GENERAL SECRETARY’S REPORT
 
Mr. Oscar E. Clarke
General Secretary of the People's National Congress/Reform

 

 

 

Comrade Chairman, Comrade Leader, Members of the Central Executive Committee and the General Council, Esteemed Delegates and Observers, Comrades All.

 

Please permit me to add my own words of welcome to all Delegates, Observers and Specially invited Guests, to this our 13th Biennial Congress.  As I remarked in my message to this congress, which you will find in your Congress Programme, Congress is usually a time of great excitement when our Comrades from far and near meet to renew old acquaintances and forge new friendships.  Since it is the highest decision making forum of our Party, it is always eagerly awaited by the membership as the opportunity to promote and ultimately to secure necessary and relevant changes and adjustments in the body politic.
 
As participants in this 13th Biennial Congress we are challenged to make bold decisions with respect to the way forward for both our Party and our Country.  Just over forty-five years ago the People's National Congress was founded at the height of the anti-colonial struggle and in political and economic circumstances not too dissimilar to those prevailing at present in our country.  The strategies and tactics so brilliantly conceived and executed by our party under the guidance and leadership of our illustrious founder Leader, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, saw our Country and all of its people proudly achieve political  independence in 1966, and move on to Republican status four years later in February 1970.
 
Looking back over the years no one can deny the fact that the Country under successive People’s National Congress administration made significant achievements in all spheres of human endeavour.
 
Today, once again we are challenged to come up with new and innovative strategies and tactics to move our party and our Country forward.  Our Party will never flinch from such a noble task.
 
THE STATE OF THE PARTY
Party Regions
As is well known the Party is organized from the Group structure which is the basic unit up through the neighbourhood, the District and finally the Region, while these Party sub-divisions may be adequate for the coastal Regions 2,3,4,5,6 and 10 there suitability for the Hinterland is questionable.  Indeed experience has shown that, due to difficulties of communication the groups in some parts of the Hinterland regions could find it more advantageous to relate with central secretarial in Georgetown, rather than with the Regional Headquarters.  It may well be that one of the questions submitted by Aranaputa Valley Group in Region No. 9 has a bearing on this matter.
 
The question asked is ‘when would a desk be established at Party Secretariat to look after Interior Affairs?’  A detailed and thorough examination of the situation in Regions 1,7,8 and 9 in terms of Party organization and lines of Communication is an urgent necessity.
 
During the last two years Regional Conferences have been held in all the Coastal Regions; however, because of the communication difficulties referred to earlier on this important annual requirement could not have taken place in the Hinterland Regions.  The non observance of this important constitutional requirement has left the Party members in those Hinterland Regions, at best, uncertain as to the identity of their Regional Party Leaders since they would have had no opportunity to vote for new leaders over the last two years or In some areas longer.
 
The strength of the People’s National Congress derives from the quantity and quality of its membership; over the years, while the quantity has remained relatively constant the quality has declined.  This decline in the quality of our membership is due in no small measure to the non-functioning of Party Groups, which are the centers of education and orientation of the membership.  The reasons, for the non-functioning of Party Groups vary, but a predominant factor has been the decline in the national economy, and the consequent struggle by large segments of the population to make ends meet. 
In addition because of migration of large numbers of skilled and experienced leaders many groups have become moribund. Whatever the reasons the non-functioning of our groups is a matter of great concern for the Party and we are therefore challenged to seek new ways of injecting life into our Party Groups.  In the given economic situation the groups may well consider the desirability of transforming themselves into economic units thereby providing employment and income for members.
 
Despite these negative factors, this congress is being attended by nearly six hundred delegates drawn from some one hundred and ninety six (196) Groups representing, both the adult and youth membership in the ten Regions of Guyana.
 
MEMBERSHIP
While on this question of membership let me underline for the benefit of Party members the decisions, which were taken by the Central Executive Committee with respect to the recording of Party membership and the issuance of new membership cards.
 
