APNU happy AFC opts to stay in coalition

(INEWS)The Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is pleased with the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) decision to stay within the coalition until the expiry of the Cummingsburg Accord later this year.

“APNU lauds the decision of the delegates at yesterday’s National Conference to recommit to the APNU+AFC coalition ideal,” the Aubrey Norton-led party expressed in a statement on Sunday.

It added that the AFC’s decision to remain in the coalition will “add impetus” to the parties’ “joint efforts” to win the next national election.

The AFC on Saturday held its National Executive Conference (NEC) where its members, after much debate, voted to stick with the APNU despite several concerns.

A total of 285 delegates and 50 observers were in attendance in six locations across Guyana and two overseas for the conference. One of the first matters on the agenda was whether the AFC should remain in the coalition.

The issue was discussed under the party’s “Way Forward” document which was put to vote, with the AFC eventually deciding to stay in a revised coalition or parliamentary cooperation.

It was discussed whether the AFC can “stay in a revised political alliance with APNU, whether coalition or a parliamentary cooperation agreement but the AFC must demand and secure a firm agreement and structure for it to have a greater influence on policy positions and political action within the alliance while maintaining its independence and rebranding and regaining its identity. This option will require political maturity and pragmatism on the part of APNU, which may not be forthcoming”.

It was noted that in keeping with the vote, AFC will remain in an alliance with APNU until the expiration of the Cummingsburg Accord in December 2022, when it will be reviewed.

The AFC had joined hands with the APNU to contest the 2015 General and Regional Elections and the coalition subsequently won. The parties signed the Cummingsburg Accord, which outlined the parliamentary seats and ministerial portfolios for AFC and APNU members, respectively.

However, APNU, led by former President David Granger, had been accused of continuously violating the Accord. The party announced in 2020 that it would be reviewing the Accord.

On December 24, 2019, after much back and forth between APNU and the AFC, a revised Cummingsburg Accord was signed, but the full details were never released to the public.

Collaboration

Meanwhile, the APNU has also expressed congratulations to the newly-elected members of the AFC’s hierarchy, noting that it is looking forward to continued collaboration between the two sides.

AFC’s Leader Khemraj Ramjattan was re-elected to that position, winning against his only contender for the post, David Patterson who previously served as General Secretary.

His position has now been taken over by Sherod Duncan while the party’s Vice Chairpersonship went to Cathy Hughes.

“We specially wish to congratulate Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan for retaining his position as Party Leader. Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey C. Norton, has already called Mr Ramjattan to offer his personal congratulations,” APNU noted in its statement.

“Our compliments also extend to Cathy Hughes (as the newly-elected Chair), to ‘Ricky’ Ramsaroop (as the newly-elected Vice-Chair), to Sherod Duncan (as the newly-elected General Secretary), and to the AFC’s entire new National Executive Council. APNU looks forward to collaborating with Leader Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and the party’s entire new executive in a spirit of cooperation, consensus, and mutual respect,” APNU added.

Fallout

One of the most recent fallouts between the APNU and the AFC dates back to September 2020 regarding the election of the Chair and Vice Chair for the Region Four Regional Democratic Council (RDC) whereby the AFC was snubbed for the position of Vice Chair despite a previous agreement between the two sides.

The move had resulted in Patterson resigning as General Secretary of the party but he had subsequently flipflopped on that position.

“The Alliance For Change behaved honourably and with integrity and would have upheld the Accord and Addendum. The party also noted the responses offered by the Leader of APNU as to the reasons why the similar provision was not upheld by APNU,” the AFC said in its statement…The NEC was of the strong view, that a fundamental breach of the Accord was committed, as such a committee has been established to provide guidance and recommendations to the party on the continued effectiveness of the Accord as well as a review of the mechanisms to effect any future agreements,” the AFC had said in a statement in October 2020, following a meeting with the APNU on the matter.

Since it came into office after joining forces with the APNU in 2015, the minority AFC has been criticised for the submissive role it has been playing to the APNU. Decisions the former government made, such as the closure of sugar estates, which put thousands of sugar workers out of jobs, were passed unchallenged and even supported by the AFC. This is despite the AFC retaining the Agriculture Ministry.

This passive relationship with APNU was cited by former AFC parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud, as one of the reasons he voted for the No-Confidence Motion that brought down the APNU/AFC Government in 2018.

In addition, there has been the former government’s strategic reallocation of responsibilities away from Ministries that were headed by AFC officials, to other Ministries. This has included removing oil and gas from the former Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and citizenship from the former Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.

There is also the fact that despite the Cummingsburg Accord containing stipulations that should have seen the former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo being vested with the responsibility for chairing Cabinet and domestic issues, the former APNU Government never honoured this.

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