PNCR REJECTS AS BASELESS CLAIMS OF FRAUD AT THE RECENTLY HELD GEORGETOWN DISTRICT CONFERENCE--PRESS STATEMENT Saturday 4 July 2009




On Sunday 28 June 2009, the PNCR issued a formal release on the Georgetown District Conference held earlier that day. In that release, the Party stated that more than one thousand (1,000) delegates and observers, from twenty nine (29) Party Groups and five (5) GYSM Groups in the Georgetown District, participated.

The release informed that the Conference was opened by the General Secretary of the Party, Mr. Oscar Clarke, after which the outgoing District Chairman, Mr. Aubrey Norton, MP, presented his address. The keynote address was delivered by the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Mr. Robert H.O. Corbin, MP. Reports by the District Secretary, Mr. Gregory Fraser, and Treasurer, Ms. Volda Lawrence, MP, as well as a panel discussion on Local Government, provided the basis for vigorous debate and discussion.

The release informed that, after a vigorous campaign, the following persons were elected:

Ms. Volda Lawrence – Chairman
Ms. Hazel Pinder – Vice-Chairman
Ms. Sheila Prescott – Secretary
Ms. Linda Gomes – Treasurer

The Committee Members are:
(1) Mr. Kevin Rose
(2) Mr. Vibert Hart
(3) Mr. Eon Andrews

Since our Press Release on Sunday evening, there have been reports on this Conference in the media, more particularly, in the Stabroek News, of 29 and 30 June 2009, alleging that there were irregularities and fraud in the conduct of the elections.

The PNCR states categorically that these allegations are without foundation and rejects them as only intended to bring the Party into public disrepute. The PNCR does not normally discuss publicly its internal affairs since, there are appropriate fora for Party members to discuss issues of concern to them and the Party. There are also processes provided for by the Party Constitution whereby, any aggrieved member can have a complaint investigated. The PNCR has, therefore, always viewed seriously, public allegations made by any member, especially when that member has made no formal complaint internally or availed himself/herself of the procedures, provided for in the Party Constitution, to have the grievances aired and investigated.

Based on the misinformation placed in the public domain, about the conduct of the elections at the Georgetown District Conference, held on Sunday 28 June 2009, the PNCR has decided to provide a complete factual response, for the benefit of the public.

The Party wishes to state that, apart from being a guest, invited to deliver the keynote address and install the newly elected Officers, the Party Leader was not involved in any aspect of the preparation and management of the Conference. Therefore, reports to the contrary, in the media, are at best mischievous if not libelous. Contrary to reports in the media also, the Georgetown District does not and is not entitled to send the largest block of delegates to the Party’s Biennial Congress.

The Georgetown District Conference was convened by, and held under the supervision of, the General Secretary of the PNCR, Mr. Oscar Clarke, acting on directions given to him by the Party’s General Council, at its duly constituted meeting, held on 28 March 2009. The General Council is the highest decision making body of the Party, between the Party’s Biennial Congresses.

The Annual Conference was long overdue constitutionally, having not been held since 2004. On several occasions, the Central Executive Committee and the General Council directed the District Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Aubrey Norton, MP, to convene their Conference, but no Conference was held. It was this failure to comply, despite repeated requests, from the Central Executive Committee and previous Meetings of the General Council, which resulted in the General Council decision of 28 March 2009.

In accordance with that decision, the General Secretary held meetings, with the District Executive, to discuss with them the arrangements necessary for the holding of such a Conference. Various persons, including Mr. Aubrey Norton, MP, were assigned responsibilities. The General Secretary later discovered that most of those assignments were not carried out. However, a date was fixed for the Conference.

The Central Executive of the Party, as a consequence, directed the General Secretary to take executive responsibility for convening the Conference. Another date was again fixed and responsibilities were again assigned but, as the Conference date approached, several groups in Georgetown complained that they had not received any formal notices from the Georgetown District Secretary, concerning the Conference. The General Secretary, as a consequence, summoned a meeting of representatives of all of the Groups in the Georgetown District, on Monday 8 June 2009, in the Hall of Heroes at Congress Place . Present at that meeting were representatives of 26 Groups.

