Kaieteur News – The present conditions do not exist for the holding of a face-to-face Congress of the People’s National Congress/ Reform (PNC/R). Congress will require the coming together or more than 1,500 delegates, officials and observers.
The COVID-19 regulations would not permit such a large gathering. It is impossible for such a large number of persons to be hosted, with social distancing in place at Sophia.
A virtual congress is an attractive proposition. Virtual events have their advantages over face-to-face interactions.
For example, they allow for a large audience, can be less costly, provide greater reach and requires less organisational effort. But Congress is not about greater reach and technology comes at a price.
Hosting a virtual congress may appear to be cheaper if the necessary technological infrastructure is in place; and it avoids the expenses of having to bring large numbers of persons to one location and to provide boarding and lodging for them in addition to meeting their transportation costs.
But technology to host a virtual congress is also not cheap. And unless virtual congress becomes the new normal within the party, it makes no sense making the financial investment.
There are international companies – none is known locally – which host large virtual events. But for cyber security reasons, political parties would prefer to own and operate the technology for a virtual event rather than renting the service.
A virtual congress would also present logistical problems. The PNC/R is one of Guyana’s largest political parties with membership in all 10 administrative Regions.
Many communities in far-flung regions do not have internet access to facilitate members’ participation. And even if they can be brought to another location, it would defeat the cost- benefits of having a virtual conference and there is no guarantee also that internet service would be stable or reliable enough to allow their participation in a virtual event.
Congresses are not only about voting in a new executive. It is about reviewing the work of the party, debating issues and the passing of motions and resolutions.
Many of the major decisions to be taken are usually done in plenary. This will present logistical and technical difficulties in a virtual environment.
Voting for positions of a new executive cannot be done virtually. The voting process in the PNC/R is by secret ballot not the show of hands or the casting of lots.
A virtual voting process would violate the secrecy of the ballot. As such, virtual voting cannot be contemplated.
This means that Congress cannot be held under the present circumstances. The speculation about an October 2021 Congress may be based on the assumption that by then, the pandemic would have abated and the country would have been returned to some form of normalcy.
Well, this is not likely to happen. In fact, the country may be heading into one of its worst waves ever by October given the high levels of vaccine hesitancy and the reopening of schools.
As the numbers indicate, the number of persons receiving their first dose has been increasing slower than moving molasses. Instead of thousands of persons being vaccinated daily with first doses, only a few hundred are doing so.
With only half the population receiving at least a first dose, and with far less being fully vaccinated, the country is not going to be ready for reopening anytime this year. This is unless vaccines are made mandatory.
The reopening of schools is going to increase the spread of the virus. No virus spreads faster than in schools.
The possibility for a Congress this year is therefore remote. This will disappoint some persons but this is the reality which has to be faced.
No constitutional crisis will result within the PNC/R. The pandemic represents a force majeure to the holding of Congress and therefore the existing executive will have to hold the fort until such time as the situation in the country allows for Congress’ convening.
Sometimes in the mad rush to overturn a barrel, we forget the costs of doing so. Those who are therefore keen to have Congress to topple the existing leadership may have a long wait by which time their moment – if ever there was any – would have passed.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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