– cites personal embarrassment over party’s stance on EPA

In a shocking move, Winston Murray yesterday announced his resignation as PNCR Chairman, saying that the party’s public departure from a position he took on the Economic Partnership Agree-ment (EPA) has made it “impossible” to continue to hold the office with credibility.

Winston Murray
Winston Murray

Murray, a leading economist and attorney, announced the decision to step down in a statement yesterday afternoon, saying it was the direct result of a “principled objection” to a statement by the party that amounted to the “abandonment” of the position he had publicly represented during consultations hosted by President Bharrat Jagdeo on the proposed EPA between the European Union (EU) and Cariforum.

At the consultations held last September, Murray indicated support for the President’s position on the signing of the EPA, given the burdens that adjustment would place on the country. He said the party did not see the EPA as a fair agreement in reality, saying that it would impact severely on development. The PNCR, however, later sought to “clarify” its position on the EPA, saying that while the EPA was deficient, it possessed many positive aspects, including its potential for aiding Guyana’s trade and development. The party said too that while it saw merit in some of the President’s arguments, it had strong reservations about his timing.

At the time, Murray was performing the functions of leader in the absence of substantive leader Robert Corbin. “I, therefore, represented the PNCR’s position both in that capacity and as the spokesperson on the subject matter, since I am also the shadow Minister for Finance and Economic Development, he explained in the statement. “It was my strongly held view, and still is, that, in such a circumstance, it has become impossible for me to continue with any credibility in the office of Chairman of the Party.”

Corbin told Stabroek News last evening that a general members’ meeting summoned for today at the PNCR’s Congress Place headquarters, would be used to update party members on the situation.

He added that the PNCR executive would decide on how the vacancy would be filled but that the work of the party would not be affected. “We have two vice-chairpersons so there is not going to be a vacuum in the work of the party,” he said.

Although the issue has been the subject of several discussions between Murray and Corbin, Murray added, “..I do not believe that those discussions have changed the general impression which has been placed in the public mind and which has caused me personal embarrassment.”

Murray’s resignation took effect on Thursday, January 15. However, he remains a member of the party and a Member of Parliament (MP), with the shadow portfolio of Finance and Economic Development. After discussions with Corbin, he has also agreed to be a key member of a special task force that has been set up to redefine a strategic plan for the future of the party and reposition it in preparation for the next general election in 2011.

The party yesterday thanked Murray for what called “the tremendous contribution” that he has made over the years as chairman. Murray was elected to the chairmanship of the party in 2003 at the Special Congress where the previous office holder, Corbin, was elected leader.

Murray served as a senior minister and deputy prime minister in the PNC administration between 1985 and 1992. He also served as head of the Presidential Secretariat, head of the Department of International Economic Cooperation, and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade. Murray also had a stint in diplomatic service at Guyana’s Embassy in Brussels. He has been an MP for the PNC since 1985 and served as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee until May 2006.

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