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—says party must give more power to members, address critical national issues
The 21st Biennial Delegates Congress of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has failed to address critical issues plaguing the party’s development and success, and was rather fixated on the change in leadership, so says, longstanding member Carl B Greenidge as he declined nomination to be the next leader.
Breaking his silence on the eve of Saturday’s Congress, Greenidge, who served as Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs under the David Granger Administration, said the Congress – the party’s highest decision-making forum – would traditionally include the exhaustive examination of issues affecting the membership and the country, such as the current political situation, economic policies and preparation for or analysis of national election results but this time around the focus is primarily on leadership change. “On this occasion, however, after much angst, the CEC managed to organise a Congress intended only to change the leadership. There is to be no analysis, no debates about the political situation and no report on the 2020 national elections, its outcome and no policy pronouncements. It is only about the changing of the guard,” Greenidge said in a statement on Friday (December 17).
He said ironically, such a Congress is consistent with the approach employed under the Leadership of David Granger. According to Greenidge, under Granger’s stewardship there were no reforms, no resolutions and little to no debates, though there being available mechanisms and processes that could have placed the party in a strong position relative to all other political parties in Guyana.
“What is more, the PNCR as a Party has paid the price for failure to insist on the conduct of transparent and careful review of its performance in general and national elections,” he posited.
Greenidge said though the Central Executive Committee (CEC) took a decision to postpone the elections to December 18 to “in order to address some obvious weaknesses, too many questions still remain unaddressed.”
In no uncertain words, Greenidge said he has had firsthand experience of the abuse of the party’s election process. “Many elements which generated concerns in 2011 and subsequently, are still in place. In recent times beginning with contest for the PNCR Presidential Candidate in 2011, internal Party elections have been hijacked by the Party apparatus on behalf of the Party Leader. I need only mention a recount of ballots when there had been no declaration in the first place,” he detailed.
He added: “In any case the counting was such that the margin of error between the votes counted before the cameras and that which followed a break (to conduct ‘a raffle’, which left ballots unprotected), was statistically improbable.” In keeping with these departures from the rules there has been no election to identify a Presidential Candidate for the Feb 2020 National and General Elections. A similar story applies to the selection of the Leader of the List.
“Critical national representation such as the selection of the Party’s entire Parliamentary membership has been treated as being in the gift of the Leader of the Party. The rules endow him with such powers and the Party cannot be convincingly led by a person who believes that he is too greatly loved or too proud to face an election.”
In clear reference to Granger, Greenidge said a Leader should not behave as though it is seditious for another Party member to run for positions for which the Party Constitution deems that members are to be elected.
“It is no surprise therefore that there has been widespread dissatisfaction over the quality of representation of the constituency and the absence of a clear and authoritative PNCR voice at times when leadership and principled stands were needed to confront grievous political policies and serious challenges on the electoral front.
No viable and persuasive political party can hold on to its constituency if its leadership is too timid to speak out against wrongs or to stand up for and hold positions which though morally correct are unpopular,” Greenidge reasoned.
Notably, Granger did not seek reelection during Saturday’s Congress. His popularity dwindled following the highly controversial 2020 Elections, and has since been heavily criticized over his leadership style. Just days before the Congress, the Leader, while still being on leave, informed the Chairman Volda Lawrence that he will not be present as he was leaving the country to attend to his health.
Noting that Granger is not the first party leader to have been ill whilst in office and certainly will not be last, Greenidge said better systems should have been in place to facilitate a smooth transition. “There should always be allowance for such a possibility but it is difficult to find another example of situation involving no transparent arrangements for handover of instruments and finances or of succession,” Greenidge said.
He noted that the CEC, which has been critical of the outgoing Leader, and in doing so insisted on Congress, has been treated with utter contempt.
Given the circumstances, he implored the CEC to act in the interest of the party’s members and supporters.
“I urge that the CEC make arrangements to afford the general membership of the Party the opportunity to consider and help fashion the Party’s path ahead and to permit leaders and potential leaders to also contribute to those deliberations. Such an approach is imperative, if the PNCR is to overcome the chains, real and imagined, by which it is currently shackled,” Greenidge said. However, given his general concerns, Greenidge said it would be inappropriate to accept the nominations for the position of Leader of the Party and membership of the CEC. Winston Felix, Chair of the Electoral Committee was informed of his decision shortly after receiving notification of his nomination. “I will however continue to engage with members as appropriate,” he assured while expressing gratitude to the various groups and individuals who had nominated him for the various positions.