The Canadian chapter of the Alliance For Change (AFC) has pulled all support from the party, while saying that its backing of the unilateral appointment of retired judge James Patterson as the new Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) chairman was the ‘last straw’ after years of being sidelined.
“I want to make it very clear that it is not only this Gecom matter that has been foisted upon us. It started with the Cummingsburg Accord and we accepted that and then other things happen and we hear ‘The AFC this and that’ without democratic consultations with members,” President of the AFC Canada Chapter Tameshwar Lilmohan told Stabroek News yesterday.
“That is not what the AFC is about, where only one and two persons speaking for the party without any consultations with the other members. Democratic processes have to be followed… we are pulling out until a court decision on Gecom but in the meantime we want to have dialogue on the other matters,” he added.
His comments followed a strong statement from the AFC-Canada Chapter’s Secretary Laurence Williams on Monday evening that denounced President David Granger’s unilateral selection of Patterson and which also called on the AFC to immediately take a number of actions, including calling on the president to rescind the appointment.
The letter was sent to AFC leader Raphael Trotman and its Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan and Lilmohan said it was formulated with consensus following a recent meeting with “a fair amount” of attendees from the chapter.
The statement said AFC-Canada is of the opinion that the appointment “violates the letter, intent and spirit of the Constitution of Guyana” and that no matter the outcome of the court case that has been filed contesting the decision, it was still calling for the Chairman’s withdrawal.
“Regardless of the outcome of the challenge of the validity of the appointment before the Court, we believe that the President misled the people that he genuinely considered the eighteen names submitted to him by the Opposition Leader. He had made up his mind in advance on whom he wanted to be the chairman and he recklessly enforced his wish. The ten months of purported deliberation, on the suitability of individuals on the lists, was clearly a charade. The President’s action smells of years gone by of rigged and fraudulent elections under the PNC dictatorship. Guyanese must guard against any threat to our emergent democratic gains,” the statement said.
“The AFC has stated that it was not consulted on the selection process by the President but it agrees with and supports the President’s process and decision. We find AFC’s position untenable, especially in light of the spirit of consultation and cooperation enshrined in the Cummingsburg Accord. Further, we have evidence that AFC’s leadership and the President did have consultation about the suitability of the individuals submitted by the Opposition Leader. This has caused us to have extreme reservation about the credibility of AFC’s leadership,” it added.
The chapter called on the party to immediately call on President Granger to rescind Patterson’s appointment and appoint an individual from the names submitted by the Opposition Leader. It also called for the Cummingsburg Accord to be rewritten to give it due credence and legal enforceability with definitive time limits for its implementation as well as for the immediate start of the constitutional reform process and the enactment of the reformed constitution before the next general elections.
“Unless and until all these resolutions are complied with in full, AFC-Canada hereby gives notice that it has withdrawn its membership from, association with and support of the Alliance for Change Party,” it added.
‘We can’t retract’
Efforts to contact Trotman were futile as calls and texts to his phones went unanswered.
However, Ramjattan said that he had received the letter and noted the ultimatums given. As he was at a Cabinet meeting at the time, he said that he could not go into detail but added that the party would deal with the issue “more profoundly” at the end of the day.
“They want us to retract on certain decisions that we have taken locally; not a chapter but it is more or less two members we happen to know, Tamesh and Laurence. We are talking to some Canadian members who never went to any meeting of the sort. We understand that these two members went to Bharrat Jagdeo’s meeting and whatever happened there but they have now sent me an email (saying) but if I don’t do this and if I don’t do that,” he said.
“We are trying to get them [AFC Canada executives] and most of them are saying they were never at that meeting and we want to know what is going on. Now, all of a sudden the two of them come out like this and it really surprises me because I thought they were getting our newspapers and emails as to what our arguments were. I rather suspect some people are going to fall out on it [Gecom decision]. We can’t retract a major decision of that nature and we will never do that,” he added.
Lilmohan, who was elected president of the Canadian chapter in 2015, had applied for a key public servant position but was not chosen.
It is for this reason that an executive told this newspaper yesterday that “You have to look at the whole picture and establish the reason behind these two guys coming out now at this point and time.”
But Lilmohan dismissed this assertion when it was put to him and he maintained that it was the chapter’s membership that wants the party to look at the way it treats its executives when it comes to making “serious decisions.”
“I went when Bharrat Jagdeo was here yes and other people too, other people that are AFC. It is not a matter of affiliation. I am not a part of the PPP and we [he and Williams] are not part of the PPP and we don’t intend to be as anyone is saying,” he said.
He pointed out that regardless of what anyone says or believes, he will hold to his personal conviction that the AFC is usually micromanaged by “one and two” top executives and he pointed to complaints that have been previously voiced and the making of the Cummingsburg Accord—which formed the basis for the AFC’s partnership with APNU to successfully contest the 2015 elections—as evidence of this.
Lilmohan noted the significant contributions, both monetary and otherwise, that AFC-Canada has made since the party’s establishment and expressed the disappointment he said was felt by the chapter when it was not consulted on the Cummingsburg agreement and its subsequent sidelining.
The chapter’s statement noted that the AFC was born out of disenchantment with the PNC and the PPP and that members and supporters were of the unequivocal understanding that it would maintain its independence. “This position was reinforced by documentation and constant reiteration of AFC leaders. Yet, just before the 2015 general election, without any consultation of its members and supporters, the AFC leadership performed the most outlandish volte face. It became a coalition partner with the PNC. Members and supporters are still debating the question of, in whose interest was this decision made – the country, the Party and its members, or was it for the selected few who are in lucrative Governmental positions today?” it questioned.
“The AFC submitted to its members and followers that the Cummingsburg Accord was the panacea of all past and possible future infractions of the PNC. This document commits the coalition partners to accept and promote dialogue, discussion and the use of constitutional means to advance economic, political and social change. It speaks of the high value of mutual respect and rejected ethnicity as a consideration for the participation of citizens in government. Also, AFC was guaranteed forty percent participation in governance. This was taken to mean, forty percent in all levels of direct and indirect governance. AFC-Canada is convinced that the Cummingsburg Accord is a farce perpetrated on the members and followers of the Party. It was used as a tool to placate members and followers so that the leaders can smoothly deliver the Party to the laps of the PNC for their own dividends,” it added.
Notwithstanding the reservations, Lilmohan yesterday said that over Cdn$75,000 was given to the party in campaign support for the 2015 general elections.
Meanwhile, the chapter’s statement also called on members to do some introspection and assessment in the interest of the party’s survival.
“It has no independent collective representation in Government and its support base is decimated. Continued association with the PNC will result in complete annihilation. The AFC Members of Parliament must consider whether their personal aggrandizement is more important than the survival of the Party,” it said, while questioning whether it was time to withdraw from the governing coalition.
“We call upon AFC members and supporters in Guyana and the diaspora to hold the leaders of the Party accountable to the high ideals, morals and aspirations that the Party was founded upon. While AFC-Canada is no longer associated with The Alliance For Change Party or any other political party, for the time being, it will continue to support the Guyanese people’s quest and struggle for national unity, democracy, transparency, accountability and peace and progress,” it added.