In the face of counter-punches by Guyana’s ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) that the recently minted opposition coalition would eventually collapse and that the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) was a violent party, the coalition on Sunday struck back with assurances of its survival and a promise to improve public safety and security.
The coalition appeared to have deliberately targeted its message to the predominantly East Indo-Guyanese community in Queens, New York who have been traditional backers of the incumbent PPPC.
Assurances- although not entirely watertight- that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would not kick out the Alliance For Change (AFC) from the coalition on winning the May 11, 2015 election were given against the background that the PPPC has been claiming that there would be a repeat of the PNC had booting the United Force (UF) four years after coalescing in 1964. “It will work my friends. We have to make it work. This is not about us. It is about you. This is what you want….National unity is now on the cards,” Nagamootoo told more than 300 mainly Indo-Guyanese.
In contrast to the majority Afro-Guyanese attended receptions in Brooklyn and New Jersey, there was a fair number of Afro Guyanese at the event in Queens.
He explained that the AFC called for a pro-democracy alliance or anti-dictatorial front because minority rule could lead to instability, violence and disintegration of Guyana.
Nagamootoo, however, echoed AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan’s warning that if the coalition is crippled by disagreement, his party would use its 12 parliamentary seats guaranteed – win or lose- in the accord with APNU to team up with the PPPC to file a no-confidence motion. “Nothing is cast in stone, nothing could be assured that it could go on without a flaw or it could go on without any changes,” he said.
He stressed that the APNU and AFC would make every effort to build trust, confidence and a relationship to make it work. “We are not saying this to big-up ourselves, we are not saying this as a threat but we are saying this that we hold a guarantee that if things don’t go well David and you and I have to file legal proceedings for a divorce I am taking my property with me- twelve seats- and when you end up in a minority I go over to the other side and you getting the no-confidence motion all over again,” he said.
The coalition’s agreement, called the Cummingsburg Accord, provides for a three-member dispute resolution panel.
On the thorny issue of the AFC back-peddling on its long-held promise that it would never coalesce with the PPP or the PNCR because it wanted to preserve its identity, Nagamootoo referred to an analysis that eventually showed that that was the best option to remove the PPPC minority government from office due to disunity, corruption and mismanagement. “The Alliance For Change, even though my leader Khemraj Ramjattan said that it was an option that we want to exercise, that we would lose our individuality, we would lose our personality if we got into a coalition, we decided when we looked at all the options available that getting Ramotar for three more years was not an option, getting Jagdeo for three more years or five more years or forever is never going to be an option,” he said.
Since the birth of the APNU+AFC coalition on February 14, 2015 after weeks of negotiations, the PPPC’s propaganda machinery has cranked up into high gear to show that many of the AFC’s mainly Indo-Guyanese supporters feel betrayed and have rejoined the ranks of the ruling party.
With East Indians, mainly in the traditional PPP stronghold of Berbice, still being the victims of violent and sometimes deadly banditry, APNU+AFC Presidential Candidate, David Granger repeatedly hammered home the point that he would make Guyana safe.
“I know you want to go back but you want to be safe and the person to make you safe is standing right before you (applause). We know the problems that Guyana is suffering from now and we want to guarantee your security, we want to guarantee your safety and that can be guaranteed by this government of national unity,” said Granger, a former member of the Disciplined Forces Commission.
Responding to the PPPC’s anti-coalition slogan that “Granger is danger,” he said “Granger is a game-changer” who would not be replicating the past governance models of Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte and Cheddi Jagan but would instead be seeking to create a government of national unity that could also include the PPP, reconciliation and constitutional reform. “I’m leading Guyana into the future. I’m not leading Guyana back into the past… I’m David Granger. I’m not Forbes Burnham,” he said. Many Indo-Guyanese fear a return to Burnham years of the 1970s and 1980s when elections were rigged, political opponents were beaten and harassed and basic food items were banned or restricted.
The PPPC’s election campaign includes propaganda on social and conventional media and at public meetings that APNU is the PNCR by a different name and that it has a history of violence including the recent shooting at the latter party’s headquarters during its congress. The ruling party is also continuing to accuse Granger, a Retired Brigadier and Commander of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), of playing a role in rigged elections and being a military serviceman when then Working People’s Alliance (WPA) co-leader, Dr. Walter Rodney was killed in an explosion on June 13, 1980 while operating a bomb-in-walkie-talkie that was provided by then GDF electronics expert, Sergeant Gregory Smith.
The coalition plans to open a development bank to offer business development financing, review the operations of the Skeldon Sugar Factory and the wider state-owned sugar industry, modernise and diversify the sugar industry, create value-added industries, open up agriculture lands from Moleson Creek to the Canje Creek, and review of the allocation of radio and television frequencies and Internet bandwidth.
Nagamooto said a new government would prefer to draw down funds from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) as a soft-loan to rice millers to pay farmers promptly. “Human development, for us, is a priority but it has to come with an integrated and a comprehensive plan how to correct the defprmity of the present economy and how to open up avenues for further development of Guyana in terms of its agri-potential,” he said.
APNU+AFC Co-campaign manager, Joseph Harmon promised that Berbice River bridge tolls would be reduced and Old-Age Pensions, Social Security (National Insurance Scheme) and high taxes.