PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, July 26, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The Leader of the PNCR advanced the proposition that the time has come for the Party to be retooled and reconstructed to meet the challenges of this new era;
• The media was informed that the Leader of the Party had written President Jagdeo expressing its concern about the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2007. Since then, it was reported in the state media that the Bill would be deferred to permit consultations in keeping with an undertaking given by President Jagdeo.

THE 15TH BIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE PNCR CONCLUDED WITH RESOLVE TO MAKE A REALITY OF ITS THEME: UNITED, REJUVENATED AND REPOSITIONED FOR THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS

The 15th Biennial Congress of the People's National Congress Reform concluded on Sunday, July 22, 2007 with the three thousand odd delegates and observers from all Guyana resolving to make a reality of the Congress theme: PNCR: UNITED, REJUVENATED AND REPOSITIONED FOR THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS.

The Congress, attended by delegates, observers and special invitees from the ten regions of Guyana and several overseas groups from North America and the United Kingdom, commenced on Friday July 20th. The Leader of the Party was greeted by members of the Youth movement on First Street, Campbellville, from where he was accompanied into the grounds of Sophia Complex, the Headquarters of the PNCR, to the Ceremonial opening of the Congress. At that Opening Session, which was initiated by prayers from the leading religions of Guyana, there was a grand cultural programme which included presentation of the Congress theme song and other items performed by the youths of the Party. The Highlights of the programme were the Welcome and Opening Remarks by the Chairman of the Party, Mr. Winston Murray, and the Congress address by the Leader, Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin.

Mr. Murray urged delegates to take the Congress theme seriously and use the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the deliberations, an admonition which the delegates demonstrated that they adhered to during the Congress.

In his one and a half hour wide ranging address, the Leader of the PNCR advanced the proposition that the time has come for the Party to be retooled and reconstructed to meet the challenges of this new era. He used the opportunity, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary year of the Party, to recount the many successes achieved over the years of its existence, including the facts that the PNCR led by Forbes Burnham: rescued this country, made us a nation, gave us pride and dignity and led us to independence and eventually to Republican status; proceeded to build the basic institutions of national independence; a professional army; a proper university; reorganised the civil and teaching services; reorganised the judiciary and create a diplomatic corps second to none in the Third World; understand the importance of culture and patriotism in national development and, thus, the Guyfesta and Carifesta movements were born; understood the need for integration and mutual support amongst the former British colonies of the English speaking Caribbean, hence our advocacy of the Caribbean integration movement; was a pioneer in the outreach of the Caribbean to Cuba and China; was a pillar in the Non-Aligned movement; understood the importance of self-reliance and self-help; understood the importance of community development.

We established the network of Universal Secondary Education which included the multilateral project and provided free education from Nursery to University; reorganised and vastly expanded teacher training; expanded and developed the rice industry; bridged the Demerara and Canje Rivers and built the main public roads, including the Soesdyke-Linden Highway; and, under the late leader Desmond Hoyte, when the tides of world economic life turned and state-owned and controlled economic management proved a liability in a changing world, instituted the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), in 1988, that sparked the rebirth and reinvigoration of our economic life. The PNCR, he stated, has a proud heritage and resolutely pursued its task of a destiny to mould the nation.

Emphasizing, however, that it was neither appropriate nor wise to spend all of our time, in 2007, basking in the glories of past eras, he urged the Congress to note that the challenge is in 2007 and that the issues at stake are nothing less than the survival of Guyana as a coherent nation and the turnaround of our economic fortunes to sustained, viable growth.

After analyzing the present conditions in Guyana he outlined a comprehensive two year programme of the Party including training and building a new young leadership team that should start taking their rightful places by 2009; emphasis on youth empowerment schemes, economic programmes by the youth and women arms and the reorganization for strengthening the Party.

The Leader’s speech has already been made public and the Congress at its concluding session adopted by resolution all the major recommendations made therein. There is therefore much work for the Party to pursue in the period ahead.

During the second day of the Congress the delegates considered the report of the General Secretary on the work of the Party since the last Biennial Congress and there were extensive discussion and debate on both the Leaders address and the General Secretary’s report in the plenary sessions which followed.

On Sunday the Congress met in ten workshops to discuss and make recommendations on the work programme of the Party in the period ahead. In particular, questions of the ideology of the Party, the protection of the working people, programmes for the development of the economy, the need for improve security of the various communities in the country, the rescue of the physical and institutional infrastructure, and the development of women, among others, were all debated and decisions taken. Full and detailed reports were presented to the plenary.

The Congress considered and debated several motions and questions that were submitted by the various groups both local and overseas. Several of these motions and resolutions which are intended to allow the Party to address a number of problems across a range of issues in the political, economic and social fields were approved. Among the motions passed were those which sought to, establish a Code of Conduct for Party members to be approved by the first General Council; reinstate in the Party Constitution a period of probationary membership; amending the constitution to provide for the election of a Treasurer rather that the present position where one is appointed at the discretion of the Leader; and provision for better accountability of Party representatives to Parliament and other forums. Congress also unanimously approved a motion condemning the behaviour of some members of the Party who had breached Party principles by discussing internal matters in the media, disturbed the opening session by their late arrival and who had withdrawn from the Congress after their appeals to have the Elections postponed were rejected. The Congress expressed lack of confidence in them and urged that the issue be forwarded to the disciplinary committee of the Party.

