Last September 2020 I voiced concerns about the path on which the Party seemed embarked and its obvious crisis of leadership. In spite of or perhaps because of the caustic response of the Party ‘leadership’, many Party members and members of the public, in particular, have subsequently sought my agreement to be nominated for the leadership of the PNCR. In one case, I promised to re-consider my initial refusal but I clearly indicated that I thought that the Party’s first priority should have been to deal with the innumerable concerns which I mentioned in that interview, concerns which were similar to those former leaders of the Party recently shared with the PNCR’s current Central Executive Committee (CEC). They relate to the manner in which the Party has been led, has been functioning and the consequences.
On Saturday, the Party held its Congress, the Party’s highest decision-making forum and the most important event in the shaping of a political Party. It would normally involve an exhaustive examination of relevant issues affecting the membership and the country, ranging from challenges cultural to the current political situation, preparation for or analysis of national election results, economic policies et al. 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. Ironically, such a Congress should be quite consistent with the approach of the leadership of Mr Granger – no Party reforms, no resolutions, no or minimal debates etc. Yet there is from the current leadership much push-back against the Congress, or more accurately, against the changing of the leadership.
I had pointed out during the course of the above-mentioned KN interview in 2020 that invoking the mechanisms and processes available to the Party could have placed it in a strong position relative to all other political Parties in Guyana, as regards best practise. 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.
Even though the decision of the CEC to postpone the elections to December 18 in order to address some obvious weaknesses, too many questions still remain unaddressed. Those areas are of concern to me because I have had first-hand 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 a 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. 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. The function of a leader is not to 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.
I understand that the Leader notified the Chairman of the Party less than a week ago of his impending departure from the country. This is not the first party leader to have been ill whilst in office and he will not be the last. 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. The CEC which has been critical of the Leader and called for the Congress. For its impertinence, it seems to have been treated with utter contempt.
Given these circumstances and whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s event, 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.
For the same reasons I am satisfied that it would be inappropriate to accept the nominations for the position of Leader of the Party and membership of the CEC and I indicated this position to Mr Winston G Felix, DSM, Chair, Electoral Committee, two or three days after I received formal notification of my nomination.
I will, however, continue to engage with members as appropriate.
In closing, I should like to thank sincerely the various groups and individuals, who in this climate of uncertainty and turmoil, have shown confidence in my work, such faith in my ability and continue to appreciate my contribution to advancing the condition of our constituency. I would like to assure these members that I will continue to be available to encourage and support them in order to enhance their capacities and their groups’ development.
Carl B Greenidge