when any such authorization is given,”” this was not applied in the case of Linden.
As he continued to bemoan accreditation issues, Solomon lamented that some delegates were permitted to vote with identification cards when the rules specify that a membership card is required for such activity. He said that Rules 8 and 15 of the party’s constitution were intended “to avoid non-members or ineligible members casting a ballot which would have been illegal.”
The use of “identification cards to vote,” he charged, “opened the electoral process for manipulation because these documents do not have the needed information to prove membership and eligibility as delegates.” He reiterated that several Lindeners, including himself, were not able to uplift their card. Clarke, on the other hand, has said that Solomon had refused to uplift his card, and that about fifty Lindeners refused to uplift theirs.
Solomon also pointed out that while he was nominated to contest for the position of Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairman (VC) and Committee Member, a letter sent to him by the secretariat excluded the nomination for VC. He said that this oversight was pointed out to secretariat but that it was never corrected, as was proven by the nomination not being reflected on the ballot.
Solomon again criticised the underperformance of the accreditation committee, which he said was tasked with ensuring the business of the congress was run consistent with the party’s rules, and that all delegates are indeed qualified party members.
PNCR vice chairperson Volda Lawrence has said the committee did not meet for various reasons, but did its work via email and telephone calls. Solomon, however, said the committee, of which he is a member, “never teleconferenced, shared emails or met on accreditation activities until 26th July when congress was in its second day.”
Granger has said that if either Solomon or Norton can produce evidence to the effect that there was some impropriety in the electoral system, an investigation will be launched and appropriate action taken. At the same time, he said that the returning officer, who handed over his report to the party, reported no evidence of manipulation or any form of impropriety. Solomon though, said, “The Returning Officer was given a list by the party and his responsibility was to ensure those that appeared on the list cast their ballots and their votes were counted. The Returning Officer had nothing to do with the preparation of the list and processes that preceded the formulation of that list.”
Solomon also said that while he can accept that mistakes are made in any system, he is not prepared to accept that the management of the electoral process which prevailed during the last congress was “acceptable and led to a free, transparent and successful congress.” He said “members of the PNCR can do better and must be called on to do so. There needs to be honest evaluation and systems put in place to avoid recurrences. Consideration should be given to the various issues raised which would make the PNCR stronger and avoid similar criticisms in future.”
Solomon also took note of the questions raised by ranking party members as to the ability of Lindeners to organise and execute the various actions taken during the last congress. Statements to this effect were made by Lawrence during a press conference last week.
“It is Linden’s view that some believe disorganization must be the new standard bearer for the party,” Solomon said in response to the criticism, while noting that unlike other regions, Region 10 received no assistance from Congress Place to attend the Congress. He added that Lindeners pooled their resources and shared with fellow comrades from Kwakwani, who were provided with appropriate conditions after Congress Place let them down. He further explained that every person in the three 35-seater buses and one 15-seater minibus, except a few whose small children accompanied them, were members of the party according to our membership roll. “Mediocrity will not be allowed to flourish and every aspect of this party’s business will be conducted in the proper manner, even if it means Linden has to lead the way,” Solomon further said.
The events surrounding the last congress have attracted widespread criticism from many observers and political analysts, including former House Speaker Ralph Ramkarran, Christopher Ram and former Government Minister Henry Jeffery. The party has also been criticised by sympathizers. Tarron Khemraj, an APNU supporter, has said that Granger missed a good opportunity to demonstrate leadership when he failed to launch an investigation into the electoral system after concerns were raised. It is believed by some, including Ram and Jeffrey, that the party’s image has taken a serious hit, although some ranking party members disagree.