Last Updated on Saturday, 14 February 2015, 19:50 by GxMediaTwo primary schoolmates, who later went on to be on the different sides of the political divide, on Saturday evening- Valentine’s – embraced each other to be presidential and prime ministerial candidates in a 60-40 coalition between A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC).
APNU’s David Granger- the presidential candidate- and AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo- the prime ministerial candidate- were flanked by top officials of their political organisations to announce the deal that would see them fielding a joint slate and together financing the campaign.
In a joint statement read by Granger, he suggested that in the spirit of constitutional reform where the President’s powers would eventually be reduced, he would delegate a number of responsibilities to the Prime Minister including the chairing of Cabinet and Home Affairs (domestic security).
With this new formula in place, it means that the Working People’s Alliance’s (WPA) Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine would no longer be assigned the prime ministerial candidacy, something that party does not have a problem with in the interest of the nation. “We are satisfied that we made the necessary compromise in the interest of the country and the WPA is not too over concerned with the fortunes of the party; we are concerned with the fortunes of the country,” said the WPA’s negotiator, Tacuma Ogunseye.
Against the background of criticisms by the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis that the constitutional requirement for the president to chair cabinet was being subverted to narrow political interests, Granger said there would be no erosion of presidential powers. “This is not a problem. The President has not lost his powers. He will have the ability to chair cabinet sessions in accordance with the constitution. Given this agreement, the prime minister will be allowed to…there are certain powers which have to be delegated. The prime minister does not have those powers under the constitution. The president can delegate those powers and that is what we propose,” he said.
Should the coalition win, Granger would be also responsible for national security policy, the Defence Board, the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Guyana Defence Force. The President would remain Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He would also be responsible for appointing constitituonal agencies and commissions, foreign affairs, international relations and non-commercial treaties.
Unsettled are the name and symbol of the new political party that would be on the ballot paper for the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections. While they have not yet decided on who would hold key ministries, for sure the AFC would be assured 12 parliamentary seats and two Vice Presidents who will be Cabinet members. APNU would be allocated one Vice Presidential post.
The date for launching the joint campaign is yet to be decided.
Granger said the cabinet members would be shared 60-40 in favour of APNU, and the Representative of the List and Speaker of the National Assembly would be “mutually selected by both parties from independent members of civil society.”
If the coalition wins the plurality or an outright victory in the upcoming polls, Nagamootoo would be responsible for domestic national affairs, recommending ministerial appointments and providing the organizational structures of ministries for the approval of the president, and the appointment of head of agencies and non-constitutional commissions with the required and agreed democratic mechanisms of consultation.
“This is a historic and watershed political development for our country as this new electoral alliance moves to put Guyana on the correct path, where all Guyanese regardless of ethnicity can feel fully motivated to be proud of his her nation and is afforded the opportunity to make meaningful contribution the society while successfully caring for themselves and family,” said Granger in the Campbell Room, Georgetown Club, which was packed with media personnel and officials of APNU and AFC.
APNU and AFC conceded that the “discussions were not easy and both parties had to give up some of their demands and overcome decades of prejudices for us to have arrived at this most significant and momentous point of national renewal.” Initially, AFC was demanding 80-20 in a cabinet then eventually shifted overnight Friday to 60-40 but eventually gave in to turning around the sharing formula in favour of APNU.
AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan told the news conference that his party would still be able to sell the idea to its supporters although its early ambition was to lead a “pro-democracy alliance” that involves APNU, disaffected supporters of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) as well as members of civil society and religious organisations. “…by simply saying that which we had, as our maximum position, during the process of negotiations we could not have obtained but in view of the fact there has been a tremendous climb as to the powers of the prime minister, we feel that it was an acceptable proposal and that is why we signed on and that is why we shifted,” he said. He said his members, supporters and financiers have also endorsed the coalition as a workable plan to vote out the PPPC from office. Granger is confident that donors would now come forward to finance the campaign.
Boasting that this is the first time that Guyana would be having a multi-party coalition that is committed to the constitutional requirement of inclusionary and representational democracy, he promised that if even if the PPPC wins 48 percent of the popular vote, it would not be left out of the government because “we have walked away today. We have closed the door on winner-takes-all politics.”
“What I am saying to you is that if this partnership brings fifty-two percent of the votes, we are not going to lock out forty-eight percent of the people. That is my promise to you,” he said. “Yes, it sounds hard, but we are going to invite every section of the community, every political organisation to be part of what Article 13 calls for-inclusionary democracy,” he said.
Nagamootoo, a former long-time PPP Central and Executive Committee member, cautioned that while the door is open to members of the incumbent party nothing would be done to preclude due process. “This not about vengeance, this not about vendetta but we are not going to interfere with due process and we are going to look for people who can actually bring to the table integrity, honesty, values of good governance and accountability.
Nagamootoo reflected that he and Granger attended Scott’s (primary) School at Whim, Corentyne. “I’m optimistic that the dream that was planted on a ball field at Whim when we were boys, that actually that that dream could be realized that we could boast it here coming out of a village environment and we could both hold out to you that we thought that one day Guyana deserves better,” he said.
Granger, 70, is a retired Brigadier of the GDF and head of political education in the army during the reign of his People’s National Congress (PNC) under then Forbes Burnham. The 67-year old Nagamootoo-a former journalist, PPPC government minister and now a practicing lawyer- was among several then PPP leaders who confronted the PNC dictatorship for 28 years.