PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, July 19, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia
15TH BIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE PNCR – UPDATE
In approximately 24 hours, the 15th Biennial Congress of the People’s National Congress Reform will convene. The Party has kept members of the Press up to date with preparations for the Congress. Since the last encounter with the media, delegates have started to arrive for the Congress and preparations generally have intensified. Twenty four delegates and observers from Region One, Barima Waini, arrived last evening while eighty arrived from Region Nine, this morning. Several delegates from Toronto, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Washington DC and London have also arrived in the country.
The various Committees have been meeting to advance preparations for the Congress. But as the Accreditation Committee is the one which is playing a central role in preparing the Delegates for the Congress, the Party considers it necessary to brief the Press on the work it has done so far.
Since its establishment the Accreditation Committee has been functioning effectively and has met routinely and regularly to verify Delegates on the basis of group submissions. The PNCR wishes to inform you that based on the documentation at hand 2,845 Delegates have been approved for participation in the Congress from 283 Adult and 98 GYSM groups. Region 4 with 867 Adult Delegates has the highest allocation. Region 4 also has the highest allocation for GYSM Delegates with 311. The preparation of Delegate ID cards for all Adult groups is now complete.
Over the past few days the media have carried reports about questions which have arisen about the accreditation of Delegates to the Congress and the need for verification of members. At the last Press Conference the Party responded briefly to these reports and this was carried in the Stabroek News of July 18th. The persistence of reports thereafter, that the Party has rejected a call for verification by some members of the Executive requires that the Party breaks tradition and provide a fuller explanation to correct the distortions that have appeared in these reports. First, the Party wishes to make it clear that the Central Executive never rejected any requests for checks to be made on membership or for some verification to be done. What in fact was rejected by the Central Executive Committee was a proposal by Mr. James Mc Allister, by letter dated 13 July 2007, for there to be a field verification exercise of the entire membership of selected groups throughout the country from as far as Rupununi, the North West District and the Berbice River. This exercise called for the checking of some (7240) seven thousand two hundred and forty members of adult groups representing some 40% of the membership as a start. After interventions by the GYSM representative it was extended to the checking of the entire youth membership, making an overall total of (15, 591) fifteen thousand five hundred and ninety one Adult and Youth members representing some 59% of all membership.
The proposal required teams to be identified by the next day, Saturday July 14th. The teams were to include a secretariat representative and representatives of interested stakeholders. Copies of all the relevant 15, 591 membership forms and other documents were to be made available to all members of the team who were to commence visiting each home with necessary questionnaire forms for signature of members. The logistics, cost and the time available for such an elaborate proposal made it clear that it was highly unrealistic, if not mischievous, to expect it to be completed in the six days left before the Congress. In addition, there were other members of the CEC who expressed the view that if such a course of action was adopted then they would wish to identify other groups for scrutiny and examination that were not listed by Mr. McAllister, the membership forms of which were submitted by Mr. Vincent Alexander team. The Executive Committee after prolonged attempts to find a compromise rejected Mr. McAllister’s proposal. Among the reasons was an open admission by Mr. Mc Allister that one of his objectives was to postpone the date for Congress. However, the original decision made by the Executive on Thursday 5th July, for the General Secretary, Mr Clarke to conduct checks and investigations on membership forms based on allegations made was not overturned. In that exercise Mr. James Mc Allister volunteered to be an integral part as Mr. Alexander’s representative.
It should be noted that since April 2007, the Executive Committee after considering several options, when it was evident that a few members of the Executive Committee were unprepared to accept the advice and direction of the Leader, Chairman and Central Executive Committee, decided to bring forward the Congress date to July 20th – 22nd. The customary required notice period of the date of Congress was complied with and the General Secretary formally notified the entire Party by Circular dated May 8th, 2007. The date for the closure of the membership register for the purpose of accrediting delegates was fixed for 25th June, 2007 and the deadline for submission of nominations for election to various offices was fixed for 30th June 2007.
Application for membership of our Party is an ongoing process and the procedure requires applicants to fill a membership form that is subsequently submitted to the Membership Secretariat of the Party after the application is approved and signed by the relevant Party group official as well as an official from the District or Regional level. On arrival at the Secretariat, once the relevant documents and procedures have been complied with, the form is ultimately processed and membership card forwarded to the applicant through the same channel that the form reached the Secretariat.
Recognizing that it is normal for there to be an unusual influx of renewal and new applications from members and potential members at Congress time, the General Secretary made frequent appeals that membership applications should be submitted promptly to enable timely and proper processing. This was necessary, as he regularly emphasized, because the party secretariat was not equipped to handle any massive build up of forms at the closing date. At subsequent meetings, the General Secretary notified the Congress Committee that he had received information about a plan being made by a certain group to delay the submission of membership forms until the last day with the specific intention of creating a bottleneck in the membership section. He again urged colleagues to follow the established procedure of ensuring that forms were submitted promptly.
The appeals by the GS were obviously ignored, particularly by some members of the Party working out of a newly established Campaign Office in Durban Street. It is now on record that many of them waited until late in the evening of the deadline of June 25th to deliver hundreds of accumulated membership forms to the Secretariat creating numerous problems for both the staff and the checking process.
Immediately after the party groups submitted their nominations and the nature of these nominations was known, Mr. Vincent Alexander, in an unprecedented move by letter to the General Secretary dated July 4th, appointed Mr. James McAllister to oversee his electoral interests. On the said date, Mr. Mc Allister requested the GS to provide him with a great deal of information including a complete list of all members of the Party. By this time it was common knowledge that because of the actions taken by him and others a bottleneck had been deliberately created in the Membership Secretariat.
