Talks expected soon on AFC alliance proposal

-Patterson

The Alliance For Change (AFC) says talks will be held soon with all stakeholders, including the main opposition APNU, on its pro-democracy alliance proposal.

Despite being pressed, AFC General Secretary David Patterson would not reveal yesterday whether APNU has expressed any desire to join such an alliance.

Many observers believe that an AFC and APNU coalition could claim office from the incumbent PPP/C, which lost the majority for the first time at the last general elections in 2011, although it retained the presidency.

Asked for a reaction to a report that APNU Leader David Granger was not interested in the pro-democracy alliance proposal put forward by AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan, Patterson said that the party would not be reacting to the news article in which that position was reported. Responding to questions on the issue at the party’s end-of-year press conference at the Georgetown Club, Patterson pointed out that the information sent to the party was totally different from what was published by a section of the media. He said that the AFC has since dispatched invitations to the relevant parties and there would be a meeting soon.

According to Patterson, the party’s pro-democracy alliance is “on the cards” and it has given itself six weeks to complete it. “We are proceeding apace,” he said.

Asked if APNU had expressed its willingness to be a part of this alliance, he said the main opposition has indicated that it “will like to sit and meet and we will be meeting soon.”

Pressed for a direct answer, he said, “I don’t want to speculate… because these are ongoing discussions with APNU and various stakeholders. We don’t want to speculate on the outcome.”

Asked if any group has given a positive response, he said, “We are negotiating with all groups. Remember the pro-democracy alliance is political parties, religious organisations, civil society as well as trade unions and there are several of these groupings and obviously we all have to sit down and discuss.”

It was also stated that the media is also a stakeholder, with which discussions also have to be held.

Told that APNU had a similar offer on the table for the past three years which was not taken up by the AFC, Patterson pointed out that there was a “big distinction” between the two. “The APNU has asked for us to be involved in a big tent sort of arrangement. What the pro-democracy alliance is for is all stakeholders. It will be driven by policies and agreement as opposed to an electoral big tent alliance… The APNU proposal that was prior to 2011 was actually to become a part of APNU. That is something that we have obviously not taken up,” he noted.

Earlier this month, Ramjattan said the AFC is prepared to lead a pro-democracy alliance of progressive forces, inclusive of the opposition coalition APNU, to remove the PPP/C government from office.

“To this end immediately following the Conference we will begin a series of engagements with organisations and will continue these apace, and in earnest, as we build a movement of the willing that is grounded in a shared vision of immediate wholesome changes for Guyana, and that is established on an agreed programme of constitutional, governance, economic and social reforms,” Ramjattan said at the party’s biennial National Conference, held at the St Stanislaus College.

His comments marked a departure from the previous opposition to any coalition with APNU. Among other reasons for not wanting an alliance, AFC members had cited a desire to keep the party’s identity and support base.

Ramjattan told the conference the party was operating with the certain knowledge that elections are imminent, and even now, it is preparing to launch its elections campaign in the near future. “The party is confident, based on support throughout the country, and the results of constant public opinion surveys, that it has the capacity, and the leadership, to offer Guyana a better deal and a brighter future,” he said.

“To this end the AFC firmly believes that every citizen, every group and every political party that has something wholesome to offer to the effort of a renewed and transformed Guyana must find a way to cooperate, and to deliver to the people of Guyana, a true government of national unity, one in which the politics of inclusion reigns over the politics of fear and division,” he said.

In this context, Ramjattan said that the AFC is therefore ready to enter into negotiations and to lead a pro-democracy alliance of progressive forces that should comprise civic groups, workers unions and political forces, including even disaffected PPP leaders and members, and not excluding APNU.