PNCR leader David Granger perceives no damage to the party’s image after criticisms of the electoral process at its recent 18th Biennial Congress, including a charge by an opponent that problems with the accreditation of some delegates were to ensure his reelection.
Political analyst Christopher Ram, on the other hand, believes the question ought not to be whether damage was done, but how much, and how long the damage done will plague the party.
Granger conveyed his position to Stabroek News during a brief interview yesterday, reiterating the position of several ranking party members that the latest congress was a success. Granger believes that though attempts were made by small group to tarnish the party’s image, they failed.
The group Granger refers to comprises those led by Sharma Solomon and Aubrey Norton. Solomon and Norton,
who were nominated to challenge Granger for the party’s leadership at the congress, have been the most vocal in making accusations of manipulation of the party’s electoral process, including the deliberate disenfranchising of party members and potential delegates from Linden, in Region 10.
Solomon pulled out of the race last Thursday due to his lack of confidence in the accreditation process, while Norton withdrew from the contest on Sunday for similar reasons. Some Lindeners, who claimed to qualify for accreditation, caused a commotion at Congress Place as they protested the situation. In the commotion which ensued, a gunshot was fired, allegedly to rescue a woman who had fallen and was being trampled.
During a press conference yesterday, Norton said the problems with the party’s accreditation process were manufactured to ensure Granger re-mained party leader.
Granger, however, believes the group failed to achieve its intended goal of embarrassing the party and that the party’s image remains intact.
Ram’s assessment was not as kind. He told Stabroek News yesterday, “It is unbelievable that Granger would not see that the events surrounding the Congress elections has done damage to the party’s image in the eyes of all right thinking Guyanese.”
Granger’s perception on this matter, Ram continued, is immaterial as it is the perception of the people which is paramount.
He said many Guyanese are looking for an alternative to the existing government and argued that the PNCR should have been looking to set an example by showing that it has good internal policies and practices, which can be transplanted into the national scheme of things. He also noted that the PNCR’s history is tainted with allegations of improprieties, including rigged elections, and said that the party should have done all in its power to ensure its electoral process was perceived by all as above-board. He believes the party has failed on both accounts.
Ram noted that the allegations of Solomon and Norton have been countered by explanations given by several ranking PNCR members, including its General Secretary Oscar Clarke and Vice-Chair- person Volda Lawrence. He nevertheless said that the fact that such allegations have been levelled causes the party’s image to suffer some.
The situation is compounded, he argued, with the realisation that the allegations are coming from an up and coming PNCR leader in Solomon, who currently serves as Chairman of the Region 10 RDC, and “one of the PNCR’s better brains” in Norton.
The fact that the accreditation committee did not meet until the second of the three-day congress also does not help the party’s case, Ram argued.
Lawrence, who sat on the accreditation committee, said that logistical and other issues prevented the committee from meeting and that much of its work was done via emails and telephone calls. She also revealed that a table was set up during the congress to address any issues party members may have had.
But Ram said the fact that the committee never met “borders on the edge of irresponsible” and that the party should have sought to do better. “I have not met people who do not think the image of the party has not been damaged,” he noted, adding that the question ought not to be whether the party’s image has taken a hit, but rather to what extent.
Other PNCR members agree that the party’s image has been sullied some.
Clarke, during a press conference on Wednesday, told reporters the party opted to meet with the media because members realise the negative way the public may be viewing it. As a result, he said, the party took the opportunity to set the record straight on claims that were being made against it by Solomon and Norton.
Ronald Bulkan, who was returned as Treasurer after beating out challenger Clement Corlette, believes the party’s image has taken damage but attributes this to the “overblown slants” carried by various media outlets. He told Stabroek News that aside from a “few administrative glitches,” the congress ran smoothly and was successful. He, however said that it is a fact that the media promoted sensationalism, which, in turn, influenced the public’s perception of the party.
He said that he believed the press conference held by Clarke, Lawrence, and ranking member Lance Carberry cleared up whatever misperceptions existed.
Former longstanding PNC member and PPP/C government minister, Henry Jeffrey has weighed in as well.
In his Future Notes column in Wednesday’s Stabroek News, he wrote: “The PNCR Congress has come and gone, but the major issues that faced the party, some of which arose at the congress itself, will have repercussions for years to come.”