With effect from the first of June 2002, every Party member or prospective member is required to complete the new Membership Application form which makes provision for the Group Secretary to issue an official receipt to the applicant upon payment of the new prescribed fee of one hundred ($100) dollars.  This receipt will be prima facie evidence of membership until the membership card becomes available.  A computer generated membership card will be provided for each member annually on the payment of the renewal fee of one hundred ($100) dollars.  The membership year of the Party remains 1st June to 31st May thus making all cards issued for the year 2002/2003 invalid after 31st May 2003.
 
The Secretariat of the Party continues to operate with woefully inadequate resources.  In the result crucial political work necessitating central direction could not be undertaken resulting in frustration and disenchantment, especially among our members and supporters in the far-flung hinterland and riverain areas.  A crucial issue to be discussed at this congress must be ways and means by which Party members and supporters can become more meaningfully involved in financing the work of the Party.  
 
Meanwhile thanks to the valuable contributions of a small band of dedicated volunteers to the work of the Secretariat, the Party continued to have a positive influence on the affairs of the State.  I refer here to Comrade Volda Lawrence, M.P., Head of the Party’s Human Services Department, which is undertaking much valuable welfare work in boosting the Party’s image, both nationally and within the Party. 
 
Our  response to the many situations of distress, which are now daily occurrences in Guyana, is entirely due to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Comrade Lawrence and her small band of volunteers.  Let us encourage them with a round of applause.
The second stalwart volunteer is Ms Yvonne Harewood/Benn, Head of the Party’s Public Relations Committee.
 
In the absence of the New Nation, which due to financial constraints, the Party is still not in a position to publish, many of you look forward to our weekly Press Conferences and Nation Watch programmes on Television.  Under Yvonnes’s stewardship, the Party has been able to maintain a powerful presence in a sustainable way, despite the odds, again I ask for an encouraging round of applause.
 
The next stalwart volunteer is none other than the Chairman of the Party’s Legal Affairs Committee, Mr. Basil Williams, need I say more. Consider the host of Legal matters on which the Party needs to be advised on a daily basis, then and only then would you begin to appreciate the vital contribution, which Basil and his team makes to our Party at this very critical juncture of Guyana’s history.  Again we show our appreciation with a round of applause.
 
Finally the Chairman, Mr. Hamley Case and other members of the Finance Committee deserve out thanks.  The Party continues to look to them to develop and to implement plans to ensure a sustainable source of income.
 
Meetings of the Central Executive Committee and the General Council were statutorily held during the period under review.  Major items discussed were
i)    The General and Regional Elections and their aftermath
ii)   The Political Dialogue and
iii)  The way forward for the Party

 

In the aftermath of the General and Regional Elections of March 2001, the People’s National Congress/Reform filed an election petition challenging the declared results of the polls.  This action not withstanding, the Party agreed to take up its allotted seats in the National Assembly as well as in the Regional Democratic Councils.
On the basis of the decleared results of the March 2001 polls, the People’s National Congress/Reform received approximately 42% of the National Votes.
 
This translated into twenty-seven seats for the Party in the sixty-five (65) Seats, National Assembly, (i.e. fourteen (14) National and thirteen (13) Regional Constituency Parliamentarians).  The Party also boasts seventy-seven (77) Councillors in the ten (10) Regional Democratic Councils.  In four (41) of the ten Councils our Party holds the Chairmanship and also the Vice Chairmanship in two (2) of the four, in which we hold the Chairmanship. 
 
Our Party therefore, is represented in every one of the Regional Democratic Councils, and should through its representatives seek every opportunity to promote the welfare of the citizens of the regions they represent as well as the national interest.  Our Regional Members of Parliament and Regional Councillors should be the eyes and ears of our Party in their regions and should be sources and channels of information on all aspects of life in the regions.
 
Recognizing the need to enter into negotiations with the government on a wide range of pressing national problems relative to Good Governance and also with a view to speeding up the implementation of agreed Constitutional reforms, the General Council of our Party mandated our Party Leader to enter into a process of negotiations with the State President. 
 
