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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The AFC sees the benefit of internal democratic processes

When the AFC seemed almost impervious to ideas from the party membership and junior members, many of us got worried. This recent announcement is positive and may be a bit overdue. I don't know why it isn't on or near the front page in Stabroek news. Something like this should be promulgated more widely. The PPP and PNC both have elections for officers and party posts. I hope that this allows for the eventual cycling through of party members over time. This is good not because of any particular party members that need to go, but because a party eventually loses touch with its base if it doesn't shuffle itself and allow for the entry of new ideas. IF the leadership of the AFC can handle such potential wounding of their egos, it would serve for the continued survival of their parties to allow such things to happen.

Leaders will be elected at national conference - AFC
Tuesday, February 27th 2007
Stabroek News

In the wake of recent criticism by one of its Region Four councillors, the Alliance For Change (AFC) says that its leadership is only interim until it holds its first national conference.

The AFC Steering Committee said on Friday that a more precise party structure would be put in place. Last week, regional councillor Michael Carrington went public with concerns over the management of the group. Carrington called a media conference and said there was no transparency or democratic system in place to allow members of the party an opportunity to contribute to debate and its development.

However, in a press statement on Friday, the AFC maintained that it values the ideas and initiatives of all its members and supporters, and it added that as one of the local leaders Carrington should use the upcoming conference to bring forward any suggestions for its policies or structure.

The party explained that it had to organise an election shortly after its launch, and after consultation with its members the steering committee was given the mandate to proceed with an election campaign as its only priority. It said it was clear that this course would mean less emphasis being placed on party form and structure. "It was expressly understood that the first national conference would be convened at an appropriate time after the general and regional elections," it said, while explaining that the event would be used to put flesh and muscle to the party's bones.

Since September 2006, the steering committee has been operating as a caretaker body until the holding of the first conference. When the first anniversary General Members' Meeting was held with representatives from all ten regions, a document was released to members nationwide concerning the holding of the first national conference, before the end of the first quarter of this year. In that document, it was proposed to members that they form themselves into groups within each of the regions in preparation. Each group was advised to review the Draft Constitution and related documents and to submit recommendations, amendments and motions to be considered by the delegates at the first conference.

The AFC explained that Carrington is in possession of this document and the accompanying guidelines. It said there is a process that all members can follow to have suggestions for the restructuring of the organisation heard and considered by a democratic body. "We are convinced that [he] will find this a fair and appropriate mechanism which will allow his voice to be heard with all other interested people," it added.

It said too that all recommendations, amendments and motions have to be presented through party groups for the consideration of delegates at the first conference. The caretaker committee, it pointed out, has no authority to make any decisions on the form, structure and management as these have to be approved by the delegates at the conference. The group did, however, encourage Carrington to use his energies and influence to organise groups in Region Four over and to channel his recommendations through his group for the consideration of the conference.

Carrington said the party could have done better at the elections and even after had the necessary management skills which the party had access to been used. Saying that some major ideas he put forward were not considered, he said that in the elections campaign he made a suggestion which was turned down by the AFC but a similar idea implemented by the PPP/C proved effective. He added that he was also upset that after the elections there was no transparency in the selection of representatives of the AFC for the five parliamentary seats. He and others, he said, supported Gaumattie Singh and youth representative Trevor Williams but AFC Vice Chairman Sheila Holder felt that Williams was too young and lacked experience. (The AFC had a very public and very acrimonious parting with Singh, who left after saying she was not given a parliamentary seat as promised to her.)

Carrington also said that his idea for the establishment of a fund to be used exclusively by AFC councillors to carry out work in the region they represented was not pursued.

In a letter to the AFC leaders, he suggested the creation of a Regional Councillors Fund since he noted after attending statutory meetings that the majority of projects proposed and approved by the RDC fall through because of a lack of government funding. He also suggested that regional councillors also be paid a stipend in the same manner as MPs because of the volume of work they do in the execution of their duties.

But the AFC steering committee said while it agreed with Carrington on the issue of remuneration for regional councillors, it would not use the donations from supporters, provided in good faith that those funds would advance the AFC cause, to do that. "We believe that all councillors deserve compensation for the services they render to the country and we are working towards that end," it said.

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