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PM office for strengthening under constitutional reform, “robust” legislative agenda -Granger

APNU Chairman, David Granger (left) and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan shake hands after signing the revised Cummingsburg Accord.

President David Granger has announced that the Prime Minister’s office is to be strengthened, if the coalition wins the March 2, 2020 general elections, to definitely oversee reform of Guyana’s constitution and ensure government’s promises are kept, among other things.

“He’ll also be in charge of a robust legislative agenda to make sure that the promises that will be embedded in the manifesto are in fact fulfilled. They will not be empty promises but these will be actionable, achievable commitments to the Guyanese people,” he said.

He said the APNU+AFC manifesto would be launched on January 3, 2020, once it is completed “very quickly, amicably, cordially.”

Granger’s prime ministerial running mate, Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan is regarded as an accomplished criminal and civil lawyer.

Granger made the announcements during Tuesday’s signing of the revised political agreement – 2015 Cummingsburg Accord – between his People’s National Congress Reform-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the AFC.

There have been lingering concerns that incumbent Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has had little responsibilities beyond parliamentary affairs and governance. In the area of constitutional reform, the coalition government and, in particular, Nagamootoo have been singled out by the opposition and critics for doing little to keep its 2015 election promise to further revise Guyana’s constitution.

But the President said Tuesday that under a new APNU+AFC coalition government, constitutional reform would definitely be completed and the Prime Minister’s office would be equipped to get that process moving. “We have taken some decisions, that is to say the Leader of the AFC and myself to strengthen the Prime Minister’s office especially in light of our thrust towards constitutional reform and there will be some rebalancing of the governmental functions to strengthen the Prime Minister’s office,” he said.

The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has cast doubt over whether Nagamootoo has the political clout to negotiate reforms on behalf of the entire coalition, while the government has accused the opposition of failing to attend meetings of the standing parliamentary committee on constitutional reform.

Granger said a Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister will be needed to “enable the Prime Minister on entering his office to expedite his work,” he said. The President promised that “there’ll be a stronger thrust towards constitutional reform and in our second term of office it will be completed; I’m very confident about that,” he said to applause by attendees at the signing ceremony held at State House, the President’s official residence.

Touching on the process that led up to the signing of the accord, he acknowledged that several persons might have been frustrated by the slow pace of the negotiations, but he said the revised agreement considered the coalition’s more than four years experience in government and legal interpretations particularly during the past 12 months in apparent reference to the no-confidence motion. The APNU Chairman, who is also the PNCR Leader, said the negotiating process ensured that the two sides were “more careful to ensure everything we do is compliant with the constitution.”

No mention was made about the fact that the AFC’s parliamentary and Cabinet representation would be reduced from 40 to 30 percent after the next general elections.