PNCR’s Congress Administrator, Team Forde tussle over bias, pre-nomination irregularities

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2024, 19:35 by Writer

Mr Sherwin Benjamin

The Roysdale Forde campaign team for the post of leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) on Tuesday claimed that there were a number of procedural irregularities leading up to the submission of nominations ahead of that party’s congress scheduled for June 28 to 30.

However, Congress Administrator Sherwin Benjamin said he was unaware of such a concern.

From a total of 218 groups, incumbent Leader Aubrey Norton received 177 nominations; Roysdale Forde, 20; Amanza Walton-Desir, nine; Volda Lawrence, one; Carl Greenidge, four; Gary Best, two, and Simona Broomes, two. Norton’s protégé, Shurwayne Holder, also got the highest number of nominations – 173 – to be returned as PNCR Chairman; Ms Walton-Desir, seven; Mr Forde, nine; Ms Lawrence, 20; Linden Mayor Sharma Solomon, two; Christopher Jones, three, and Simona Broomes, one.

Team Forde said in a statement that numerous group chairs and regional chairpersons made nominations without proper authorization from the respective groups they represented. That campaign group said the transgression was so flagrant that Ms. Florence Bourne, the Chair of the North East La Penitence Group to which Mr Forde belongs, cited tardy document submission as a pretext to circumvent the mandated process.

“This process, which necessitates convening all group members for a meeting to collectively nominate candidates for various positions, was disregarded with alarming impunity. The brazen flouting of rules within a group directly involving our candidate raises concerns about the integrity of the nomination process nationwide,” Team Forde said in a statement.

Mr Benjamin sought to assure that he was prepared to function as Administrator of the Congress Committee “without any hint of bias”. Pressed to show any discrepancy in the Norton camp, he said “there is nothing.” He said Monday’s nomination process was carried in an orderly, fair and transparent manner. The Congress Administrator said there could have been a proper claim of irregularities if “the numbers were inaccurate.” He shrugged off Team Forde’s concerns, saying he was never told about them. “Those concerns were never brought to me and I cannot speak to anything that I have not sight of or not heard of through the formal means,” he said, adding that he did not see any public statement. He added that so far no group has come forward and registered its disagreement with the process.

Mr Forde’s campaign team complained that Mr Benjamin was the Head of the Accreditation Committee though he is an overt supporter of Mr Norton’s leadership, and himself a nominee for a position on the Central Executive Committee. Mr Mortimer Mingo, according to well-placed sources, has dismissed claims that he (Mingo) is in charge of that committee. Similarly, Mr Vincent Alexander had told Demerara Waves Online News that he was not the Returning Officer, contrary to claims by that party.

While Mr Alexander’s name was proposed and unanimously accepted by the PNCR’s Central Executive Committee, Mr Benjamin could not say if he had accepted to take up the post or if he had been consulted before.

Mr Benjamin described the Forde campaign’s contention that he is overtly biased in favour of Mr Norton as “laughable” in the absence of any specific evidence that he was campaigning for him. “I do not have a horse in the race. The only horse I have in any race is the People’s National Congress Reform,” he said. Saying he was never asked by Mr Forde, Ms Amanza Walton-Desir or any other candidate to accompany them on community visits, he dismissed suggestions that he was seen on such activities with Mr Norton only when he had the time. “If he is pointing to the fact that I was seen on walkabouts in communities with Mr Norton, it was a community walkabout which was representing the People’s National Congress and not a candidate for leader,” he said.

Annette Ferguson, Deputy Campaign Manager for Team Forde, wrote PNCR General Secretary complaining that Mr Benjamin was a nominee for Team Norton and so should be removed or asked to resign from the post of Congress Administrator. “This, in our view, is a conflict of interest, which lacks objectivity and must be addressed immediately by CEC (Central Executive Committee) or the Congress Committee,” she said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Forde was hinting at legal action if the validation of groups and members turned up glaring discrepancies, but he said, “As a candidate I bring to the PNCR election similar seriousness, rigour and legal oversight as witnessed from me at the national level. I am committed to a credible, free, fair and transparent process, and I am prepared to use the means at my disposal to ensure this.”

Asked whether he believed that the entire process could stand up to legal scrutiny, Mr Benjamin said “of course” because the court would not accept frivolous and vexatious arguments.