PNC member moves to High Court to stop Congress

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

A People’s National Congress (PNC) member has taken his own party to court, seeking to stop the upcoming biennial congress scheduled for this weekend, over the irregularities in the process leading up to the long overdue congress.

The member, Brian Collison, is contending that in light of irregularities in the process leading up to the selection of the PNC delegates, the High Court must intervene to protect the will of the PNC members and support base. Collison is being represented by Attorney-at-Law Vivian Williams, with PNC leader Aubrey Norton being named as a respondent in this case.

According to a statement, Collison’s actions stem from “deep concern” about claims of irregularities in the management of the current Biennial Congress of the PNC and the electoral process that could affect the true will of the PNCR electorate in their election of new office bearers. Further, he made note that attempts to address these irregularities appear to have gone nowhere.

He explained in the statement that his interest is in establishing accountability in the party and ensuring the most fundamental element of political representation of the people is not further damaged by a process that is not subject to review.

It was explained that Collison’s court action “is supported by precedents in other jurisdictions that determined that the effectiveness of individuals’ participation in general elections, is in large part determined by the opportunity for party members to effectively participate in internal elections that determine candidates who appear on election ballots.”

It was further explained that “through his lawyer, Collison is therefore asking the court for a declaration that political parties have a duty to adopt procedures for fair internal elections. He also wants the court to issue an injunction to prevent his Party from proceeding with the election of a Party leader and officers until such time fairness is guaranteed.”

Collison is seeking declarations from the court that “(a) political parties are legal entities that can be sued; (b) the PNCR performs functions exclusively reserved for the State which impact the constitutional rights of Guyanese, particularly its members and supporters; (c) the determination of candidates that appear on election ballots is a significant aspect of the elections process circumscribing individuals’ right to vote as guaranteed in the Constitution of Guyana, such that the procedure(s) used for their selection must be fair and consistent with democratic ideals; and (d) directing the government to remove all undue burden to ensure rights conferred upon political parties by the Constitution are given full force and effect.”

Collison’s mention of irregularities are likely a reference to the recent resignation of PNC General Secretary Dawn Hastings-Williams. Hastings-Williams tendered her resignation with effect from June 24, citing among other things the lack of readiness for this weekend’s congress and concerns regarding financial accountability. These were outlined by Hastings-Williams in a letter to the party’s leader, on Monday.

“With all the administrative task that has to be undertaken by the secretariat, I believe that the one-month period for preparation for such a congress can lead to confusion rather than having a fair and transparent process and outcome,” the politician, who is also a former government minister, penned.

She also expressed concerns that as General Secretary, she was not being integrally involved in the preparations. Additionally, Hastings-Williams highlighted that she has received complaints from several groups and party members some in writing, that the records of the secretariat do not correspond with their previous submissions and that their membership register does not reflect their true membership.

The General Secretary further revealed that many members also claim that they have been unable or will be unable to meet the short deadlines set for the submission of the delegates and other information because of the short notice period for Congress.

Hastings-Williams’ resignation follows the resignation of her predecessor, Geeta Chandan Edmonds, in 2022. Also resigning at that time had been party treasurer, Faaiz Mursalin. At the time Mursalin had resigned, he had also claimed a lack of financial accountability.

The PNC’s congress is set for this weekend, commencing Friday, June 28. It comes at a time when Norton is already grappling with the recent sexual allegation made against him by former Member of Parliament (MP) for Region 10, Vanessa Kissoon. In a video recording released last week, Kissoon accused Norton of threatening to rape her at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, Collison’s statement makes mention of another action involving the PNC, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC., all of whom have been named as respondents. It states that this action “seeks several declarations from the court about the standing, and obligations of political parties in ensuring that the right to vote provided for in Guyana’s Constitution, is not diluted and hindered by unfairness in internal party procedures.”