After one year of meetings between them, and with little or no progress in the implementation of decisions taken, the Central Executive Committee of our Party decided that the dialogue should cease until the decisions already taken, are fully implemented.  In addition, since some of the decisions taken were with respect to the operationalisation of constitutional amendments regarding the effective functioning of the National Assembly, a boycott of the Assembly by the People's National Congress/Reform Parliamentarians was also instituted.
Meanwhile the Party has taken steps, through its weekly Press Conferences and in meetings with civil society groups and mass organizations, to explain in detail its actions, which are aimed at bringing about a speedy resolution to the outstanding matters of concern.
On Sunday 22nd July 2001, at a retreat of the Central Executive Committee held at the Prairie Hotel at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, the way forward for our Party was discussed against the background of the failure of the Party to win the 2001 Elections.  Under the Theme “Shaping the People’s National Congress/Reform agenda 2001 – 2005”, the Retreat considered the future of the Party under five broad Sub-heads
i)                    The Philosophy of the Party
ii)                   Retooling the Party
iii)                 The Development Agenda for Guyana
iv)                  Relationship with the PPP/C and
v)                   Packaging the PNC/R
The report of the retreat has been the subject of further discussion and refinement by the Central Executive Committee and the General Council and its conclusions are now in the process of implementation on a priority basis.  The first priority was to settle the question of the Party’s philosophical base, which will    underpin all of the plans, approaches and actions of the Party.  The Party’s General Council at its November 2001, meeting approved a document detailing the Party’s philosophy as follows:-
 
  • The People’s National Congress/Reform is committed to contest by all democratic means available to obtain and hold office in Guyana at the national, regional and local level in order to achieve the material prosperity, national cohesion, and cultural development of Guyana.
  • We are a democratic institution.  We believe in the democratic process at the national level including the key rights to free and fair elections, the rule of law and the protection of the human rights of all our citizens.  We also believe that the practice of democracy within the internal organs of the party and the right of our members to chose their leadership at all levels and to participate freely in the decision making of the party, is a necessary concomitant of our support for the democratic ideal.
  • The basic strength of the party derives from the work of its members and supporters at the local group level.  The party holds as vital the work and support of its workers at the group level and strives to give recognition and reward for their faithfulness.
  • We are an action-oriented party committed to active participation in community development and local action for self-improvement.  We initiate such activity where necessary and support the initiatives of non-political organizations that engage in such work.
  • We are a caring party in which the needs of our members and supporters are of highest priority.  We will always work to render material and moral support to communities and individuals in distressed circumstances.
  • We place a high priority on transforming, modernizing and diversifying the Guyana economy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  We believe that this objective is to be primarily achieved through private initiative operating in a free market economy with an unfettered innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.  For that reason, we welcome private investment initiatives from local and foreign investors.  We place particular importance on the encouragement and support of local enterprise and facilitating new persons and groups to the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • The PNC/R sees the role of the state in the economy as that of facilitator providing a supportive, infrastructural and regulatory framework.  We also affirm the right of the state to intervene in the economy when this is in the national interest.
  • The PNC/R is committed to the belief that Guyana’s destiny lies in the unity of its people and that the diverse origins and cultural values and beliefs of its people are a source of strength in the pursuit of the party’s objectives for the nation.
  • The PNC/R is an inclusive party that welcomes to its fold all Guyanese at home and abroad who share our vision of a transformed and prosperous Guyana.  We welcome persons of all religious faiths, no religious faith, all social and cultural backgrounds and all ethnic origins.  We strive to win to our vision of Guyana persons and institutions who may not have worked closely with us in the past and make them feel welcome in our party.
  • The party believes that social justice and equitable treatment of all Guyanese, but in particular for those communities or individuals who are particularly disadvantaged, should be of a major priority, in all our actions and all our policies-in particular, the PNC/R unreservedly places the welfare of our Amerindian communities as a very high priority in our policies and political action.
  • The PNC/R is committed to the territorial integrity of the state of Guyana, and commits itself, in office or out of governmental office, to defend the territory of Guyana, and to work in collaboration with all patriotic organizations to do so.
  • The PNC/R believes that the material and political development of Guyana is linked to our support for, and participation in, the integration movement of Caribbean states.  The policies of the PNC/R are resolutely based, on closer and deeper ties and cooperation with out Caribbean and contiguous neighbours.
Meanwhile the following initial priority items have been agreed with respect to the other four sub-heads.
RETOOLING THE PARTY
i)   Reform including the computerization of the Party’s Membership records and the issuance of a new (picture identification) Membership card at an economic cost.
ii)  Strengthening the Secretariat by recruiting volunteers where possible.
iii) Developing and implementing a fund raising plan and programmes capable of funding the Party all year round.
iv)  Reform of the Secretariat’s security unit.
PACKAGING THE PARTY
            i)  Revitalising the PR capacity and capability of the Party
ii)  Seeking to develop and present a welcoming image to all Guyanese.
iii)  Networking in nontraditional constituencies
THE PNC/R PPP/C RELATIONS
i)   Education of membership with regard to our Party Philosophy and Strategy.
ii) Demonstrating the power of the Party through mobilization on issues affecting the populace.
iii)  Exposing by every means available the ineptitude corruption and bankruptcy of the PPP/C and its administration.
 
