The AFC agreeing to coalition was not a volte face but a response to prorogation

Dear Editor,

I wish to take this opportunity, amidst the noise and haste associated with the emerging opposition alliance, to congratulate the lead negotiators of both APNU and AFC, for hammering out the deal that has given Guyanese a more definite and unified alternative to the PPP, as opposed to a splintered alternative that could have resulted in a repeat of 2011.

Although APNU has long been beckoning the AFC to join it and the AFC kept steadfastly resisting courtship overtures, the idea actually received its first sign of hope with AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan’s surprise announcement at his party’s December 6, 2014 conference that the AFC was willing and ready to lead a pro-democracy alliance that featured APNU. (Incidentally, the AFC saying it wanted to lead and settling for co-leadership is not as bad as some might want us to believe, but we have to leave room for that interpretation by some.)

It was literally a bold declaration for the pint-sized of the two opposition parties, but strategically, it turned out to be trying to bargain from a position of appearing strong. As time elapsed, I could not help extrapolating the children’s story about the lion and the mouse, in which compromise, trust and hard work earned the tiny mouse favour so both the lion and the mouse could live.

Nevertheless, the announcement was actually a volte face for the AFC, which did make clear at its 2005 launch, that it wanted to be an alternative to the PNC and PPP, both of which pandered for ethnic support and votes, thereby hurting the country’s chances of healing, unity and development.

But rather than question the volte face, APNU’s Carl Greenidge picked up on Mr Ramjattan’s announcement as a positive sign to be capitalized on by noting that any pro-democracy alliance between the opposition parties would certainly test the negotiating skills of the parties’ leaders (SN, December 8, 2014). And it certainly did, as the daily dose of news stories of the negotiations had some of us wondering if there will ever be a compromise deal satisfactory to both sides, and even to observant civil society stakeholders and political fence-sitters.

With the talks of a deal behind us, and having let out a collective sigh of relief, we must continue taking deep breaths as talks will have to continue addressing various stages of advancing the alliance beyond the launch. The same spirit of respect and compromise that launched the alliance must be maintained to keep the alliance alive.

And principles must always trump personalities in guiding the alliance towards its fundamental goals, so that even if personalities move on, voluntarily or involuntarily, the alliance must continue moving forward. The day the alliance has to fall apart because of personality issues, will be a sign it was never founded on sound principles. Think of the great United States, with all its complex layers of government, laws and institutional systems, and appreciate that the resignation, firing or death of any elected official has never stopped levels of government or various laws and institutions from functioning. That is the crux of my point.

Now, I can understand why some have questioned whether the AFC is a party of principles, given it broke its promise never to ally with either APNU (PNC) or the PPP. Others even wondered whether the AFC was being naïve or ignorant of the outcome of the PNC-UF 1964 coalition that fell apart in 1968. Was the AFC signing its own death certificate by eventually losing its identity to APNU?

Truth be told, I was among those who stoutly supported the AFC’s stance against allying with either the PPP or APNU (PNC), just so it can preserve its identity. That stance took a hit when it became obvious to all that identity politics and partisan principles mean nothing if a party can be rendered lifeless by virtue of a constitutional clause that allows the executive branch of government to shut down the legislative branch at will, sending all parties home.

For the AFC, this obnoxious development that denied it and APNU the right to be voices for the majority voters in 2011 in the highest decision-making forum in the land, demanded that every individual or partisan stance be set aside and give way to a collective stance to right the wrong that was committed against a constitutional pillar of a representative democracy.

What good is an AFC that seeks to retain its identity by refusing to ally with either APNU (PNC) when the PPP has rendered the AFC virtually ineffective? The PPP must be stopped! And one sure way to do that was for the AFC to team up with APNU, a fellow parliamentary victim of Jagdeoism and Ramotarism, seize the reins of government at the ballot box, end the culture of corruption, advance a cogent plan for socioeconomic development, overhaul the constitution, rehabilitate the criminal justice system, and restore public confidence in government and law and order.

If it takes a village to raise a kid, as the story line goes, then it will likely take an alliance to save Guyana and raise it up from being crippled toddler to amazing giant!

Am I touting an overnight success story if the alliance forms the next government? No. I am advocating that if we do not stop the PPP, which has been hijacked by Bharrat Jagdeo, with Donald Ramotar as an accessory to the act, all of the questionable deals that were struck to benefit a few at the expense of the many will continue. The culture of corruption will continue. The culture of lawlessness will continue. The culture of dictatorship will continue. This confounded madness must stop!

Editor, this May 11 election is not between the PPP and the Alliance, but between the people of Guyana and the PPP. It is a stark choice that voters have to make: Them (PPP) or us.

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin

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