The Alliance for Change (AFC) has taken full responsibility for the lack of a timely disclosure of the roles played by party Chairman Nigel Hughes and MP Cathy Hughes in the operations of Amaila Falls hydropower project developer, Sithe Global and has apologised “for this critical lapse in duty.”
As the party endeavours to prevent a repeat of this scenario, it yesterday revealed that guidelines for the “Conduct of Leaders” aimed at preventing future perceptions of conflicts of interest, have been approved and will be presented.
In recent months, the AFC has come under fire after it was revealed that Nigel Hughes had been the Company Secretary of the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. (AFHI) and has faced the criticism that the situation amounted to a conflict of interest. Hughes, who said he had recused himself from party discussions on Amaila, had later tendered his resignation as Chairman to head off potential damage to the party’s reputation in light of the manner in which the disclosure was made.
Furthermore, the fact that the party’s decision to support the Amaila-related measures in the National Assembly came against the backdrop of the news that the Hugheses were working for AFHI also fuelled criticism of the party.
The AFC, however, yesterday asserted that the Hugheses at no time used their positions in the AFC to further their personal agendas.
Additionally, AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, along with other AFC party members, had said that they did not believe that there were conflicts of interests, even as the party reiterated its confidence in Nigel Hughes as Chairman and declined his resignation.
In a statement, the party denounced the recent “character assassination of two of its leaders,” which it said is a “feeble attempt to destroy the party’s credibility.”
The party also maintained its position that neither Nigel nor Cathy, by virtue of being functionaries of both AFC and AFHI, were in a conflict of interest situation. “It is our position that integral to the need for quality leadership is the idea of individual freedom and respect for the right to work and association. The AFC unreservedly supports the right to work of its leader, which is a constitutional right,” it said.
Nigel Hughes became Company Secretary for AFHI in 2009, while Cathy Hughes was contracted to provide PR services to the company in 2010, sometime before either of them became elected members of the AFC. After she became a member of the AFC, the party insists that Cathy Hughes was never in a conflict of interest position, since, in spite of her affiliations with AFHI, she was always required to carry her party’s position on all issues relating to the company and the Amaila Project.
As for Nigel Hughes, the AFC said that he informed the party of his affiliations when he joined, and recused himself from pronouncing on the Amaila Project when his party’s scrutiny of the project became imminent.
In an attempt to clear the air on Nigel Hughes’ specific responsibilities relevant to Sithe, the party said: “We are at pains to point out that most foreign companies, when coming to invest here, do not have offices in Guyana and are not sure how their investments are likely to develop. Under our laws, they are required to establish a registered office at an address in Guyana and identify a person to act as Company Secretary. Invariably, the address of the attorney’s office becomes the registered address and an officer in the law firm would provide services as Company Secretary,” it noted.
The party yesterday declared that it refuses to “sit idly by” and allow its credibility to be destroyed by half-truths peddled as credible. It is for this reason, the statement said, that “The AFC must respond.”
The statement further stated that the AFC continues to stand in defence of the Hugheses against the assertions made against them, and promised to provide “clear evidence” in the next few weeks “of what really transpired.”