PNCR Congress: Norton admits need for party to build credibility, electability

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is rolling out preparations for the 2025 General and Regional Elections with its incumbent Leader, Aubrey Norton, recognising the need for the main Opposition party to build its credibility.

Norton, who is the current Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, made these remarks on Friday during the opening ceremony of the PNCR’s 22nd Biennial Delegates Congress held at the party’s Congress Place headquarters in Sophia, Greater Georgetown.

During the three-day congress, Norton will be seeking re-election as PNCR Leader. There is also a motion to be presented for his selection as the party’s Presidential Candidate at the 2025 polls. The PNCR is the largest party in the main parliamentary opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

The party’s Biennial Congress is being held under the theme: “Forming the next government: building a just, inclusive, and prosperous society for all.”

According to Norton, this theme mobilises the party on a clear, urgent, and comprehensive mission to transform Guyana into a nation where its people can enjoy one of the highest living standards and quality of life.

He told party members that the PNCR was “well-suited” for this mission.

“To become the next government, we will work tirelessly to obtain the support of the people of Guyana. Our party must increase its readiness, appeal, credibility, capability, and electability,” he declared.

Norton’s admission of the need for credibility within the PNCR comes on the heels of blatant attempts by the then PNCR-led APNU-Alliance For Change (AFC) coalition administration to rig the 2020 elections.

Despite pronouncements by several international, regional and local observer missions, court rulings and a national recount exercise that proved the current ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic won the March 2, 2020 polls and reinforced that the then coalition regime attempted to derail the elections, the PNC-led Opposition had maintained that it won those elections and accused the PPP/C of rigging.

This is even though several PNCR activists, along with some former officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), are currently before the courts on matters relating to electoral fraud.

Nevertheless, during his address on Friday, Norton stated that the Congress would be used to re-energise, regroup, and refocus the PNC and its membership to urgently achieve its goals especially the party’s bid to win next year’s elections.

But to do this, the incumbent PNCR Leader outlined that its people-centred development strategy would be key.

“We have to make our case in all communities across the land… We have to be our best selves. Of critical importance, we must meet the people wherever they are. No one must claim they did not see us or hear from us. Let this Congress galvanise us on a collective mission,” he stressed.

In the same breath, however, Norton underscored the need for the PNCR to show a united front.

“We have to be a disciplined party in which we stay on message and keep the party’s business in the party. We must recognise that every time we put our business out there, we strengthen our opponents at the expense of victory in the next General and Regional Elections…”

“We must be guided by the party’s policies so that we can be a unified force working to return good governance to Guyana. I have no doubt that as a party, we are up to the challenge. We will continue to fight for biometrics and a clean voter list, which, no doubt, will guarantee us victory at the next General and Regional Elections… Victory is on the horizon! Let us work to realise this victory for the people of Guyana,” Norton declared.

These calls for the party’s business to stay within the party come in light of public in-fighting among members and a string of senior and long-standing PNC members resigning. The most recent case was the party’s General Secretary, Dawn Hastings-Williams, who left earlier this week just days before this weekend’s Congress, citing poor planning for the Congress and lack of transparency, among other issues.

Since Norton’s ascension to the helm of the party, there have been mounting concerns, including from within, over the lack of financial accountability in the PNCR.

Last year, in a leaked telephone conversation, former PNCR Treasurer Faaiz Mursalin had revealed a host of issues including financial impropriety, with him being instructed by Norton to sign several blank cheques, the lack of supporting financial documents for expenditures, and the lack of an audit of the party’s finances.

Norton was since challenged by parliamentarians Roysdale Forde and Amanza Walton-Desir for the PNCR leadership. But just 24 hours before the start of the Congress, both Forde and Walton-Desir withdrew their candidacy – leaving Norton as the sole contestant for the top spot within the PNC.

In making their announcement on Thursday, both Forde and Walton-Desir cited serious concerns and irregularities as well as lack of fairness and transparency as key reasons for their decisions.

Apart from Norton’s growing unpopularity within the PNC, only earlier this month, the parties within the APNU coalition held a meeting and elected a new Chairman of APNU – a move which the PNC had deemed “null and void” since they were not aware of the elections, where Norton was booted as Chairman and replaced by Vincent Henry.

Meanwhile, Norton is seeking re-election as the PNCR Leader at a time when he is facing allegations of sexual assault threats. Long-standing PNC member Vanessa Kissoon has accused Norton of threatening to rape her at gunpoint and while he has denied the allegation, the party’s elders have been called in to probe the serious claims.