President David Granger will today meet Alliance For Change (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan to discuss concerns that the allocation of APNU+AFC coalition seats won in Georgetown and other parts of the country at the recent local government elections was unfair.
While AFC sources told Stabroek News that members raised concerns about the allocations with party leaders on Sunday, Granger, who is also leader of APNU, yesterday said that he was not notified by the AFC leader or the party of the issue and he only learned of it after reading yesterday’s edition of the Stabroek News. Neverthe-less, he said he has made the decision to address it as early as possible.
“I have not been spoken to by the AFC. I am aware of what was published in the papers, that’s all, and I intend to meet with the leader of the AFC as early as possible, to discuss his concerns. On the part of the coalition, in my view, we have not breached any understandings or protocols, so I am not sure what the basis of the comments are. Mr Ramjattan has not actually expressed a view,” Granger told Stabroek News.
“What the papers seem to be saying is that other persons have expressed views. It would be premature of me to assume what his concerns are, so I expect to meet him tomorrow to understand,” he added.
Asked if he believed the seats were allocated in a fair manner, Granger said he had to make a proper analysis of the situation.
“When you speak of fair, you have to understand what the standard is. People voted for candidates, but, as I said, it is premature to discuss concept of fairness until we understand what the complaints from the party are and Mr Ramjattan is the leader of the AFC and I will speak with him tomorrow,” he added.
‘Putting the cart before the horse’
While the two leaders are scheduled to meet today, Stabroek News understands that the slate of the candidates selected to take up seats countrywide has already been submitted to the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom).
The deadline for the submission of the list is today but sources close to the coalition told Stabroek News that the list was already compiled and submitted to Gecom.
“This is like putting the cart before the horse and I am not sure what the meeting with the President tomorrow can do. The list has already been submitted, so while it is a good gesture on the President’s part to meet, nothing can be done,” an AFC source said.
At a meeting held on Sunday afternoon, AFC members raised concerns that they have been “shortchanged” and “unfairly treated” in the allocation of seats in municipalities that the coalition won at the March 18 polls.
“We met on Sunday and discussed that problem. Well, yes, some members of the party did complain but, like you have in the papers, the leader said he will discuss it with the APNU, so I reserve my comments until after that process,” a top AFC official told Stabroek News yesterday.
Awaiting the outcome of the discussions between the coalition members before speaking on the issue was also the position taken by two other party officials.
One AFC official had said that of the 25 seats won by the coalition for the Georgetown city council, the AFC was only given three seats–by virtue of First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) wins and zero of the 11 Proportional Representation (PR) seats. Eleven APNU candidates won FPTP seats. This means that APNU will control 22 of the 30 seats on the council.
The three AFC candidates who won their constituencies are Sherod Duncan of Constituency 14, Carlyle Goring of Constituency 2 and Lionel Jaikarran of Constituency 1.
“In Georgetown it is worse but this is throughout the country, APNU railroad the process,” an incensed AFC official had told Stabroek News on Sunday.
“The party’s leaders were warned not to enter local government elections without an agreement on how the outcome would be dealt with. The Cummingsburg Accord never covered local government elections, the same way it didn’t cover junior ministers and a whole host of other things… so there should have been an agreement in place,” the official added.
When Granger was asked about the AFC’s members disquiet and the image and impact such criticisms could have on the coalition, he said, “I don’t know how accurate the reports are and I’d like to reserve my comments until I would have spoken with the leader of the AFC.”
Ramjattan had told Stabroek News on Sunday that he received complaints and was planning a meeting with the APNU’s Party Representative at Gecom Amna Ally. “I have had complaints from my members and I intend to talk to Amna Ally about it. That’s a genuine concern that I have and I will want to address it, but the coalition will have to address that,” he said.
The disquiet over the allocations of the seats could be a serious challenge for the coalition since the Cummingsburg Accord sealing the APNU and AFC alliance was hammered out on February 14, 2015. While there has been simmering unease about certain provisions of the Accord not being adhered to, this is the first matter that has triggered broad discontent in the AFC and burst into the open. APNU and the AFC had said that there was a dispute resolution mechanism between the two but nothing has been heard about this since the coalition took office last May.
Earlier concerns that the responsibilities promised to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the most senior AFC representative in government, had been diluted, were brushed aside by the party and the coalition.