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Controversy mars PNCR’s Congress opening; Granger touts “One Nation” model

NO HANDSHAKE: PNCR General Secretary, Oscar Clarke refuses to shake Vanessa Kissoon’s hand

Even as People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader, David Granger sought to push a “One Nation” model as the solution to a number of national problems, the opening of his party’s congress was Friday afternoon marred by defiance and the open ventilation of concerns by representatives of Region 10 who claimed that efforts were afoot to disenfranchise a number of persons from being delegates.

Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon said a fresh list of 30 persons was submitted to the party to replace those deemed ineligible because they were not party members for at least one year. “We are entitled to the largest amount of delegates to this congress which represents one hundred and twenty-five including automatic and delegates drawn from groups.  We have demonstrated by way of correspondence this morning and we are certain that our delegate numbers will be well-represented,” he said.

He assured that the delegates submitted were valid because they were drawn from the 2012 list and that they would be allowed to vote a new crop of leaders.

But already, PNCR General Secretary, Oscar Clarke said seven of those on the new list were ineligible. “I looked at it cursorily and I want to point out that seven of these names do not qualify,” he said.

Clarke said he was willing to work with Region 10 to have its concerns resolved ahead of Sunday’s vote for the Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairman and Central Executive. Long-time member, Aubrey Norton is hoping to unseat Granger.  Solomon refused to answer direct questions about whether he has bowed out of the race for the top post.

Defiance was quite evident with the arrival and entry of suspended PNCR member Vanessa Kissoon in the Congress venue.   She was suspended by party leader, David Granger pending the outcome of a Disciplinary Committee hearing into an altercation between her and Clarke. 

Kissoon and Clarke came face-to-face as she and more than 45 others were marching and taking their seats while the opening of the Congress was in session. They greeted each other “Good afternoon” but Clarke confirmed that he refused to shake her hands because she was not supposed to be present. “When she came and stretched her hand at me, I didn’t stretch my hand back because in my opinion she is illegitimately here,” said Clarke.

Immediate past PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin said he would be willing to bring his wisdom and experience to bear in resolving a number of internal party matters that he insisted should not be discussed in the media. “If it comes up and it requires a comment I will but, as I said, that is a matter for the Congress,” he said.  Corbin added that the disciplinary mechanism provides for a system of appeal.

In a lengthy address to the opening session, Granger reiterated several areas of concern including drug trafficking, youth unemployment, disregard for the parliamentary will of the combined opposition majority, rising crimes such as robberies and murders, a collapsed social security (National Insurance Scheme) and corruption. Granger sought to sell the three-pronged  “One Nation” model as an umbrella solution to those problems. He explained that such a  project would seek to reach a broad consensus on the goals of national development, establish a sustainable institutional architecture and to create effective policy instruments for the achievement of our common objectives.

“Our One Nation project will be the basis for major sections of society – including the government; political opposition; trade unions; private sector and civil society – to come together to seek agreement on a broad national programme to move our country forward,” he added.

PNCR Chairman, Basil Williams credited the parliamentary opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), of which his party is the largest player, with forcing the government to acknowledge the importance of transparency and accountability in financial and other affairs of the State.