DEVELOPMENT AGENDA PNC/R
i) Special emphasis to be placed on training to develop and strengthen Local and Regional Party Leadership.
ii) Improving the mechanisms for Regional/Secretarial Communication.
 
iii) Identifying and pursuing economic and other developmental projects and opportunities for the involvement of our members and the upliftment of their communities.
iv) Supporting and enabling local government reforms.
NATIONAL CONGRESS OF WOMEN AND
GUYANA YOUTH & STUDENT MOVEMENT
All female adult members of our Party are constitutionally entitled to become members of the National Congress of Women.  Thus it can be argued that since the bulk of our party members are women the National Congress of Women should be the most populous arm of the Party.  Yet the NCW membership remains relatively small in proportion to the overall membership of the Party.   There can be no doubt that potentially the NCW is the most powerful party agency and this fact has been demonstrated time and time again throughout our party’s history.
 
Let me therefore use this opportunity to challenge all the women of our Party to get involved in the activities of the National Congress of women.
 
Over the last two years the National Congress of Women has been involved in various kinds of activities all of which have been beneficial to the members as well as women in the wider society.
On the economic front they were involved with various Women’s Groups in empowerment programmes thus preparing them to become income earners.  Skills Training is an ongoing activity both at their headquarters as well as at centers on the Essequibo Coast, the Corentyne and at Linden.  Examples of this work of some of the groups can be seen on display and for sale at the NCW booth outside this congress auditorium.
 
The movement also hosted many lectures and discussions on subjects mainly of interest to women and latterly has become involved in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute, in Workshops designed to “Empower women in Local Government”, providing training and orientation for women in preparation for their participation as councilors and Officers in the proposed New Local Government Thrust.
 
The Guyana Youth and Student Movement, the successor of the People’s National Congress Youth Organisation and the Young Socialist Movement, has much work to do if it is to recover the great revolutionary fervour and dynamism of earlier years.  It is true that in recent months there is evidence of an increased level of activities both in mobilizing more young Guyanese into membership and in networking with other organizations and Youth Groups.  These are positive signs and should be encouraged.  One of the major problems facing the GYSM is resource mobilization. The bulk of its membership comes from the categories of the unemployed and the students, all dependents; unable to contribute financially to programmes of the Movement. 
 
Given this challenge the Guyana Youth and Student Movement must look to establishing income-generating projects, which can employ and otherwise utilize the energies of its members.  I am confident that with the support of the Party’s Central Executive Committee and General Council for any economically viable project, the GYSM can overcome this serious set back to the achievement of its full potential.
 
During the period under review the Guyana Youth and Student Movement’s most successful collaborative effort has been in the area of networking with the Volunteer Youth Corps and other groups in the valuable work of spreading “Aids Awareness” Members of the Movement are functioning as peer educators in the various Regions of Guyana.  The Movement is the Spearhead of the Party’s involvement in all-major Aids activities in the country.
 
The organized involvement of its members in sports is yet another area in which GYSM has been active.  On the educational front the quarterly educational retreat at Camp Madewini has been gaining in popularity.  In the period ahead the GYSM will be called upon to play an increasingly active role in promoting the new Strategies and tactics, which the party must adopt in its quest to ensure that Good Governance returns to our country.
 
LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM
Local Government Reform is crucial to any process towards the achievement of Inclusive Governance.  The task force, which was established as a result of the dialogue process, has done considerable work in hammering out the legal and administrative framework, which would facilitate the holding Local Government Elections.  Under the proposed scheme there will be three categories of Councils, Village and Communities Councils – Neighbourhood Councils and Municipal Councils.
 
