Last Updated on Sunday, 27 July 2014, 16:51 by GxMediaAbout two hours after a gunshot was fired during a commotion at the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) around voting time at its 18th Biennial Congress, Aubrey Norton pulled out of the race for party leader because of alleged irregularities and lack of transparency.
“I did not pull out. I told them that I cannot participate in a process that is obviously flawed and that for days we have been trying to solve the problem of Region 10 delegates and it was compounded by intimidation,” he told reporters shortly after walking out of Congress Place.
He said a number of mostly Region 10 delegates- some estimates say as much as 40 of the more than 100 delegates- were declared ineligible because they have been party members for less than one year.
Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon also refused to contest the position of Chairman. That means that incumbents David Granger and Basil Williams remain as party leader and chairman respectively.
Norton said that since the closure of accreditation on July 14, a list of the delegates was not provided. He noted that the accreditation committee met for the first time on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
The PNCR, in a brief statement, acknowledged that there were concerns about padding of the voters list that led to Norton’s refusal to participate. “Voting was delayed for several hours due to complaints of an inflated delegates list. Every effort was made to reconcile the situation, thus delaying the process. At 1345 Mr. Norton declined and the process of selecting the other party officers continues,” said the PNCR in a statement.
Concerns about transparency of PNCR’s internal elections have now become a regular feature of that party which is key player in the parliamentary coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
Asked whether he was claiming that the preparation for the polls was flawed because he knew he would have lost, Norton said “If they feel that ultimately I would have lost because the process is flawed then they are correct but if it was based on the genuine support of the party people I don’t see how I could have lost,” he said.
PNCR member, Carl Greenidge said challenging the delegates’ list on the morning of voting day was unacceptable. “You can’t be having new names on the list at this stage,” he said. Greenidge called on Granger to ensure that “these things do not fall in the arena of being disputed or questioned and there is no reason why it can’t be done,” he added. Greenidge also called on the PNCR General Secretary to resign.
Earlier, at exactly 12:11 PM a single gunshot was heard. Numerous persons, who were inside the congress venue, corroborated that one of Granger’s bodyguards discharged a round during a commotion. Several persons were seen running almost immediately after the gunshot was fired. No one was injured. One delegate, who is a Georgetown City Councillor, agreed that firing the gunshot was necessary
During the afternoon, tempers flared at the main gate between a number of persons with delegate badges and identification cards and Kalibur Security Service guards because they were not allowed to enter the compound for a very long time. They were allowed entry only after Larry London turned up and resolved the differences.
Other persons, without any form of credentials, also demanded that they be allowed to enter. In one instance, an unruly woman pushed past the guards and even picked up a tree limb to lash one of them.
Solomon echoed that he had no confidence in the process, pointing out that he has no delegate card because he was told that it had disappeared. “I am also a contender in this race and I don’t have a delegate card which allows me to get beyond some barriers,” he said. He said he was assured by PNCR General Secretary Oscar Clarke that he issues about delegate cards would have been resolved.