The AFC has no intention of accepting the resignation of its Chairman Nigel Hughes, says party General Secretary David Patterson.
Notwithstanding claims by critics that Hughes’ relationship with Amaila Falls Hydropower Project developer Sithe Global constituted a conflict of interest, Patterson on Wednesday told reporters that Hughes, who is currently on leave from party business, remains an important asset.
However, he said that in light of recent developments the party intends to examine itself to determine if there is need to implement clearer requirements as it relates to stating its members’ involvements.
Hughes, who became the Company Secretary for Sithe Global in 2009, offered his resignation as party Chairman last week after this fact became public. At the time he joined the company, he had not yet joined the AFC. He joined the AFC in 2011 and then became its chairman a year later.
Both Hughes and his fellow AFC members maintain that he made his affiliation with Sithe known when it became apparent that the party would be scrutinising the government’s agreement with Sithe, and recused himself from party discussions on the issue. Although he has said that his association with Sithe was a matter of public record, critics have argued that this is not the same as being public knowledge.
Hughes’ resignation came amidst a hailstorm of assertions that his roles with Sithe as well as the AFC amounted to a conflict of interest. AFC MP Cathy Hughes, Hughes’ wife, also functioned as Sithe’s Public Relations Consultant. Since Sithe has signalled its exit from the Amaila project, it is unclear if the Hugheses continue to work for the company.
Nevertheless, the fact that the AFC decided to support the bill and motion tabled in the National Assembly to enable the Amaila project last week, after earlier voting against it, has not helped the party’s position.
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan has said that the party’s decision to pass the motion and bill was prompted by its desire to give the Amaila Falls project a “new lease on life.” The matters were “killed” on July 18th when both the AFC and APNU voted them down and after they were brought back to the National Assembly last week Ramjattan said that the AFC wanted to give the project a chance.
AFC executive member Dominic Gaskin on Wednesday said that contrary to what seems to be the perception, the party never backtracked on its fundamental position. He said that this is manifest in the party’s decision to amend the debt guarantee limit to $50 billion as opposed to the $150 billion, which was being requested by government. The party also amended the motion so that the increase would only apply to Amaila, and required that this decision be revisable after three months.
Gaskin also said that the AFC was in opposition to the parliamentary measures on July 18th because talks between the government and opposition about support for the four local government bills broke down.
He also noted that the party’s concerns as it relates to Guyana Power and Light’s ability to handle the power to be provided by Amaila, as well as how the project will affect the environment and the economy have not been addressed, and he said the party is waiting on the completion of the IDB’s due diligence study to provide answers.
Gaskin said the AFC cannot afford to be hard and fast and have its positions cast in stone. He argued that the party must be allowed to exercise flexibility in making decisions, especially when new information is revealed. “Time will be on our side,” said Gaskin, who was confident that the wisdom of the party’s decision will eventually be seen.