Our Party has been holding internal discussions on the various electoral options and will soon be ready to undertake outreach work to explain in details, the proposals for the reform of the Local Government System in Guyana.  During the Panel Discussion, which will follow my report, Vincent Alexander our representative on the Local Government Task Force, will elaborate on this matter, which is crucial to our plans for rescuing and rebuilding Guyana.
 
OUTREACH WORK
Much of the Party’s outreach work during the period under review has been in the nature of firefighting, responding to situations as they arise.  This approach through unsatisfactory has had to be adopted due to resource unavailability.  For example visits to Regions were not routinely undertaken and only took place for specific occasions e.g. Regional Conferences, emergency situations or other special occasions.  By and large only the Coastal Regions benefited from such visits.  Regional reports to General Council often indicated a reduced level of outreach work by Regional Party Officials no doubt also due to limited resources.  In the period ahead, creative ways must be found to bring about change in the present order of things.
 
Meetings were held with civil society groups including Trade Unions, Religious Groups, and the Business Community to discuss the political and economic situation facing the Country and to exchange ideas on ways of solving the country’s problems.  These meetings have always been cordial and useful.
 
The annual observances of the birth and death anniversaries of our Founder Leader were held with the Georgetown District of the Party assuming responsibility for planning and executing programmes and projects associated with the two anniversaries.  The District has announced plans for the inauguration of the Forbes Burnham Reading and Research Centre next year.
       
INTERNATIONAL CONTACTS
In the absence of an international department or even a Desk Officer in the Party’s Secretariat, the task of maintaining international fraternal party ties and other international contacts has been grossly neglected.
 
Contacts with the party’s United Kingdom Branch, continues to be strong and effective.  Membership is increasing and their quarterly contribution to the Secretariat’s budget of six hundred (S600) pounds Sterling is guaranteed.  I wish to take this opportunity to salute the Comrades in the United Kingdom and record our Grateful thanks for their congress message and financial contribution of five hundred (S500) pounds Sterling.
 
In similar view I wish to salute our Comrades in the National Council of Guyanese in Ottawa, Canada, whose contribution of one thousand ($1,000) Canadian dollars, is also gratefully acknowledged.
The message of Solidarity to our congress from the International Liaison Office of the Communist Party of China is also acknowledged.
 
The Party wishes to record its thanks to the government and people of the Republic of Cuba for the grant of three Scholarships tenable at Universities in that sister Republic.  Two of these scholarships are for the study of Medicine and the other for the study of Computer Engineering.  The three beneficiaries are
Ms Sharon Montague      -            Medicine
Ms Ayana Gale              -            Medicine
Mr. Leonard Da Costa    -            Computer Engineering
We congratulate them and wish them well.
 
In the run up to the 2001 elections some comrades in the New York area of the United States got together in an Organization called the Guyana Institute of Democracy (GID) and did valuable work in mobilizing material and other support for our campaign.  Some of the founder members of GID are with us at this congress and I wish on behalf of the Party’s Leadership and all Delegates and Observers present here to publicly thank them for their support and efforts to Rescue and Rebuild our Country.
 
Recently some former members of out Party now resident in the USA have indicated interest in establishing a Party Group in the New York Tristate area.  Application for membership forms have been dispatched to Ms Avril Bacchus one of the organizers and I look forward very soon to having the official registration of PNC/R New York group.
 
CONCLUSION
The period through which we have come since the last Congress has been one of disappointments and frustration for our party and its membership.  Spirits were understandably low following the elections, which once again brought disappointing results.  We have however, weathered the storm and thanks to the blatantly inept, corrupt and discriminatory Governance of the PPP/C a favourable climate for the resurgence of our Party has been created. 
We are challenged to take full advantage of the opportunity and rededicate ourselves to the tasks, which this congress will set us.
 
The road ahead will not be easy but I believe that we are equal to the task if only we can adopt the words of our congress song
 
Let unity prevail
And then we will not fail
To rise in Victory
Triumphant over the enemy
August 1 6, 2002