Several other issues were raised by the Alexander group in a series of letters sent to the General Secretary. The General Secretary reported that, in keeping with established practice, he had presented the relevant records to the established Accreditation Committee. The Executive sought to refer all matters and queries to that Committee which Mr. Alexander had publicly advocated to be established much earlier. At this stage, however, the Alexander Group vigorously advocated that the General Secretary should deal with the various issues being raised by them.
It is significant that some of the matters being queried were then in the exclusive knowledge of a member of Alexander group, who reportedly had gone to extreme lengths to investigate the submissions of one group. He had, however, neither informed the General Secretary of his findings nor done anything in his constitutional remit to redress the errors which he claimed to have discovered in his investigation.
In its continuing efforts to avoid unnecessary contention, the CEC agreed that the General Secretary would be authorized to institute any checks on his records and on membership generally, including sampling, in keeping with information made available at the Central Executive meeting, and, more particularly the allegations made at the meeting of Thursday 5th July 2007. It was agreed by the entire executive that it was in the best interest of the Party to address the concerns raised.
At a special CEC Committee meeting on Tuesday 10th July, the General Secretary reported that he was still awaiting information on some of the specific allegations made at the previous CEC meeting. He also reported that both he and the office he held had been subjected to derogatory remarks and disrespectful behaviour by Mr. Mc Allister. First, Mr. McAllister failed to keep an important appointment with the General Secretary on Friday July 6th at 2:00 pm as he had undertaken to do at the previous CEC meeting. When he did eventually meet with the GS on Saturday July 7th he was rude and impolite. The CEC meeting however agreed that the GS should continue his checks including taking any samples he deemed necessary from around the country based on reports made.
On Wednesday 11th July, the Leader of the Party, Mr. Robert Corbin and Mr. Vincent Alexander met to discuss concerns raised by the Executive about the obvious tension developing within the ranks of the party and they both expressed the desire to ensure that the unity and stability of the party were preserved as this was paramount and bigger than any individual. In addressing Alexander’s concern the Leader agreed to support a proposal for some further checks to be made on membership. They acknowledged and agreed that any effort would have to be constrained by the time frame for Congress and the ability of the party to undertake any practical exercise in the time available. They also agreed that Mr. Ivor Allen would interface with the General Secretary on this matter. This understanding was conveyed to the General Secretary and the Chairman of the Party and resulted in a meeting between the GS and Mr. Ivor Allen on Thursday 12th July 2007.
The necessary records were made available by the General Secretary to Mr. Allen who spent some time copying all of the information he required. The GS was then able to obtain, for the first time, some specific information for investigation. Mr. Allen then promised to return to the GS later to raise any other matters of concern. What followed was the letter from Mr. Allister, referred to earlier, which clearly breached the understanding between the Leader and Mr. Alexander, as it proposed a procedure which, when carefully examined, could not be practicably achieved in the time frame available as well as financial constraints with which the Party is faced at this time.
On Monday 16th July, the Leader of the Party informed Mr. Alexander that he is still prepared to take any further initiatives under the constitutional powers conferred on him to ensure that additional checks that were possible in the timeframe could be made. Mr. Alexander confirmed that Mr. Allen was still his representative. On the said day the General Secretary received a call from a reporter which suggested that Mr. Alexander had already made a statement to the media suggesting that the Party had totally rejected verification.
As late as yesterday The General Secretary indicated to Mr. Allen that he proposed to commence certain field checks of some of the groups suggested by Mr. Alexander group and others and gave the names to Mr. Allen. They were invited to send a representative at the Party’s expense to monitor this process. This morning Mr. Allen informed him that he was still unable to have full discussions with the group and could not yet confirm their participation. Those field checks are currently being undertaken and a report will be presented later.
The General Secretary will continue to carry out such checks as far as is practicable to review the membership of some selected groups based on information available to him. He has been and continues to be at all material times available for further consultation with Mr. Alexander representative.
Having regard to all of the circumstances outlined above, the Party has grave misgivings as to whether the expressed concerns about the integrity of the party and its unity are genuine or whether these actions are intended to styme the 15th Biennial Congress.
The party repeats that, the call for the verification of 32 Party groups across the regions in the short period of time is an impossibility. This demand cannot be taken seriously as it has more to do with calling into question the processes for the election of the Leader of the Party and not calculated to promote an orderly conduct of elections for this position. The Party has done all that is possible to satisfy the requirements of the Constitution and the accepted procedures and norms of the Party.
The People's National Congress has been in existence for more than 50 years and takes its role in the national development of the nation very seriously. This Congress therefore will be about how the Party can so organise and re-position itself that it can deliver on its programmes and promises to its members and supporters. The Party cannot do so if it is disunited and lacking in cohesion. That is why its foremost duty at this Congress, as it has been at others, is to promote that unity and cohesion. The Party believes that this Congress will create the conditions for the promotion of both cohesion and unity. Indeed, the question of unity has been a powerful motivating factor for each succeeding Leader of the People's National Congress. In 1969, the then Leader of the PNC, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham, at the 12th Congress of the Party said the following: “I pray you now that the Party is coming into its own, keep it whole and strong … Let no one now ever divide us.” It is advice that the Party has taken to heart and will serve as inspiration for all of us during this Congress. The Party remit is to build and not to destroy.
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Thursday, July 19, 2007
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