Forde, Walton-Desir “suspend” campaign for PNCR leadership

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:03 by Writer

Ms Amanza Walton-Desir       Mr Roysdale Forde

Attorneys-at-Law Roysdale Forde and Amanza Walton-Desir, who accepted nominations for the position of leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) suspended their campaign citing massive irregularities, on the eve of the start of their party’s three-day congress slated for June 28 to 30.

Their announcement came hours before the High Court was Friday due to consider applications for injunctions by a party member, Brian Collison, to block the congress until his concerns are addressed in a substantive matter. Elections for party leader and 15 members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) are scheduled for Sunday.

Notably, Mr Forde and Ms Walton-Desir did not say that they were withdrawing from the race but said in separate statements containing similar concerns that they had suspended their campaigns. “Today, I hereby formally suspend my candidacy and acceptance of all nominations for the positions to which I have been nominated by party groups across the country,” Mr Forde said. “I come to you today to announce my decision to suspend my campaign for the PNCR leadership,” she said.

Ms Walton-Desir said she was “not at liberty to ignore” several concerns about the process. “As of the morning of June 27th, 2024, one day before the commencement of our Congress, a preliminary list of delegates has not been made available to me as a candidate to allow for claims or objections and further, there is a lack of agreement among all candidates contesting on the procedures for conducting the elections,” she said.

However, it was Mr Forde who listed his concerns about the process. He said despite several written communications addressed to the Central Executive Committee and the General Secretary regarding concerns about the integrity of the electoral processes for the party’s elections, he had not received any response.

He alleged that there had been noticeable irregularities concerning the list of delegates, which raise serious concerns about the transparency of the election process; unreasonable timelines have been imposed to meet certain requirements for holding the congress, which have placed undue pressure and constraints on the democratic process, and members from various regions across the country had expressed dissatisfaction with the extremely limited time provided to organize logistics to attend and effectively participate in the Congress.
Though Mr Forde and Ms Walton-Desir raised their concerns publicly, the PNCR did not debunk them. Congress Administrator, Sherwyn Benjamin is already on record as repeatedly stating that those concerns have to be raised at the group and regional chairmen levels, not at the central party headquarters, Congress Place.
Approximately 2,000 delegates are listed to vote at the congress.
Returning Officer, Vincent Alexander had said that he was unconcerned about how the delegates list was generated but about ensuring that they voted and there was no multiple voting or voter impersonation. Mr Alexander, who is also a Guyana Elections Commissioner, said he had told the candidates that they needed to take their concerns elsewhere. Neither incumbent leader Aubrey Norton nor his representative attended the meeting with the Returning Officer.
Applicant, Brian Collison is hoping to convince the High Court to grant an injunction to restrain Mr Aubrey Norton, the PNCR by themselves either singularly or collectively or by their servants or agents from holding an election of officers and Central Executive Committee (CEC) members until the substantive matter is heard and determined or a subsequent High Court order is made to permit the holding of the congress.
Mr Collison says he wants the High Court to declare that the Congress Circular dated May 17, 2024, and all subsequent congress circulars issued by Dawn Hastings-Williams, as General Secretary of the People’s National Congress, are null and void. Ms Hastings-Williams resigned with immediate effect on June 24, saying that one month was insufficient to prepare for the congress and that there were big question marks about the validity of a number of the members.

Mr Collison says Article 26 of the Constitution of the PNC requires any motion to amend its Rules, including amendment of any rules pertaining to the procedure and processes by which the Party determines candidates to appear on election ballots, to be submitted to the General Secretary at least eight weeks before the Biennial Delegates Congress. In that context, he says the first circular for the 22nd Biennial Delegates Congress was generated a mere six weeks before the date of that event is to be held.

“The short timeframe that notice was given of the date that Congress will be held, denies members their Constitutional right to recommend new rules or amend existing rules, including amendment of any rules pertaining to the procedure and processes by which the Party determines candidates to appear on election ballots,” the applicant adds.

The affidavit by the applicant states that the inadequate notice of the date for the congress is also insufficient for meaningful participation by members and their groups because of inadequate administrative arrangements and timely notice to Party members and groups. He says the first Congress Circular also did not provide any information about the administrative arrangement and persons that are delegated special responsibilities. “The Party’s failure to timely set up the necessary administrative arrangements, appoint necessary persons to perform essential duties and inform members and groups of the arrangements and persons performing key congress duties, created substantial hurdles to members and groups exercising their rights at the Congress,” Mr Collison states. The applicant states that the PNCR’s failure to put adequate administrative arrangements and personnel for congress in place and inform members and Party groups about the arrangements and personnel, “created confusion and paralysis that has resulted in unfairness.”

The applicant states that the PNCR congress will be “unfair and prejudicial” if held on June 28-30, 2024 because there was a breach of the database that stores membership records and other essential information. The General Secretary or any other authorised person did not take adequate steps to ensure that the membership register, and essential records of the party were not compromised.”