Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan on Monday justified the importance of his party being promised 12 parliamentary seats and four ministries-including Home Affairs and Agriculture- in a coalition government, in the wake of a view that ministers are merely creatures of the president.
Political Analyst, Dr. Henry Jeffrey poured cold water on the AFC being assured of the ministerial posts on grounds that political campaigns are usually personality-driven and in this case would be in favour of the coalition’s presidential candidate, David Granger. “The ministers are advisors to the president so whether or not you control anything, it’s who is president, who cares who is even prime minister,” he said. “Once you are in a ministry you can do things but in terms of power, in terms of making great policies and so on you have to get past the president,” he said.Jeffrey is already on record as favouring Moses Nagamootoo to be the presidential candidate to secure East Indian support, the traditional base of the PPPC.
Political Commentator, Christopher Ram agrees with Jeffrey, saying that the AFC has “got a lot out of this” and “it’s win-win situation” for the two parties and Guyana. “I believe they have enough to take to their supporters and say look we did not sell you out, we have not gone back on our founding principles,” said Ram.
Dismissing Jeffrey’s assessment, Ramjattan highlighted that the coalition agreement provides for the Prime Minister to enjoy several constitutional powers.
Ramjattan warned that if Granger, of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), is elected President and breaks the “Cummingsburg Accord”, the AFC would use its 12 seats in the National Assembly to vote with the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) on a no-confidence motion. “Well, quite frankly at that stage we might be forced to do a no-confidence motion against his government too. We always have that ‘hold back’ that is why we fought hard for twelve seats win, lose or draw,” he said.
The AFC Leader stressed that trust would be a major ingredient in the coalition and he did not foresee such a situation emerging. “I do not contemplate these things happening but we have put in these safeguards just in case,” he said.
The APNU-AFC coalition agreement provides for a Dispute Settlement mechanism that would involve a three-member panel of a consensus chairman and non-executive AFC and APNU members who will make secret and confidential deliberation decisions.
With the Representative of the List of candidates enjoying the power to recall parliamentarians, Ramjattan explained that the deal requires that such a person and the Speaker of the National Assembly be independent and take instructions from the leaders of APNU and AFC. “We can’t envisage how that Leader of the list will pull (recall AFC parliamentarians) and especially when it has to be accepted by a Speaker who is not going to be APNU or AFC but an independent fellow who would understand the memorandum of agreement that we have too,” he said.
He explained that the AFC bargained for Home Affairs and Agriculture to address deep-seated concerns by its constituency mainly on the Corentyne and Essequibo about security and the state of the rice and sugar industries. “It’s very, very important for the Alliance For Change to have a serious hand in and so that is why we made that an important requirement,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. He said holding ministerial responsibilities for security and agriculture was not a trade-off for his party not clinching the presidential candidacy. “That had nothing to do with it. It had all to do with the fact that our constituency resides in areas that are very much concerned about agricultural matters and security matters and not that other constituencies are not concerned about those but simply that being so very important for us at the leadership level,” he added.
The AFC has been also promised the ministerial portfolios of tourism and works. If the coalition wins, it will hold 40 percent of the cabinet posts.
Asked whether his party entered into an alliance with APNU because it forecast losing its current seven seats in the yet to be dissolved Parliament, Ramjattan said the AFC believed it would have doubled it in the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.