Aubrey Norton challenging David Granger for PNC leadership

…says time for party to embrace new political culture

The race for leader of the People’s National Congress (PNC) has heated up, with party stalwart Aubrey Norton announcing that he would challenge incumbent leader David Granger, who is increasingly coming under pressure for the current state of the party.

PNC stalwart Aubrey Norton

Norton, who was among those defending the rigging attempt for five months during the 2020 National and Regional Elections as the PNC elections agent, made the announcement while making an appearance on an online programme hosted by Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive Dr David Hinds.
Hinds was a candidate on the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) list at the last elections. When asked by Hinds about the party’s leadership, Norton expressed the believe that he has the qualifications to challenge for leadership of the party.
“I believe I have the requisite skills to give leadership. I have said to people I believe that even while we served in Government I cannot be accused of corruption or anything of that kind, and I believe that I am one among the viable candidates. The direct answer to that is once the congress of the People’s National Congress reform is called, I intend to run for the leadership of the party,” Norton said.

PNC leader David Granger

According to Norton, who challenged for leadership of the party and lost to Granger in 2014, there is need for a new political culture. He is of the view that he could usher in this new political culture.
“What I can say is that the era of absolute leaders, maximum leaders, that era is clearly gone, and what we need is a new political culture in which leaders see themselves as first among equals, and to shift and to move away from this culture of maximum leader…. who could you talk to when one man determines everything?” he asked.
“I think this process of democratisation should bring a new type of leader that is disposed to listening to its (the party’s) base and acting in keeping with the ideas that emerge from the various approaches and discussions which are taken by all the political parties within the coalition,” Norton added.
Only recently, Congress Place was picketed by members of Granger’s own party, who demanded that he hold the congress so that the party could choose a leader. One placard, aimed at Granger and Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, had read, “David and Joe, stop denying democracy in the PNC. Time for congress”.
PNC’s last biennial congress was in 2018, where Granger was returned unopposed as leader of the party. According to the diaspora group, the time has come for younger and more progressive leaders to be elected to lead the party.
However, Granger has cited the COVID-19 pandemic for the delay in holding the congress. He had said that the party is trying to work out the logistics of holding the congress while at the same time ensuring social distancing. However, many other organisations have held virtual meetings using Zoom, which allows hundreds of participants.
Granger, who left office in August of last year after a five-month-long election process, has been facing pressure from within the party over the loss of the General and Regional Elections after just one term in office.
These divisions were exacerbated by the list of parliamentarians he picked to send to the 12th Parliament, after party stalwarts like Lawrence were excluded and the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) was not consulted to name their candidate. WPA subsequently withdrew from the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition, following on the heels of the Justice For All Party (JFAP).
Granger has also been denounced by individual members of the party, like one time PNC Parliamentarian James Bond. Bond has in fact labelled Granger’s leadership as “ineffective” and “mediocre”.
A PNCR diaspora group on Sunday last added its voice to calls for the former President to step down from leading the party. In a letter signed by Connie McGuire, Michael Bramford, George E Lewis and the PNCR New York Diaspora group, they appealed to all PNC Executives, members and supporters to demand the resignations of Granger and other party leaders.
They noted that after working tirelessly to get Granger elected in 2015, the party made a series of missteps, failed to connect to supporters, and sidelined young and dynamic leadership like that offered by former Region 10 Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon.
“It will be a colossal mistake for (us) the members of the PNCR groups in the New York Diaspora and the executive members of the PNCR to allow them to remain at the helm of the PNCR. This will no doubt do irreparable damage to the party…it is time for them to pass the baton on to the younger leadership of the likes of Sharma Solomon, Vanessa Kissoon, Thandi McAllister and others,” the NYC group said.
Solomon and Kissoon were among the organisers of the 2021 Linden protest. The almost one-month-long unrest left three persons dead, several others injured, and the destruction of several buildings along with public infrastructure (roads, bridges).
According to the group, the PNC’s elitist attitude adopted after they entered Government is responsible for losing the March 2 General and Regional Elections last year. It also was not lost on the group that Granger and his fellow PNC leaders have been ducking responsibility for their party’s loss at the polls. The party has in fact gone to court claiming that the elections were rigged against them. Both of their election petitions have been tossed out. (G3)