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AFC members defect to APNU

At least three important members of the Alliance For Change (AFC) have defected to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) after sharp irreconcilable differences about campaign strategies and party management.

The are Economist, Tarron Khemraj, businessman Rab Mukraj and Political Science Professor, Asquith Rose. Former soldier Malcolm Harripaul, who had long switched allegiance to the APNU, has been formally added to the list of defectors. This latest batch adds to the irrevocable resignation of Shamir Ally, a financier and lobbyist for the AFC, because of concerns over leadership approaches.

Rose said as many as 11 persons have decided to walk away from the AFC which holds a key seven-seat balance of power in the 65-seat National Assembly. He said several of them would go to APNU and the remainder back to the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP).

AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan expressed disappointment at the move, saying that while he was unaware of discontent in his party’s New York Chapter he was not informed about the decision by those members to walk away.

“It is very unfortunate that there has been a fall-out of those members from that overseas group,” he said. “This is a democratic liberal party. We respect their decision and if they want to go and join APNU, that’s very unfortunate for us.”

Ramjattan said the AFC would have to “dust ourselves off”, continue its political work and in the near future reveal the names of new persons who would be joining its fold.  While Ramjattan said AFC’s members total little more than 10,000 persons, he conceded that the departure of the quartet, especially Khemraj, would affect the party’s strength.  “That comes as a big surprise to me, knowing Tarron but in any event this is the way of the world,” said Ramjattan.

News of the breakaway came in an APNU news release stating that the four New York-based members had recently held talks with that parliamentary party’s Chairman, David Granger and frontbencher, Joseph Harmon.  “The two sides examined the current economic, political and social situation in Guyana and concluded that a broad ‘pro-Guyana’ approach was needed to stimulate movement towards the attainment of their common objectives. They agreed to work together to build structures to improve governance, promote national unity and advance human development,” according to APNU.

The AFC Leader planned to tell the defectors that disagreements with the leadership was no reason to leave a political party but instead, they should stay in. “You stay and you make your points and you try as much as democratically to influence political decisions for your party here in Guyana,” he said.

Ramjattan and Professor Rose, in separate interviews, do not believe that the endorsement and eventual membership of the APNU would affect relations between the two parliamentary political parties. “Anything less than that is committing suicide on each one of them,” said Rose, adding that Granger has been told of the need to maintain good relations with the AFC to get certain bills passed in the combined opposition-controlled House.
Professor Rose said his group that recently met with Granger and Harmon proposed that APNU embark on a brand new campaign that focussed on national unity and human development. “We see that as a winning strategy for them to win the next elections and they are moving in that direction so we are going to support them,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).Rose said the strategy would be crafted as the springboard for the holding of a number of conferences across Guyana next year.

Instead of refusing to take that approach since the 2011 general election to expand its base and raise funds, he said AFC has been flip-flopping on a number of those issues. “The bottom-line of it all is that I cannot continue to put out fires in a party that’s just fighting within itself especially a third and small party like the AFC,” he said. He said AFC’s decision to renege on its stated opposition to the Amaila Falls Hydropower project pushed him and others to leave that party. “They just made a flip-flop without telling us anything, putting us in an embarrassing situation and with all the fallout what was going on within the AFC and the conflict of interest, the party cannot uplift itself and move forward with that kind of thing,” he said.

Rose accused the existing crop of AFC leaders of not widening its core leadership beyond three persons and refusing to put in place a fund-raising mechanism while listening to one major financier. “No one there wants to listen. It’s a clique running the party and I am not going to get involved in a party that does something like that anymore,” he said.

Rose is confident that APNU was making in roads with latest opinion polls showing it attracting 42 percent while AFC has slipped from 27 percent to 14 percent since it voted for the Amaila Falls project. “For a small party ot woild be very hard to rebuild your base,’ he said.

With more of the PPP’s traditional East Indian supporters migrating to other countries, Rose believes that the time his ripe for APNU to break in to the 76,000 Black non-voting supporters mostly in South Georgetown. His estimates that overall, there are 140,000 non-voters.