A motion to readmit Mr. Hamilton Green to membership at the Leadership level was not approved, but an amendment to the motion was passed asking the Central Executive of the Party to give favourable consideration to an application by Mr. Green for re-admission to the Party. Delegates were very emphatic that there should be no special conditions should be given to Mr. Green for re-entry to the Party, but, in the spirit of reconciliation, every effort should be made to bring back into the fold all former members of the Party who are still willing to make a contribution to the development of the PNCR and Guyana. These motions will be implemented by the Central Executive Committee and those which could not be dealt with by Congress due to the constraint of time have been referred to the General Council for action.

The Congress was characterised by the unusual scrutiny of the leadership and its organs. Elections of Officers and members of the Central Executive Committee were held on Saturday under the supervision of Returning Officer Mr. Joe Harmon and other members of his team. The Official results were declared on Sunday. These are:

Leader – Mr. Robert H. O. Corbin, elected unopposed -
However, Mr. Corbin insisted that there should still be an affirmative vote and while some members felt that this was unnecessary, the Returning Officer proceeded in this direction.

Chairman – Mr. Winston Murray, CCH, MP, elected unopposed -
A similar affirmative vote was also taken.

Vice Chairpersons - Mr. Basil Williams, MP and Ms. Volda Lawrence, MP

Central Executive Members - Amna Ally, Aubrey Norton, Dr. George Norton, Clarissa Riehl, E. Lance Carberry, Deryck Bernard, Ernest Elliot, Dr. Carl Max Hanoman, Melanie Cornette, Florence Bourne, Dr. Aubrey Armstrong, Mortimer Mingo, Mervyn Williams, Oscar Clarke and Clement Corlette.

Ten more members of the Central Executive will be co-opted by the Leader and the Central Executive Committee respectively and this is likely to be done when the Executive holds its first formal meeting on Saturday next. Each of the Regions is entitled to elect one representative to sit on this body, the highest authority of the Party after the General Council which meets quarterly.

At the end of the Congress it was clear that the supporters of the Party wanted it to be more vigorously involved in the national conversation about the direction of Guyana and how the base supporters of the Party and the Guyanese people as a whole can be protected from the adverse policies of the PPP/C and create conditions for their own improvement and prosperity.

These statements are not made idly as it has been recognised that we are at the crossroads of an important junction in our history. We can either return to the ways of the last 15 years of the lack of progress in the security situation of the nation, rising unemployment, the upsurge of the drug trade, the abandonment of our youths and the aged or strike out for new policies leading to the real development of our country, the inclusion of all creative and progressive forces. The general view was expressed that the time has come for Guyana to abandon the policies and ideas which have kept us chained to the past so that it can move forward in a way which can make the country a better and safer place.

There were those who believed that the indiscipline and shenanigans of a few would have distracted this Congress from its central and critical role of charting a progressive course for the Party in the national development of this country. This did not happen. The maturity of the representatives of the Congress was very much in evidence and at the end of it all the Party managed to design a clear plan and programme for the future. The PNCR is convinced that once these plans and programmes are pursued with vigor and vision it will protect its constituents of all races and creeds and lay the foundation for return to Government and for the further progressive development of the country.

In the immediate future the Party intends to vigorously pursue a number of matters including, the harsh effects of the Value Added Tax, the freedom of Mark Benschop, the obvious racial political and racial discrimination which has become endemic, and the achievement of Shared Governance. The media will, as usual, be kept updated on these matters.

APPOINTMENT OF THE CHANCELLOR

The media was informed that the Leader of the Party had written President Jagdeo expressing its concern about the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2007. Since then, it was reported in the state media that the Bill would be deferred to permit consultations in keeping with an undertaking given by President Jagdeo. These consultations, described by Office of the President as a briefing session, were held on Wednesday, July 25, 2007. Regrettably, only representatives of the PNCR were present. The Party is therefore convinced that the PPP/C Administration was merely going through a routine exercise to fuel its own propaganda that consultations had taken place. However the briefing document made available to the PNCR representatives at that forum exposes the reality of the functioning or mal functioning of the judicial system. The document admits that the Chief Justice manipulates the distribution of cases before the High Court but it is ridiculous that after this admission the Bill now seeks to empower the same Chief Justice, wearing the title of Chancellor, to continue to interfere in these matters.

The PNCR can do no better than quote from the final paragraph of that briefing note which states:

“In the fitness of things it is considered necessary and expedient in the interest of speedy and quality justice delivery system to confer upon the Chancellor the powers to issue general or special direction on the distribution of work in the High Court. No doubt, the Chief Justice will continue the work amongst the judges so that the element of arbitrary distribution of work by the Chief Justice will come to an end.”

The Party therefore wishes to report that the consultations were an exercise in futility and urges the Government to take seriously the recommendations made by the Leader of the Opposition in his letter to President Jagdeo.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday, July 26, 2007