Second PNCR Central Exec member denies advising party on US Foreign Agent Registration Act

Last Updated on Monday, 27 May 2024, 16:53 by Writer

Dr Gary Best

High-ranking member of the People’s National Congress Reform’s (PNCR) Central Executive Committee (CEC), Attorney-at-Law Dr Gary Best on Sunday denied ever offering legal advice on the implications of United States (US)-based affiliates working on behalf of the party there.

“I provided no such legal advice to the CEC. I’m not the legal advisor to the Party. I’m not the legal advisor to the Leader. And I’m not on, or a member of the Party’s legal committee,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

His denial came, even as PNCR Public Relations Director Sherwood Lowe signaled that he would not be giving into demands by Ms Walton-Desir, PNCR’s CEC member, for a retraction of his statement that she advised that the North American Region’s (NAR) work in the US could face serious implications under the United States Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). “To engage in a back and forth with my CEC colleagues as who said what at which meeting would be unproductive and would distract from the main message the party would wish to convey,” he said when asked whether he would be acceding to their request for a withdrawal of his position that they had provided legal advice. Demerara Waves Online News has seen Dr Best’s internal correspondence to the CEC in which he has also demanded that Mr Lowe clarify or withdraw his statement to Demerara Waves Online News.

Adding his perspective to the debacle, Chairman of the newly-established steering committee for the PNCR’s USA Region, Derrick Lawrence sought to assure party faithful that every effort would be made to comply with the US laws. “As Chairman of the recently formed Steering Committee of the USA Region of the PNCR, I take this opportunity to allay all fears as I hasten to assure all parties concerned that our team, will always ensure the strictest compliance with US law while at the same time demonstrating respect for those we seek to serve, including the PNCR members in the USA and Guyana,” he said. He also dismissed NAR Inc’s Chairman, Ellen Tappin’s correspondence to party groups as if they are affiliates of her organisation. “The Chairperson of what now appears to be a new organization calling itself NAR Inc, was sufficiently presumptuous as to issue a subtle legal threat to our GS for sending letters directly to the PNCR groups in the USA, claiming those groups as NAR Inc affiliates. Laughable nonsense!,” Mr Lawrence said.

Ms Tappin had told the PNCR General Secretary, Dawn Hastings-Williams that whether it is NAR Inc or the Lawrence-led group, the entity must register under FARA to engage in activities on behalf of the PNCR. Ms Tappin warned the General Secretary and other CEC members that they risked 10-year jail terms and hefty civil fines.

The General Secretary’s letter referred to a party decision to allow NAR Inc to be registered as a not-for-profit organisation and as a party outfit. “The PNCR had earlier reviewed the Rules developed by the NAR and advised the NAR that it could do Party work but it has to be guided by the PNCR Constitution and that NAR under the 501C had to operate separately. This guidance from the PNCR was ignored by NAR,” she said.

According to Ms Hastings-Williams’ letter to Ms Tappin, the PNCR had decided to derecognise NAR for failing to obey instructions and directions by the PNCR’s CEC and General Council.

Dr Best deemed as “very unfortunate, and offensive” to the PNCR’s practice, for Mr Lowe, in his capacity as the party’s PR Director, to attribute a CEC decision to him, in his capacity as an elected Central Executive Member or to any individual CEC member. Dr Best said the party’s decisions are made collectively, rather than by one particular member. “To rest a decision(s) of the CEC on that of an individual or individuals is a disservice to the Party’s long tradition of its leadership taking account for all decisions despite differences that may lie in the process. I feel confident it is still the case,” he said.

He added that he would refrain from suggesting the intention was to impugn his character, lay blame, or one of inexperience. “I, however, do expect the Party’s PR Director not to so blunder in the future,” Dr Best said.