Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday distanced himself from allegations of “infiltrating” the Alliance for Change’s (AFC) Canada support base saying that the chapter’s pullout from their party was a microcosm of its dwindling backing.
“Me? Infiltrate? I met over 2,000 persons from 20 groups when I went to Canada,” Jagdeo said at a press conference at his office when asked if he had a meeting with President of AFC-Canada Tameshwar Lilmohan and Secretary Laurence Williams.
The Canadian chapter of the AFC on Monday stated that it had pulled all support from the party, while saying that its backing of President David Granger’s 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 (which created the alliance between APNU and the AFC) and we accepted that and then other things happen and we hear ‘The AFC this and that’ without democratic consultations with members,” Lilmohan told Stabroek News on Tuesday.
“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.
Jagdeo said that he believed that the decision by AFC- Canada was made on principle and was a reflection of the support that the AFC was losing, both at home and in the diaspora.
“They took a principled position. I saw the letter, from that chapter, about how dishonest the leadership of the AFC has been with that chapter and its members and it is why not only Canada, but right across the country the AFC no longer exists,” he said.
Pointing to a once prominent AFC supporter in Berbice who has now switched to campaign with him, Jagdeo said it was evidence that his PPP was gaining ground. “The man in Berbice where they had their headquarters; Mr Abdulla he went with me to almost every meeting I have had and he said to people, `I was wrong I honestly thought they (AFC) believed in what they were saying’ and he has now left them on the ground. That is just one example of the people who feel betrayed by this unprincipled bunch that is enjoying the good life now,” Jagdeo said.
“They are done on the ground done, done that AFC. They only exist in the coalition,” he added.
A strong statement from the AFC-Canada Chapter’s Secretary Laurence Williams on Monday evening denounced President Granger’s unilateral selection of Patterson and 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 appeared to have caught the AFC off guard. On Monday night its General Secretary Marlon Williams had told Stabroek News that he was unaware of it.
This newspaper has been trying since Monday to contact the AFC leader to no avail as all calls and texts have gone unanswered.
However, Ramjattan said on Tuesday 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) …if I don’t do this and if I don’t do that,” he said.
Up to yesterday no formal word was had from the AFC camp but executives individually continued to express their surprise and disappointment at Williams and Lilmohan.
“We understand that it was a meeting hastily called by the two of them and a handful of people turned up. They talk about (AFC) foisting decisions but I understand that statement sent out was itself foisted on those people who were there,” one executive said yesterday.
Asked if the party knows that the claims were not reflective of the entire chapter why there has been silence on the matter, the executive would only say, “I myself want to know but I think that something would come out soon. These things take time because it is not like it is Berbice that we could run to and ask this or that eh.”
Lilmohan too was asked if he had taken a PPP support position and hence the reason for the letter and if it was true that only a few persons attended.
“That is a wanton lie. We are a support group and when the meeting was called it represented that group. I as President chaired that meeting and of course there were some persons absent yes but that is what happens at all meetings. You don’t ever get everyone at any meeting. The meeting was held in a double room,” he stressed.
“This is a very serious accusation that is much unfounded. We have said that we are prepared to be involved but at this stage we want to have dialogue …that kind of smear is very dangerous. We are not part of the PPP and we do not intend to be part of the PPP…Just because we speak up on how we feel it means we are a part of the PPP?” he queried.
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, on Tuesday, 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.”
Lilmohan had 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 Laurence 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 crafting of the February 14, 2015 Cummingsburg Accord—which formed the basis for the AFC’s partnership with APNU to successfully contest the 2015 elections—as evidence of this.