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APNU, AFC pre-election accord in trouble, could determine coalition’s electoral future

President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

Political analyst Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran believes that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is derailing the pre-election accord with the Alliance For Change (AFC) and that the latter party appears to be complicit in duping the electorate.

“The flimsy excuse of constitutional violation is an attempt at a power play by APNU. Supported by a surprisingly subservient AFC, it is not a good sign,” said Ramkarran in his latest Conversation Tree column titled “Revising the Cummingsburg Accord.”

He disagrees with efforts to revise the pre-elections pact on the grounds that certain sections collide with Guyana’s Constitution. Ramkarran, a former long-serving member of the now main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), notes that contrary to the accord, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is not chairing the cabinet and he is not responsible for domestic affairs- a decision that appears to send a wrong message to the electorate.

The prominent lawyer says the the President can delegate the purely nominal function of chairing the Cabinet while he is present and the Prime Minister can take charge of domestic affairs in an advisory capacity to the President. 

Rather, Ramkarran reasons that President Granger is bowing to internal pressure by delegating several major responsibilities to Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon of APNU whose major constituent is the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).

“There is no doubt that President Granger is facing enormous pressures from within his own party. All the signs are there. But he has to lead from the front. He cannot succumb to the political culture of dominance spawned by a history of ethnic politics, which the coalition has promised to destroy by the very Accord that it now seeks to defang because it disallows the perpetuation of the culture.

The Former House Speaker urged the Guyanese leader to nculcate in his supporters that APNU alone did not win the elections. “They must understand that without the AFC there would have been no President Granger,” said Ramkarran.

Arguing that the AFC contributed about eight or nine percent of the votes to the coalition’s victory, Ramkarran warned that a renegotiation of the Cummingsburg Accord, signed by Granger and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan on February 14, 2015, could see the electorate deciding the coalition’s fate at the polls.

“The electorate understood that the AFC would have a distinct, decisive and visible management role in the affairs of governance through the Prime Minister. If the parties now wish to unilaterally tamper with this and consign the AFC, even with its unwise consent, to a vague and amorphous, consultative position, the parties should not be surprised if bitter fruits are harvested five years down the road from the same electorate, their third partner, that they have deceived. If that happens, this is where it would have all begun,” he said.

Ramkarran forecast that the coalition could lose the next elections due in 2020 because the AFC’s cherished preserved identity and individuality would have been eroded by allowing the APNU to dominate the decision-making process.

“Just as how the AFC attracted support by maintaining a clear and distinct presence and individuality in the election campaign, so it needs to maintain an independent political existence and defined authority within the coalition in order to sustain and even expand its support. The Cummingsburg Accord clearly intended to enable the AFC to do this. We do not know the reason that has caused the AFC to lose sight of these realities, or to appear so anxious to be willing to sacrifice the fundamental core of the Accord. This will prove to be its undoing and that of the coalition,” said Ramkarran.

According to the Gazetted functions of Cabinet members, the Prime Minister is merely responsible for the information sector which includes the Broadcasting Authority, the State Media and the National Frequency Management Unit.

Minister of State Harmon’s gazette responsibilities are land titling, forestry/forest policy, alternative energy sources, bauxite development policy, organisation and administration of the public service, Public Service personnel management, Public Service training, Cabinet matters, Defence and Territorial integrity of Guyana, Civil Defence, emergency disaster response and disaster management, national security, administrative matters other than those for which the Public Service Commission is responsible, scholarships, citizenship issues, Registrar of Births and Deaths, Climate Change, Sustainable development, Science and technology.