At that meeting, the failure of the District Secretary to send out formal notices for the Conference was discussed and, the majority of the groups present agreed that the Conference should be held on Sunday 28 June 2009. Dates were, accordingly fixed for the submission of the various Reports and the submission of the number of the Delegates and Observers for the Conference. The central Secretariat of the Party managed this process and made all the administrative arrangements.

Twenty nine (29) Party Groups and five (5) GYSM Groups qualified to send delegates, in accordance with the Party Constitution. In summary, the various groups were entitled to send a total of 435 Delegates to the Conference. Delegate Cards were prepared for all Delegates, in accordance with the Group submissions to the Secretariat. It should be noted, however, that only 325 of the entitled delegates attended the conference.

Mr. Robert Williams, Deputy Mayor of Georgetown and a Commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission, was identified by the Georgetown District Chairman, Mr. Aubrey Norton, as the Returning Officer and the General Secretary formally requested his involvement to manage the Georgetown District Elections.

On Saturday, 27 June 2009, the General Secretary displayed, for the inspection of all interested members of the District, in the Hall of Heroes at Congress Place , from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, the Register of Party members of the Georgetown District, according to their respective Groups. The Register contained financial members for the year 2008-2009. District Officers were requested to ensure that members of the District were notified of the opportunity to examine the Membership Register.

On Saturday 27 June 2009 several members made use of this opportunity and examined the records at Congress Place . The General Secretary invited all present to bring any concerns to his attention. During the period of the examination of records some persons raised matters of concern that were addressed by the General Secretary. For example, one concern raised was the presence of the name of Mr. Lorrie Alexander, deceased, on the Membership Register. The General Secretary explained that there was no discrepancy since the Register displayed faithfully the names of those persons who were Party members, for the period 1 June 2008 to 31 May 2009. The official Register showed that Mr Alexander was “deceased”, therefore, his name could neither be submitted as a Delegate nor counted in the calculation for entitled Delegates for that specific Group.

Another complaint raised was that, in a few instances, there appeared to be similar membership numbers for different members of the same Group. Three such Groups were identified and when investigated, by examination of the membership application forms, they were found to have been typographical errors on the records displayed. All complaints were investigated by the General Secretary.

A complaint was also made about the Brickdam Group of the Party, but investigations revealed that the complaints were groundless.

The Returning Officer was in total control of the Election process. The Party identified no one to assist him in his assignment. He identified his own assistants. Under his direction, in preparation for the Elections, the Secretariat prepared ballot papers equivalent to the number of Delegates entitled to participate. These were handed over to the Returning Officer, along with four Official stamps of the Party. The Party is aware that the Returning Officer caused the official ballot papers to be stamped, with the official stamps of the Party, to determine their authenticity.

At the time of Elections, the Conference was handed over to the Returning Officer who was in charge of the proceedings. The procedure adopted by the Returning Officer was to ask all present to vacate their seats and proceed to the back of the auditorium. He then called each Group by name and stated the number of Delegates to which that Group was entitled. Under the supervision of his assistants, the Delegates were then allowed to enter the section restricted for the seating of the Delegates for that identified Group. The Returning Officer recorded the numbers from each group after he received reports announced publicly by his assistants. It appeared, from the responses, that not all Groups had all their Delegates present so that the total number of Delegates, present to vote, was less that than the number entitled to vote. The excess ballot papers, therefore, represented the difference between the Delegates who were entitled to vote and those who were present at the Conference to vote.

Before the elections commenced a few persons raised issues from the floor, including a complaint that the Membership Register showed that a few members had the same membership number next to their names. This was the same complaint made the previous day that had been addressed. The Returning Officer made a note of the complaints and indicated that he would record the complaints for later investigation.

