November 30 2018


‘The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I could give work to is PNC’

-Lawrence tells PNCR conference

Public Health Minister and People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairperson Volda Lawrence is facing scrutiny over a suggestion that party officials elected to public offices should show preference to fellow party members in hiring and the award of contracts.

During a presentation at the Region Four District Conference, held at Congress Place on November 25th, a recording of which has been made public, Lawrence can be heard telling attendees that they should not be afraid to give jobs or contracts to party comrades, while indicating that she does the same.

“Well I got news for you: The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I could give work to is PNC. And, right now, I looking for a doctor who can talk Spanish or Portuguese and ah want one that is PNC,” she is heard saying.

Her comments have prompted opposition leader and PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo to condemn her statements as an admission of discriminatory labour practices.

“This is illegal. Volda Lawrence could be charged for this because our labour law says that you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, whatever else. She is making it clear that she is going to discriminate on the basis of their politics. I hope we can see some private criminal charges being filed against Volda Lawrence for a statement like this,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Lawrence yesterday responded to the reportage on her comments but did not address the specific comments in relation to hiring party members.

In a statement issued yesterday, Lawrence said she stands by her views on the issue of jobs and unemployment, and that measures are being put in place for the young and industrious to be afforded the opportunity of becoming self-employed or gaining meaningful employment.

It also said that she wished to “shed light on the issue of attracting support from non-traditional bases” and noted that she is a Guyanese with mixed heritage. The statement adds that it irked Lawrence when she gets reports that little or no work is being done in perceived strongholds of the PPP/C. “The Chairman stated we must bring everyone in whether they looked like her or not,” the statement added.

She has also indicated that she stands by her views that party members must educate and position themselves to be among the 20% of small contractors that will be afforded government contracts, and also that they must become bilingual as Guyana is fast becoming a haven for people from countries near and far. Further, Lawrence emphasised that if the coalition wants to remain in power after 2020, it must take better care of all Guyanese.

‘If you can’t work for the party resign’

The entire presentation, which is over one-hour long, appears to be a charge to those who have recently won seats or have been selected to serve on local government bodies following the November 12th local government polls.

They were encouraged to serve with the same zeal with which they campaigned and remember that it was the party which put them in a position of power.

“In the past we have had persons elected to represent the party or the coalition and when they get into office they say nobody didn’t put dem deh, dey put deyself…we have to hold these people accountable. If you can’t work for the party resign,” Lawrence said to thunderous applause.

Lawrence noted that the party has found that when they “put people in office they forget is the party put them there and they go and they suck up to the other people, some of them even vote with the other people,” which she said is unacceptable.

“Some of them, when the leadership say this is the party’s position, say ‘Me ain’t gotta follow dat, so dey abstain and all sorts of thing.’ Well, I tell the councillors in Georgetown, ‘Hello, look out fo Volda, she coming because we will not tolerate it,’” she stressed before adding that “all of you who are going to take up office are part of the winning ticket for 2020. We will not allow you to spoil that winning ticket, so we will hold you accountable.”

Lawrence is also heard addressing the PPP/C’s capture of more seats on the Georgetown City Council at the polls. She said “there are 15 constituencies in Georgetown hence there are 30 seats around the Horseshoe table and the PPP ensured that they had 28 people looking like me running for Georgetown and two looking like Jagdeo… do you understand the strategy?”

She added, “We like to assume that when we see someone looking a particular way, that they come from Robb Street but don’t assume that when you see someone looking like Comrade Sammy and Comrade Mahendra here, that they ain’t PNC. I come into the party and reach comrade Sammy. We got [to] bring more like them in. We want to win, we have to bring more of them in and they are here, they want to come in but some of us we so righteous and judgmental that the people can’t come in. Comrades, politics is a numbers game; there are many out there who didn’t enjoy the sweet of the PPP table and they see some good in us and our policies, such as social cohesion. The PPP is afraid of social cohesion but we must embrace it so we can take back the seat on the East Bank and East Coast.” 

She further said, “We don’t have to wait no three years comrades there are mechanisms for us to go back to the polls. You see this long, long story, me ain’t able buse and cuss and waste me time; I lash you in you head and done the story. Done the story. Sometimes we like to yap, yap, yap, yap too much. Comrades; we have to run things in those NDCs… the same ones they say we lose. I challenge those on the East Bank and East Coast to get back into those NDCs and take them over. Don’t run from this stupidness—dem ain’t vote fo we because in some of these NDCs we just miss by a few votes. Take the statistics which you have and start to pick them off one by one. Before the three years out we must have another election going on in those constituencies. They took three from us in Georgetown… they got it in names and we will take it back. We will use the law, which is on our side and we will take it back.”

A reality check

She also urged the party members to be less concerned with what the PPP/C says on Facebook or on the news and be more concerned about the messages coming from their own party.

‘This is a reality check for all of us. We got so caught up as if we are still in opposition “You see all this nonsense what going on about Harmon and Volda and Basil…All of we gon deh outside a government if you continue to be stupid. This not about me and Comrade Harmon and Comrade Basil Williams. This thing is about us remaining in power,” she stressed, while referring to the recent contest for the party chairmanship, where she emerged victorious over Harmon and incumbent Williams.