A Suc­cess­ful Party Congress

Weekend Mirror - - GETTING IT RIGHT - By Dr. Bheri Syg­mond Ram­saran


31st Congress of the Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party (PPP) was held un­der the theme “Strengthen the Party. De­fend Democ­racy. On­ward to Vic­tory.”

The Congress was held from 1De­cem­ber 17-19 and par­tic­i­pants trav­elled lit­er­ally from all cor­ners of the coun­try to the Congress venue.

Congress -- the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing fo­rum of the Party -- was held at the Cot­ton Field Sec­ondary School, lo­cated on the Esse­quibo coast. This is the sec­ond time in the past decade that this school hosted the Party Congress.

The Congress venue is lo­cated in the heart­land of one of the ma­jor rice-pro­duc­ing ar­eas of the coun­try. The down­turn in the for­tunes of rice farm­ers and the rice in­dus­try has been high­lighted in the re­cent Bud­get Speech and Bud­get De­bates re­cently con­cluded in Par­lia­ment.

The cur­rent plight of the in­dus­try at­tracted dis­cus­sions in the rel­e­vant ses­sions of Congress.

The high­light of the 31st Congress was the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee Re­port, which was pre­sented by Gen­eral-Sec­re­tary, Cle­ment Ro­hee, the address by the Op­po­si­tion Leader, Bhar­rat Jagdeo, and the elec­tion of mem­bers of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee (CC) and recog­ni­tion of Party veter­ans.

Del­e­gates came from all over. How­ever, the large Amerindian rep­re­sen­ta­tion was par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able and out­stand­ing. The Amerindian mem­bers came pre­dom­i­nantly from ar­eas heav­ily pop­u­lated by our in­dige­nous peo­ples. Re­gion Nine was by far the most heav­ily rep­re­sented.

That Re­gional con­tin­gent of Del­e­gates to­talled some 250, while nu­mer­ous old and tried stal­warts were among them, the youth­ful faces pre­dom­i­nated. This is a most heart­en­ing in­di­ca­tor.

This is tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence that not only is the Party well rep­re­sented and ac­tive in hin­ter­land com­mu­ni­ties as demon­strated by the large Amerindian con­tin­gent, but the youth and en­ergy of the Amerindian del­e­gates demon­strated its rel­e­vance and adapt­abil­ity. Other siz­able Amerindian del­e­ga­tions came from Re­gions One, Two Seven and Eight. The pres­ence of such a large rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Amerindi­ans from far flung vil­lages across the in­te­rior of the coun­try was a sig­nif­i­cant lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge.

The Congress Com­mit­tee did a fine job pro­vid­ing for their com­fort and full par­tic­i­pa­tion. One spe­cial in­vi­tee from the Di­as­pora re­marked “This is an Amerindian Congress”.

The Congress Del­e­gates and Ob­servers or­ga­nized them­selves into smaller “work­ing groups” to dis­cuss the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s Re­port pre­sented by Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Cle­ment James Ro­hee.

These group­ings of Del­e­gates and Ob­servers are re­ferred to as “Congress Work­shops”. There were seven “Congress Work­shops” namely: Party Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Eco­nomic Sit­u­a­tion, Po­lit­i­cal and Par­lia­ment, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, In­ter­na­tional Sit­u­a­tion, Youth and Party and Amerindian Af­fairs. These “work­shops” are a stan­dard fea­ture of ev­ery Congress.

The “work­shops” are sub-groups of Congress Del­e­gates and Ob­servers which are formed fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the main Congress Doc­u­ment - the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee Re­port. The de­tailed, free and open dis­cus­sions oc­cur, in the main, at these “work­shops” and are fol­lowed by con­clu­sions and rec­om­men­da­tions which are pre­sented to the Congress Ple­nary Ses­sion which fol­lows.

The Cen­tral Com­mit­tee Re­port it­self is a prod­uct of monu- men­tal con­sul­ta­tions and dis­cus­sions from the grass-root level to the lead­er­ship levels over a pro­tracted pe­riod of al­most one year. The Ple­nary ses­sion which received the re­ports from the seven work­shops it­self turned out to be quite ro­bust.

The Congress was at­tended by some 800 Del­e­gates and 250 Ob­servers. Sev­eral Di­as­pora groups at­tended and par­tic­i­pated in the 31st Party Congress. The Di­as­pora groups are crit­i­cal to the fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties of the Party.

But more im­por­tantly, to mo­bi­liz­ing in­flu­en­tial in­ter­na­tional part­ner­ships to sup­port the Party’s po­lit­i­cal and Par­lia­men­tary agen­das. These groups were vital in mo­bi­liz­ing in­ter­na­tional sup­port in the pre 1992 era and their in­di­vid­ual mem­bers pos­sess enor­mous ex­pe­ri­ence that will be very use­ful in this cur­rent pe­riod of the Party in the Op­po­si­tion. Congress is the supreme author­ity of the Party and is con­vened by the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee at least once ev­ery three years.

