One year ago, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) joined forces
in unwavering matrimony through the signing of the historic Cummingsburg Accord (Valentine’s Day Accord) with unyielding dedication to change the name of politics in Guyana, with the country’s first ever six-party coalition Government.
However, critics believe that the Administration has fallen short on one too many of its promises and have already forecasted nothing but a bleak future, particularly for the AFC-arm of the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition.
With the honeymooning season over, prominent political commentators and players had lots to say as they reflected on the coalition’s first year together as partners in politics against the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
Economist Ramon Gaskin reminisced that it was only a year ago that the two parties, eager to gain Executive power, teamed up to defeat the longstanding PPP/C Government.
“Without them coming together, the APNU could not have won the elections alone because the PPP/C is still a bigger party than all of them,” he noted.
But Gaskin highlighted that while the APNU was reaping all the benefit from this sweet victory, the AFC was
left in the shambles.
“Everyone can see that the AFC lost some grounds in the immediate run-up to the General and Regional Elections in Regions Five and Six… the AFC continues to lose ground among its supporters. They can’t make it on their own now. They would not survive,” Gaskin predicted.
Gaskin expressed that it appears the AFC has been shafted by the PNC-led Government; however, for reasons unknown, they would not complain.
“They could have gotten more but they seem happy. Nagamootoo, Hughes, Patterson and Ramjattan…,” he said.
Gaskin explained that while the Cummingsburg Accord promised a 40:60 split between the two parties, the AFC continues to be left behind. He highlighted, for example, that State boards are made up predominantly of PNC members.
Moreover, commenting on the coalition Government’s performance together thus far, Gaskin rated it as “reasonable”.
He also expressed concerns over the influx of ex-military personnel into high-ranking positions within Government.
Former Government Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, also believes the AFC will be completely wiped out if they ever embark upon entering the political arena as a single entity again.
He believes both sides are well aware of the circumstances and therefore, the AFC will continue to do anything to stay in power while the APNU will remain in control.
“The coalition has placed much emphasised on staying in Government other than political relationships among themselves… They are set upon staying in Government, so the AFC will bend with the winds to just stay in Government, and the larger party will continue to rule,” Dr Jeffrey presumed.
He explained that one of the detrimental elements between the parties is the fact that there is no political framework in place to determine policies within the coalition.
Also expressing his views on the Government’s effectiveness thus far, the former Minister said he is rather disappointed.
Using the Wales Estate closure debacle as an example, he posited that the Government is only making matters worse for themselves.
At best, Dr Jeffrey would rate their performance as “mediocre”, noting that it appears the Government’s flagship programme is mainly cleaning up Georgetown. Political Opponent Vishnu Bandhu of the United Republican Party also anticipated doom for the ‘newlyweds’.
Bandhu too shared the view that the AFC component is being undermined and bullied and against that backdrop, he believes there will soon be a rift between the parties as there previously was with the PNC and The United Force (TUF).
“The AFC is definitely being used. I think there will be a repeat of history like when The United Force coalesced with the PNC and a few months after, the PNC kicked them out,” Bandhu projected.
He added that it appears Minister of State Joseph Harmon has more executive power than the Prime Minister, and concluded that the coalition really has no need for Nagamootoo other than to have him as a “rubber stamp”.
“They just want to show the Indian people ‘oh look we have an Indian person here’,” Bandhu expressed.
Sharing his views on the coalition’s performance so far, the URP Leader said he is particularly discontented with the manner in which the Government is treating the rice farmers and sugar workers.
He also expressed concern over what he deemed as a “heavy racial discrimination” brewing within the Government quarters.
Guyana Times made efforts to contact senior members of the coalition to comment on their experience working together; however all attempts were futile.
AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes declined to express his opinions and advised this newspaper to contact AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan or Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
Calls to the mobile phones of Ramjattan, APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon, and AFC General Secretary David Patterson went unanswered and were not immediately returned.
There is a wide perception that there is a battle for power within the coalition Government – with Nagamootoo expressing his desires to have a one-term presidential limit and with the President reconfiguring the Ministry of the Presidency to include the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), rather than having the OPM as a separate entity.
Notably, the parties have clearly been in breach of the much touted “Cummingsburg Accord”. Specifically, contrary to the Accord, Nagamootoo does not chair Cabinet, nor is he in charge of domestic national affairs.
In fact, the powers he was promised have all been diminished to oversight of the information sector of the State media.
Only recently, the President overrode a decision pronounced by the Director of Public Information (DPI) in relation to the operations of the State media.
The DPI, which falls under the remit of the Prime Minister, declared that Government Information Agency (GINA) will not cover the affairs of the parliamentary Opposition but the President later came forward to dismiss those statements.
The Accord also stated that the Prime Minister would recommend ministerial appointments and provide organisational structures for Ministries – for the approval of the President and the appointment of heads of agencies and non-constitutional commissions.
Interestingly, in September last, the former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran had also predicted danger ahead for the coalition given the violations of the Cummingsburg Accord and alleged internal pressure on President David Granger from the PNC arm of the alliance.
Ramkarran recognised that the Accord has been blatantly breached and if it were not addressed quickly and appropriately, the parties could expect to lose support, particularly the AFC.
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