Monday, August 31, 2009

Van West Charles Describes What He Terms "The Worst Electoral Fraud In The PNC/R's History"!

Dr Van West Charles

The image of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has been seriously damaged by the worst electoral fraud in its history, according to a former challenger to party leader, Robert Corbin.

The charge came from Dr Richard Van West-Charles, a son-in-law and protégé of party founder-leader, the late President Forbes Burnham, who dropped out of the bid to unseat Corbin to back party stalwart, Winston Murray for the post at last weekend’s 16th biennial congress.

He claimed that once again, the party has been hijacked through an illegal process by personal agendas. “This debacle has damaged the image of our Party. We will not stand idly by and allow our Party to degrade over time because of reckless adventurism by a few. We recommit to our struggle to ensure democracy, fair play and justice in our Party. We will keep the flame of hope burning,” he declared.

Amid charges of endemic fraud at the party elections Saturday, the official results gave old-stager, Corbin, a wide victory margin over Murray, who accepted the results but is still open on his future role in the party. Corbin got 614 votes against 223 for Murray.

With Corbin still leading a seriously fractured party facing impending local government elections and general elections in 2011, Murray and Van West-Charles tried to be optimistic about change in a joint statement yesterday.

They thanked those “who were hopeful of change” at the congress, and said they are reflecting on the situation.

“…we wish to indicate our commitment to keep the flame of hope alive, so that change can be brought about to give Guyanese a true feeling and sense of a new beginning. At an appropriate time, and not too long from now, a public indication will be given of future intentions,” the two said.

But in a separate statement, Van West-Charles accused Corbin of taunting and gloating after a victory tainted by serious fraud accusations.

He argued that Corbin’s dismissal of irregularities at the elections “is an exhibition of a cavalier attitude, as the Party’s image is seriously damaged by the worst electoral fraud in its history.”

He added: “At the Congress, we objected to the distribution of wads of delegate cards by supporters of Mr. Corbin, who, in turn, were giving the cards to ineligible persons. Our strenuous objections did not deter these persons, who were operating with impunity. In one instance, a newly elected CEC member from Canada was caught red-handed with a bag full of delegate cards. Accreditation officials refused to confiscate the cards. “We wish to place on the public record that there was a breakdown of the voting process. The Returning Officer lost control of the process, and did not even establish the number of delegates present and entitled to vote. There was no effort by the Returning Officer to ensure a meticulous check of delegates entering the Hall. The roll call of delegates was so fast, that it resulted in mass entrance into the Hall. A number of persons not entitled to vote used this confusion to enter the Hall. “Our accredited scrutineers were prevented from monitoring the roll call and entrance of delegates into the voting arena by Mr. Corbin aides. “We are aware that scores of persons from Sophia, in Region No. Four, were bussed in to vote as delegates for another region. We also noted that the physical arrangements established for voting was not designed to prevent multiple voting. Hence, we affirm that there was massive multiple voting. A number of prominent members of the newly-elected executive were integrally involved in multiple voting.”
Van West-Charles said that the entire process was fraudulent, from membership registration to voting, and that a “fulsome report is being prepared for submission to the Party’s Secretariat, and it will also be available to all Party members.”

Corbin, 62, a PNCR stalwart, was elected party chairman in 2000, and retained in the role in 2002. He was chosen to lead the party in 2003, following the death of former President Desmond Hoyte.

After the party’s defeat in the 2006 national elections, Corbin's leadership came under scrutiny, although ultimately, his two prospective challengers withdrew before a contest could be organised and his leadership was affirmed.

Challenges to Corbin’s leadership of the party led to infighting, which intensified late last year after stalwart, Mr. James McAllister was removed as a PNCR parliamentarian. This prompted strong protests from senior members, including Mr. Vincent Alexander, Registrar at the University of Guyana, who had previously attempted to challenge Corbin as leader.

In a statement then, the breakaway group, called ‘Team Alexander’, said it can no longer be of service to a party that “merely gives lip service to the ideals that inspired our continued service…”

Alexander resigned as the PNCR representative on the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, and Ms. Julianne Gaul submitted her resignation from the Regional Development Council of Region Four.

Alexander was among those backing Murray against Corbin at the congress.

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