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PNCR’s overdue General Council meeting focussed on party unity; Norton says ‘no’ to year-round internal campaigning

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 November 2023, 22:33 by Denis Chabrol

A section of the delegates at the PNCR’s General Council held on November 18-19, 2023.

The People’s National Congress Reform’s (PNCR) long-awaited General Council at the weekend focussed on the need for party unity, with party Leader Aubrey Norton saying that now was not the time for internal campaigning for the leadership.

“Our party has always been a democratic party. We’ve always had elections and when a Congress is announced, one expects that those who want to run but this cannot be the season for campaigning,” he said on the PNCR’s Nation Watch interview programme. Instead, he expects party members to unite, expose the government, produce alternative programmes and policies and “keep the government on its back foot.”

The last General Council was held more than one year ago, partly due to a shortage of funds, according to party sources.

In recent months, it has become apparent that rivals such as Attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde- backed by Ms Volda Lawrence and party General Secretary Dawn Hastings-Williams-and Attorney-at-Law Amanza Walton-Desir had emerged and appeared to have been campaigning ahead of the next Congress. The PNCR’s statement at the end of the Council meeting did not indicate when Congress would be held, but said “a plenary session was held to discuss the party’s strategy for Guyana’s 2025 general and regional elections. Congress is not usually held in an election year which suggests that it would be held next year.

Mr Norton said party members were free to campaign but urged that it be “done in a way that it doesn’t affect the unity of the party and the party achieving its long-term objectives.” At the 2021 Congress, Mr Norton cruised home to victory, beating of Joseph Harmon and Richard Van West Charles.  Since then, Mr Norton has been criticised for not holding General Council every quarter, reluctant to take advice, has not achieved key targets he had set himself such as having a clean voters list, and the party has lost some support in traditional municipal strongholds except for Linden. On the other hand, Mr Norton has had to contend with the virtual disappearance of key past figures such as Mr Joseph Harmon,  then General Secretary Amna Ally and former party leader David Granger from the party’s political scene.

The meeting of the General Council, the PNCR’s second highest decision-making body after Congress, was held under the theme “Moving Forward as a Disciplined and United Party”.  He hoped to forge greater party unity by having more discussions on policies, reach out more to people and tone down differences. “As a party, our biggest challenge to the PPP has to be on our organisation and our knowledge and, in that regard, we will need every person and so the intention will be to work to bring every person on board,” he said.

He said the “overwhelming” support he received from party members at the November 18-19 General Council was as a result of the hard work he and his team have put in since he was elected party leader two years ago. He attributed that to the “constant contact” he has been having with party supporters. “People believe we are on the right path, that we need to work more on organising, we need to intensify our outreach to the people of the country and we are satisfied that once we do that we will be the next government of Guyana,” he added.

According to the party leader, internal leadership challenges did not affect the PNCR significantly “though it did affect us”. Mr Williams, who also attended General Council, asked Mr Norton to expand on his warning at the Council meeting that indiscipline of certain party leaders must end now, would not be tolerated and would be dealt with condignly. In response, Mr Norton, in response, said the PNCR’s structures, procedures and protocols must be used so that the party is disciplined, united and prepared to defeat the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.

He took a verbal swipe at a “small elite” in the PNCR who he said opposes him liming at certain places, but said that is the way he feels connected to supporters.

Mr Norton said the General Council meeting allowed regional representatives to provide political and economic assessments including claims of the PPPC losing support.

In terms of campaigning for the 2025 general and regional elections, Mr Norton said the cash-strapped PNCR would not be holding many rallies but would instead use its funds to pay activists. “We will have rallies but my intention is not to spend a large amount on rallies. I want to spend more on paying our party supporters to do work in the field at election time so that is going to be a significant shift in the sense that ‘yes’ we want voluntary workers but we must ensure that we have some paid workers on the ground that are doing some extra things that we need to do,” he said. He believed that victory at the next general and regional elections was in sight once the PNCR could make slight inroads into the PPP constituency and increase the PNCR’s turnout.

The General Council membership includes all members of Central Executive Committee, Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Regional Democratic Councils, party candidates at the last General Elections, representatives of the party’s youth arm-the Guyana Youth and Student Movement-and its women’s arm-the National Congress of Women), the Chairs and Vice Chairs of Neighbourhood Councils, Mayors an Deputy Mayors of municipalities, and other regional Party leaders.|

The PNCR, in a statement, said Mr. Norton emphasized that in the face of the Venezuelan threat, the Party needed to stand on the forefront of efforts to defend the country’s national  security and territorial integrity. He reiterated the Party’s position that all Guyanese must
share in the country’s oil wealth, while being guaranteed their full social and political rights.

In addition, he issued the call for the Party to expand its groundwork and take the party’s vision in all communities across the country.
The second day’s program included reports from the Party’s arms and regional committees.

In addition, a plenary session was held to discuss the Party’s strategy for the 2025 Regional and General Elections. As expected,  the PNCR said that session generated much robust discussion, with members expressing confidence that, with greater effort by party groups and more publicising of the Party’s national development vision of putting people first, the Party can return to government.

Several tabled motions were debated and passed.

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November 2023