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Nigel Hughes withdraws resignation as AFC Chairman

Nigel Hughes addressing a recent public meeting in Kitty, Georgetown.

Nigel Hughes has withdrawn his resignation as Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), saying that his decision was influenced by moves inside and outside the party.

“They have all expressed the view that my decision to leave politics and resign from the position of Chairman of the Alliance For Change should be reconsidered and they have urge me to reconsider that decision,” he told a news conference.

Hughes had tendered his resignation on August 6 after the privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper had reported that he was the Company Secretary for the Amaila Falls Hydropower Inc (AFHI).  His wife, Cathy, has also been scathingly criticized for being the local public relations officer for Sithe Global, then a major prospective investor in the hydropower plant that the AFC itself has condemned over concerns about feasibility and debt burden.

While Hughes had tendered his resignation as AFC chairman, he said he never left the party and he decided to rescind it after the executive decided to refuse it.

He said he was also persuaded to stay on by elders and other persons in the diaspora and locally who have all expressed confidence in him.AFC officials said he has a huge following and he was beneficial to the party.

The AFC Chairman, who has publicly called for street protests to confront the government and has also demanded constitutional reform, apologised for the AFC not bringing his relationship with Sithe Global and Amaila Falls Hydropower Inc to the public’s attention earlier. “I accept full responsibility for the consequences of the non-disclosure by the party because even though I had recused myself from participating, it was a matter for the party to consider at the time,” he said.

Hughes explained that his law firm- Hughes, Fields and Stoby- was approached in 2009 to register AFHI and in so doing he agreed to be named Company Secretary in keeping with local laws. On being elected Chairman of the AFC in 2009, Hughes recalled informing the management committee of his relationship with the company and so he had recused himself from any discussion on the hydropower project.

At no time, Hughes said, he had participated in talks involving the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), China Development Bank, Sithe Global and the Guyana government. ““I was not party to those discussions. I was not invited to offer advice on those discussions. My role as Company Secretary was literally for the purposes of ensuring that the company complied with its local regulations,” he said.

The practising lawyer said he has asked Sithe Global to grant him permission to reveal whether or not he had been paid. Hughes, however, said he remained Company Secretary for AFHI and discussions would be held with Sithe Global under the terms of the retainer agreement.

Expressing grave disappointment that he had found himself in a situation of conflict of interest, the AFC Chairman apologised to the public for not revealing his relationship with AFHI and Sithe Global before.

In the face of criticisms about conflict of interest between the Hughes and AFHI/ Sithe Global, the party on Thursday also released “Guidelines for Disclosure by AFC leaders.”

1.     A conflict of interest may arise where an elected member of the Management Committee and/or the National Executive Committee (MC/NEC) of the Alliance for Change (hereinafter referred to as “an AFC leader”) has a private material interest that can be affected by the outcome of deliberations in which this leader is participating.

2.     An AFC leader who is a member of the National Assembly, Regional Democratic Council or Neighbourhood Democratic Council shall additionally be guided by and subjected to rules on conflict of interest in his/her respective body.

3.     An AFC leader is at liberty to offer unlimited professional services in pursuit of his/her constitutional right to work and shall not be required to violate confidentiality with legitimate clients.

4.     An AFC leader has a duty to disclose before the decision-making body of which he/she is a member any private material interests in matters being deliberated by either or both of these bodies. 

5.    It shall be an agenda requirement of MC/NEC meetings for an AFC leader to voluntarily make periodic disclosure(s) of a private material interest in any matter being deliberated.

 6. Either of these decision-making bodies shall determine, in the absence of the AFC leader in question, whether the nature of the disclosure constitutes a conflict of interest situation over a matter being discussed.  

7.     Where it is determined that a conflict of interest exists, the member in question shall recuse him/herself and not participate in deliberations on the particular matter in which he/she has disclosed a material interest. 

8. The leadership body may invite an AFC leader who has made disclosure of a material interest to offer technical or specialized opinions on a matter being deliberated, but that leader shall not exercise a vote or otherwise decide on the matter.

9.     Public disclosure by the Party of any private material interest of an AFC leader shall be decided on a case by case basis, after due consideration of confidentiality or third-party interest, and shall be made only with the consent of the said leader

10.  An AFC leader who knowingly withholds or fails to make timely disclosure of a private material interest in a matter being deliberated before a decision-making body of which he/she is a member, shall be subject to disciplinary processes under party rules.

These draft Guidelines on Disclosures were adopted by the AFC NEC meeting on 31 August, 2013.