One objector attempted to use this reason to advocate the postponement of the election and this provoked the ire of several Delegates. At that time, there was some disorder, as some persons refused to leave the microphone and were demanding that the elections be aborted. The negative responses, from other Delegates in their seats, were just as vigorous and it took some time before order was restored.

For the post of Chairman, the ballots were distributed to the Delegates, by the assistants to the Returning Officer, after which he asked that the ballot papers that were not issued should be returned to him. Delegates were requested to vote for the candidate of their choice and, thereafter, the assistants collected the ballots in cardboard boxes.

The Returning Officer then asked each Candidates to appoint a Scrutineer, if he/she so wished, to accompany the Ballot Boxes to the Hall of Heroes, where the votes were to be counted and to monitor the count of the votes cast. The Scrutineers, representing the Candidates, accompanied the Ballot Boxes and were present throughout the count and until the votes were declared for each Candidate.

There were no objections over the conduct of the Elections for Chairman of the Georgetown District.

The Returning Officer proceeded to conduct the Elections for the post of vice Chairperson. During the distribution of ballots, pandemonium broke out, at the back of the auditorium, when some Delegates shouted that they had received no ballot papers while others alleged that some persons received two ballot papers. The Returning Officer demanded that all ballot papers that were not issued should be returned to him. He, thereafter, instructed Delegates to proceed with the voting. The ballots were collected and the same procedure was adopted of inviting the Candidates to appoint a Scrutineer to accompany the Ballot Boxes and witness the count.

On the next round of voting, for the post of District Secretary, the Returning Officer changed the system of voting by requesting each Delegate to proceed to the front of the auditorium to collect his/her ballot paper and to deposit the marked ballot in the Ballot Box at the front of the auditorium, before that Delegate returned to his/her seat.

Voting commenced under the same system for the post of District Treasurer. Following withdrawals, by the other Candidates nominated for this post, only one Candidate offered herself for the post. The Returning Officer, therefore, declared that Candidate elected unopposed.

The Returning Officer reverted to the original approach for the election of the District Committee members. This was concluded without any incidents.

After he had declared all of the results, of the Elections for each of the posts for the District Executive Committee, the Returning Officer certified the Elections, in documents which he presented to the General Secretary.

In the context of all that has been outlined above, the Party rejects the spurious claims that the Georgetown District Elections were fraudulent.

The Central Executive Committee, having discussed this matter, requested the General Secretary to prepare and present, to the next meeting, on 15 July 2009, an Official Report on the Conference and, in particular, the Elections. The Returning Officer has also been asked to provide his Report for the consideration of the Central Executive Committee.

The Central Executive Committee has also requested that all those persons who wish to challenge the results of the Elections should submit their allegations in writing to the General Secretary, so that these could be fully investigated and acted upon. No submissions have, as yet, been received.

As soon as the requested reports are available, and any complaints have been investigated, the Party would release the results.

The Central Executive Committee also discussed and agreed the course of action to be taken, in circumstances where it is satisfied that the Leader of the Party, Mr. Robert Corbin, MP, has been libeled.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Saterday 4 July 2009


OFFICIAL RESULTS OF THE GEORGETOWN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
AS CERTIFIED BY THE RETURNING OFFICER
SUNDAY 28 JUNE 2009


CHAIRMAN

Total Votes Cast - 324

Volda Lawrence – 224
Aubrey Norton – 96

Spoilt Votes – 4

VICE-CHAIRMAN

Total Votes Cast - 288

Hazel Pinder – 141
Leonard DaCosta – 99
Eon Andrews – 39
Gregory Fraser – 9

Spoilt Votes – 0

SECRETARY

Total Votes Cast - 282

Sheila Prescott – 163
Melanie Cornette – 69
Llewellyn John – 41

Spoilt Votes – 9

TREASURER

Linda Gomes-Halley

Elected Unopposed

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Eon Andrews – 122
Vibert Harte – 113
Kevin Rose – 106