How­ever, the Congress may be post­poned by the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee for not more than one year at a time by a vote of two-thirds of the mem­bers present and vot­ing at the meet­ing at which the res­o­lu­tion to post­pone is pro­posed. The agenda of the 31st Congress was cir­cu­lated to all Party Groups and Bod­ies at least six weeks be­fore Congress. This al­lowed for full prepa­ra­tion of hun­dreds of Party Groups across the coun­try.

The Congress is man­dated to: a. to re­ceive the Re­port of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and other Party Bod­ies and decide whether to ac­cept or re­ject them. b. to re­view, amend and en­dorse the Con­sti­tu­tion and Pro­gramme of the Party, if nec­es­sary. c. to de­ter­mine the gen­eral pol­icy and tac­tics of the Party in re­la­tion to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues. d. to elect by se­cret bal­lot a Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, the num­ber of Mem­bers and Can­di­date Mem­bers of which shall be de­ter­mined by Congress. Nom­i­na­tions for mem­bers and can­di­date mem­bers of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee must be sub­mit­ted at least two weeks be­fore Congress. Party mem­bers of less than five con­sec­u­tive yeas im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing the date of Congress stand­ing up to the com­mence­ment of the Congress and who do not be­long to a group shall not be el­i­gi­ble for elec­tion as mem­bers or can­di­date mem­bers of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. Party mem­bers who are or were mem­bers of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee shall not be en­ti­tled to be nom­i­nated as Can­di­date Mem­bers.

The 31st Congress brought to­gether hun­dreds of Del­e­gates and Ob­servers drawn from all ten (10) Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gions of Guyana as well as a num­ber of over­seas groups. 135 per­sons com­peted for the thirty-five (35) seats on the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. Eighty (80) per­sons con­tested for the five (5) seats of Can­di­date Mem­bers to the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. Sev­eral mem­bers of fra­ter­nal Di­as­pora group­ings par­tic­i­pated in the Open­ing and the work of the Congress.

The par­tic­i­pa­tion of the over­seas groups is a long and cher­ished tra­di­tion of the Party. It is an ex­pres­sion of the Party’s con­tin­u­ous transna­tional op­er­a­tions which sees it firmly con­nected and close to the Guyanese Di­as­pora. The Di­as­pora was crit­i­cal to the vic­tory of the PPP-lead pre-1992 strug­gle for the restora­tion of free and fair elec­tions and democ­racy in Guyana.

This vic­tory brought an end to a quar­ter of a cen­tury of rigged and fraud­u­lent elec­tions un­der Forbes Burn­ham and the PNC. The con­tin­u­ing sup­port by the Di­as­pora in the strug­gle to re­sist cur­rent creep­ing ef­forts to re-im­pose those dark days will now be sim­i­larly crit­i­cal.

The Par­lia­men­tary Agenda and Par­lia­men­tary Strat­egy of the Party, too, gen­er­ated much de­lib­er­a­tion at Congress. The de­ci­sions and rec­om­men­da­tions com­ing out of the work­shop on Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to en­gage the at­ten­tion of the new Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in a big way. Those dis­cus­sions by the new Cen­tral Com­mit­tee will be con­ducted against the back­ground of the just con­cluded Bud­get De­bate.

The dra­co­nian na­ture of the tax-laden, anti-work­ing peo­ple Bud­get for 2017 will no doubt in­flu­ence dis­cus­sions and present chal­lenges to cre­ate a bal­anced re­sponse in de­fense of the eco­nomic and so­cial gains achieved un­der the PPP/C Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The “Youth Fac­tor” will, by all in­di­ca­tions, be closely in­ter­twined with these de­lib­er­a­tions of the new Cen­tral Com­mit­tee.

The on­go­ing re­view of the Gen­eral Elec­tions and the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment elec­tions analy­ses and re­views at ev­ery level of the Party - from Group through District and Re­gional levels up to the full Cen­tral Com­mit­tee - all raised con­cerns re­lat­ing to the “Youth Fac­tor” and the per­ceived sus­cep­ti­bil­ity of our youth to new ap­proaches (eg So­cial Me­dia) and the ur­gent need for the Party to re­cal­i­brate its own in­ter­ac­tions with this key sub-pop­u­la­tion group.

Sev­eral “new” and young faces have been elected to join the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee which emerges out of this 31st Congress.

We ex­pect ro­bust and in­formed de­bate and de­lib­er­a­tions on this and other mat­ters as the process of “green­ing” the lead­er­ship con­tin­ues seam­lessly after the 31s Congress.

The newly elected mem­bers of the in­com­ing Cen­tral Com­mit­tee are ex­pected to con­vene for the first time within a week or two. One of the main agenda items will be the elec­tion of the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary and the fif­teen-per­son Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (ExCo).

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