It came as a great shock and later a greater disappointment to me when I learned of the conflict of interest position in which Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC) found himself regarding the Amaila Falls Hyropower Project. Nigel Hughes is a brilliant man. An esteemed lawyer, fine politician and human rights activist, Nigel represents the new breed of politician Guyana desperately needs. To see him crash and burn politically as a result of poor decision-making really does not augur well for his political fortunes and those of his party.
Personally, I have no problem with any person earning an honest living based on their profession. Law is one of the noblest professions in the world and requires an astute and fertile legal mind in order to succeed. Nigel has such a mind. Therefore, he being a critical part of Sithe Global ‒ the company formerly earmarked to construct the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Plant – should not have been any cause for concern. Nigel has a right to work and earn an honest living. However when interests collide, the results can be catastrophic.
As that new, vibrant, passionate, committed, determined and intelligent politician started to emerge in Nigel Hughes, Guyanese started to believe once again in political change. The AFC arguably found its Walter Rodney in Nigel Hughes. Guyanese saw in him a man deeply interested and committed to the struggles of the poor and to the establishment of good and fair governance. Therefore, when it became a matter of public knowledge that he was the company secretary for AHI at a time when the combined opposition was clearly refusing to support the Amaila Hydropower Project in its current form, Guyanese (particularly the AFC constituencies) recoiled in repulsion.
The belated resignation of Nigel Hughes as Chairman of the AFC did nothing to resolve the conflict of interest dilemma in which he found himself. Not even resigning from AHI at that ninth hour was going to help either, even though many have advanced arguments that he should have resigned from Sithe Global instead of the party. My humble opinion is that any resignation from Nigel should have taken place the moment the AFC joined the debate in refusing the project in its current form. But that again is a contested view at a time when some feel that he sold out on the Guyanese people he claimed to care so much about. Others see the AFC as being politically myopic in its support for the Hyropower Bill since there are no guarantees that it will get what it wants from government.
Credibility has been lost to both the AFC and its Chairman. While the party faithful continue to show their support and spin in all directions the conflict of interest issue and the party’s radical shift in principle in supporting the Hydropower Bill, the rank and file ‒ its constituencies ‒ remain jaded. The last thing the AFC wants is for its constituencies to look at it bleary eyed as when it attempts to showcase its relevance in Guyanese politics. The AFC must speak from the heart to its constituencies about how it plans to move forward from this crisis. A lot of work needs to be done by the party to regain the trust and support of its constituencies. No amount of spin will help. A frontal honest approach is needed urgently. This must be led by none other than the Chairman himself, Nigel Hughes.