This is not how a liberal democratic party operates

Dear Editor,

The press recently reported that the AFC chairman Khemraj Ramjattan referred to the AFC as a “liberal democratic party.” If this is so, why then did he and the party leader, Mr Raphael Trotman, decide to approve the unilateral appointment of the Gecom chairman, while many senior AFC members have strong reservations about this appointment, which was not vetted?

This is revealed from a brief reading of recently leaked emails. Mr Ramjattan has unreasonably accused those who released these emails as being “rogue elements.” Even if this is so, it still underlines the fact that the AFC did not engage in transparent discussions about the Gecom issue, which is expected from a liberal democratic party.

But for the actions of these “rogues,” the Guyanese people would have remained trapped under the continuous guises and gamesmanship of the AFC top two leaders. One may argue that when a party member discloses party affairs externally, it almost always points to a lack of democracy and failure to discuss an issue openly.

Incidentally, it was the AFC chairman, I believe, who many years ago wrote a guest column for the Stabroek News in which he argued that politicians do not think through issues any more.

Guyana lacks strong institutions that compel politicians to be honest with the public. The AFC has recoiled from democratic tendencies, as is evident from these emails, tendencies that have always bedevilled political parties that operate on the whims of personalities and agendas of party leaders, disguised as party interest.

But discussions of matters of paramount national interest that occur within any political party, such as the foremost election officer who shall preside over general elections, amount to property rights or property interest that belong to the public at large.

Said in another way, the AFC is allowed to assemble or operate through the auspices of the people, not party rules or partisan interest which often is used to scapegoat party members as “rogues,” and override rights they have under the national constitution.

The AFC can easily oblige with both its party interest and the national constitution by holding open discussions among party members with its final decisions relayed to the public. In this case, it did not do so and can hardly hope to dispel its gross dereliction of duty by unjustified accusations of ‘rogues’ and claims of liberal democracy and apologetic mea culpas.

Open discussions are needed because party members will always have different opinions. For example, from these emails, one sees that that Ms Cathy Hughes’ opinion on public concerns about the integrity of future elections, appears to vary from the blunt opinion of another senior party member, Mr Rohan Somar.

He stated, “…This unilateral appointment by the PNC Executive President of an Afro Guyanese Gecom Chairman, whether right or wrong, rips open the scars of PNC rigging the election. You have just thrown red meat to the notion of ‘PNC rigging election’ which, in my view, will cause [you] to forever lose Indo-Guyanese support at the polls.”

He further accused the AFC top two leaders of having “tipped” their hand without taking a stand, and having “no place to go other than to continue to play second fiddle with the PNC dominated coalition.” One notes that Mr Somar distinctly mentions the PNC, not APNU.

Mr Somar has stated what others outside the AFC are also saying, such as the Stabroek News which in one editorial called the AFC an “arm” of the PNC, and in another noted: “For all intents and purposes, the AFC doesn’t now exist as a real partner in government…”

In contrast, Ms Hughes, arguably, thinks that people’s concerns about electoral theft of votes are based on nothing but “hearsay” and “racial insecurities.”  One is reminded of what Ms Ulele Burnham, a daughter of the late Forbes Burnham, said in her excited utterance at the final coalition election rally. She declared: “I am here to bury Burnham, I gotta be here to bury him because is every election his grave getting dig up again and again so that they could talk jumbie story.”

If the AFC is truly a liberal democratic party, it should have held discussions to enquire whether members such as Mr Somar were talking ‘jumbie story” or not. Or whether its top two leaders can make objective decisions without being influenced by their personal relations with the leaders of the PPP and PNC, respectively. One has an old feud with the former and another has an old friendship with the latter.

Perhaps these two AFC leaders gave Mr Granger a free pass for personal reasons. If so, this is not how a liberal democratic party operates.

Yours faithfully,
Rakesh Rampertab

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