Mr Ronald Bulkan’s letter, ‘The tables are now turned’ (Stabroek News, November 28, 2017) seems to reveal the thinking within APNU which likely influenced the decision of Messrs Trotman and Ramjattan to support President Granger’s unilateral choice of Justice Patterson as Gecom chairman. It may also explain why the AFC did not demand that the APNU fully comply with the terms of the Cummingsburg Accord or take a stand on a number of issues to which the AFC leaders were publicly committed. Further, this letter appears to signal APNU’s strategy for the 2020 election.
In his letter, Mr Bulkan writes: “My question is: when has an election in Guyana since 1957, not been a racial grudge match (other than perhaps in 2006 when some 25,000 persons deserted the PNC for the Raphael Trotman-led AFC and in 2011 when the Ramjattan-led AFC secured 35,333 votes)? The (approx) 25,000 voters returned home in 2011 and the (approx) 35,000 in 2015 (evidenced by the PPP increasing its tally from 166,340 to 202,656 votes).”
Basically, Mr Bulkan is saying that in the 2015 election, the AFC’s contribution to the coalition’s one-seat majority was negligible. This is consistent with what Freddie Kissoon, someone who campaigned for the AFC in 2015 and who often reveals insider information, wrote in Kaieteur News, on October 30, 2017, where he stated, “The 2015 election results for the AFC were disastrous. It showed that the Indian leaders did not win over Indian constituencies… the AFC did not bring in the ten per cent that its partner, the APNU assumed it would”.
The truth is that the Donald Ramotarled PPP/C government, by its refusal to agree to the AFC’s request to establish the Procurement Commission and to hold local government elections, drove the AFC into a marriage with APNU.
The Cummingsburg Accord then formalized the arrangement between APNU and the AFC. However, the AFC, once into this union, did not deliver the expected dowry. In his article, Mr Kissoon further informs us, “From the time the election results were known, the relationship between the AFC and APNU became tense and it has been like that ever since. Top APNU leaders felt and still feel today that a party that couldn’t get ten per cent of the vote should not have received twelve seats and the ministries it got.”
As a result of not delivering the ten per cent, and because the Accord could not supersede the powers of the President under the Constitution, the AFC lost all bargaining power, thereby having to play second fiddle to the major partner. Consequently, the AFC leaders have had to go along with APNU and President Granger’s decisions in order to retain their positions in government as ministers serve at the discretion of the President.
Mr Bulkan’s letter also states “… there is a narrative out there being peddled by the PPP that ‘they [are] coming back.’ How, I have to ask myself, will this happen given the recognition that race has always, and continues to be, the bedrock of voter alignment? For this we have to look
to the racial breakdown of the population. For East Indians it was 51.93% in 1980, 48.63% in 1991, 43.43% in 2002 and 39.83% in 2012. For African/Black it was 30.82% in 1980, 32.26 in 1991, 30.23 in 2002 and 29.25% in 2012. Mixed persons moved from 11.16% in 1980 to 19.88 in 2012 and the number of Amerindians also doubled from 5.31% to 10.51% during the same period.”
In my view, Mr Bulkan is honest and pragmatic in recognizing that race will be, as in previous elections, a critical factor in the 2020 election.
Based on this recognition and from the population breakdown presented, one can deduce where APNU’s focus will be in 2020. As the election nears, it should not be surprising to see increased spending in the Amerindian communities. And, very likely, APNU’s prime ministerial candidate may be someone of Amerindian ancestry. The PPP/C blundered in 2015 in not selecting Ms Carolyn Rodrigues as their prime ministerial candidate.
It is inconceivable that the AFC leaders, very experienced and politically savvy, did not consider the downside in supporting President Granger on the Gecom chairman. However, having ‘tied bundle’ with APNU they have had no other choice. And, I agree with Freddie Kissoon’s assertion in the above mentioned article that “The AFC will cling to the APNU in 2020. It has no other option. It will hope that the Prime Minister comes from the AFC but even that is not guaranteed. Sadly, I think the AFC’s biology and physiology will die after 2020 and it will just be an appendage to the APNU.”