Fed up with waiting on a confirmed date for meeting with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to discuss modalities for Local Government Elections (LGE), the Alliance for Change (AFC) has given its governing coalition partner two weeks to reply or it goes alone to the polls this year.
“We want to go into the LGE as a coalition and I think that is the view of most members, but we are not going in blind and have to get certain things sorted out…so we all decided on a two-week ultimatum or we go alone,” a National Executive Council (NEC) member told Stabroek News following yesterday’s meeting.
While not detailing any concrete plans, the AFC last evening issued a statement in which it said that its Leader Raphael Trotman had been mandated to take a course of action.
Although no specific time was offered for the delivery of Trotman’s response, the statement said that it should be imminent.
“Leader Raphael Trotman reported to the meeting that last evening (April 30) he received a response to the AFC letter dated February 26th which was sent to Leader of A Partnership for National Unity, His Excellency President David Granger. The AFC letter outlined a number of matters, including the issue of the approach to Local Government Elections and the response from His Excellency proposed a certain course of action,” the AFC statement read.
“The NEC deliberated on this matter and mandated the Leader to respond to His Excellency in a prescribed manner. This will be done in the coming days and following the dispatch of that communication, the AFC will make a more detailed statement on the issue,” it added.
But following the all-day meeting of the party’s NEC, which was held yesterday at the Georgetown Club, party executives gave mixed reviews of the meeting but all spoken to by Stabroek News confirmed that the two-week ultimatum was a unanimous decision.
The ultimatum would be a further sign of stress in the three-year-old coalition which has seen the AFC express disquiet over matters like the number of seats allocated at the regions to its councillors and the conduct of APNU members at the all-important Mayor and City Council.
AFC’s Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan had said in early April that a decision was made between the AFC and APNU to retain their coalition for the 2018 LGE and that a letter had been dispatched to APNU Leader President Granger requesting a meeting to “thrash out matters” before campaigning begins.
In mid-April, Trotman had told this newspaper that while no formal meetings have been held as yet on the matter, he expects that the two sides would “meet soon”.
According to sources, the President formally replied to the letter on Monday, April 30th , more than two months after he was written to by the AFC for consideration of matters which were originally to be hammered out by February 14 this year, the third anniversary of the Cummingsburg Accord which birthed the APBU+AFC coalition. Granger in his reply on Monday acknowledged receipt of the correspondence sent by the AFC and said that he was looking forward to the meeting.
Last month, Granger had also acknowledged receipt of correspondence from the AFC but reasoned that he could not commit to a date for a meeting since his own APNU is a coalition and they have to consult. He has also welcomed the AFC decision to go to the polls in coalition with APNU and believes that the concerns of the AFC will be amicably resolved, making way for a unified APNU+AFC going into the LGE.
“I am happy to say that all six partners are committed to coalition politics. We expect that this is the face we will present to the electorate at [LGE] later this year- that is our objective and so it is just a matter of working out the modalities,” Granger had said on April 11th.
“I have to consult with five other parties and that consultation process has started and we have not engaged the AFC as yet, but we are aware of the comments made in the media about working together for Local Government Elections and we are still consulting with our partners to ensure that we come up with a way forward,” he added.
Notably however, in Granger’s recent correspondence of Monday there was no mention of a meeting date and it was apparently this critical omission that left AFC members yesterday asking many questions and wondering if it was done purposely to continue delaying the meeting. It also helped form the basis for the two-week timeline that the AFC yesterday proposed.
“There was a reply but it was a mere acknowledgement of the letter and all the coalition this and that but nothing about a date and that is worrying,” one executive said.
“That letter helped in the forming of the ultimatum because how long more are we to wait? We are already in May and by the time you blink it is the end of the year and the Local Government Elections are upon us. We still don’t know then what we are about and if it is too late we don’t have time to begin campaigning and all the other things that comes with going into an election. You understand me?” the executive added.
Another executive posited that if a response to the meeting is given to the party, and the talks yield an amicable resolution, that members have committed to ensuring that all of AFC’s resources be channeled into the campaign.
“The dominant view is that we want this coalition to work and we want to go as one body. If we get a response and everything is resolved, we will put everything into ensuring we give the people the best local government organs they ever had. We have a commitment to making this work as a partnership and the AFC will hold to its end,” the source noted.
And while the executives believe going into the LGE as a coalition will be best for the party, a few are still skeptical that APNU would respond to the ultimatum.
“Yesterday’s meeting was more of the same; a lot of talk and hopes. We want the coalition to work but (a) few of us are still of the view that APNU will not reply…,” one executive lamented.
“I think at this point we have to wait and see what happens, but not wait without a backup plan. We have to be prepared for any eventuality and I don’t think all members are on that page. The diaspora people especially seem to have all this faith in APNU and that everything will be okay, and we must not speak out about going alone. They have the dominant views too so all I would say is, we wait and see,” the executive added.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by members from all the administrative regions and diaspora representatives, including from Grenada who represented the AFC Caribbean Chapter.