Last Updated on Sunday, 17 July 2016, 18:29 by Denis Chabrol
Leader of Guyana’s Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan has sought to assure top party members and others working in government that they were not being sidelined by their coalition partner in government, even as he touted integrity as a main plank on which his party’s identity would be preserved.
“It is maintaining the integrity of our individual leadership. That is paramount and performing,” he told Demerara Waves Online News, pointing to the AFC promises to reduce crime, increase transparency and be pro-business.
Statistics at the 2015 general and regional elections and the 2016 Local Government Elections show that the AFC has not performed as well as it had expected in several areas.
Ramjattan, who has historically been deeply concerned that the AFC would lose its identity in teaming up with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), hailed efforts such as those by Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan in exposing weaknesses in the proposed parking meter system.
The AFC Leader said that was one of the strategies discussed at his party’s conference of AFC Ministers and government officials held at Sophia Exhibition Centre. Party Treasurer Dominic Gaskin, General Secretary, David Patterson and Ramjattan delivered presentations at that conference. “Even at the lower level at the municipality, get ourselves identified with the issues that are going to put us upfront as I want to believe that Mr. Sherod Duncan as done and a number of our regional councillors… so you can show members within the communities that you are a leader of substance and integrity and you come from the Alliance For Change- that is what is going to make the very pronounced identification and identity of our party,” he said.
When told that Duncan has lost the battle over the apparent lack of transparency over the parking meter deal, Ramjattan stressed the importance of highlighting concerns. “Make sure that you make the point… so even if Sherod Duncan in a sense is going to be out-voted, it does not mean that he does not make his statement,” he said.
The AFC Leader described Duncan’s stance on the process for the parking meters as “very right” and that he was happy that he has made his position known publicly.
In terms of the relationship between the AFC and APNU, Ramjattan said a number of members complained about “certain negatives and certain bad relationships” at the Neighbourhood Democratic and Regional Council levels. Responding to those, he said those instances were personality conflicts with APNU persons rather than institutional problems. “In an organisation now that is as large as the AFC, you would have that much less in a coalition where you are going to have confrontation, where you are going to have major disagreements and so on and so I told them that is part of the life,” he said. Saying that both AFC and APNU have Guyana’s interests at heart, conflicts at the local and regional levels would have to be settled by conciliation.
With the AFC having not secured aspects of the deal in the February 14, 2015 Cummingsburg Accord – a pre-election pact with APNU, Ramjattan reasoned that a “political compact is never a commercial transaction” that changes when in government. “There was a lot of unforeseen, there were a lot of scenarios that we could not have identified very properly and it is generally largely a principled kind of a compact, not like a commercial transaction,” he said.
On the issue of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo perceptibly not having weighty areas, the AFC Leader disagreed and pointed out that Nagamootoo is responsible for political matters and he is Leader of Government Business in the House. “The Prime Minister has gotten weighty areas in my opinion and if the Prime Minister would require weightier areas, the demand can be made but he has a lot of work to do and he is doing a fantastic job at it,” he said.
Ramjattan believed that the AFC has gotten the optimum in the circumstances, considering the Guyanese political culture.
The Prime Minister, according to the Herdmanston Accord, was supposed to be responsible for among other areas domestic affairs, domestic security, chairing cabinet, recommending ministerial appointments, appointing heads of agencies and non-constitutional commissions.
Shortly after the May 2015 general elections, Nagamootoo was, apart from Leader of Government Business in the House, responsible for the State Media and the National Frequency Management Unit.
In minor cabinet shuffles, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications was created and NFMU placed under that Ministry. Nagamoootoo was also handed the portfolio of governance after Raphael Trotman was given dedicated responsibility for the Ministry of Natural Resources.