APNU+AFC leaders reaffirm coalition unity

APNU+AFC coalition leaders meeting yesterday. From left are: APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon, PNCR Chairman Volda Lawrence, Prime Minister and AFC elder statesman Moses Nagamootoo, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, AFC executive member, David Patterson, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan and PNCR General Secretary, Amna Ally. (APNU+AFC photo)

The leadership of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) met last  evening to discuss a number of matters and they said that their coalition remains united and strong.

“The leaders of the two parties jointly reaffirm that the Coalition remains united and strong.  Further the leadership celebrated the triumph of democracy in the efficient and successful holding of Local Government Elections, the second under the Coalition Government since it came to office in 2015. The leadership congratulates GECOM for the smooth and efficient manner in which these elections were held and acknowledged that GECOM has demonstrated its capacity to hold free, fair and credible elections”, a joint APNU+AFC release said.

No details were provided on the matters discussed.

Present at the meeting were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Vice Presidents Carl Greenidge and Khemraj Ramjattan, PNCR Chairperson and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, PNCR General Secretary and Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally, APNU Chairman and Minister of State Joseph Harmon and AFC executive member and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson.

President David Granger

The meeting comes amid several major developments for the coalition and the country. The announcement on Wednesday that President David Granger has been diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in Cuba and is currently undergoing treatment will raise immediate questions about when he will return to Guyana and if he will be able to resume office then.

Based on the press release issued by the Guyana Embassy in Cuba on Wednesday, President Granger has had a surgical intervention and was scheduled to begin another course of treatment on Wednesday. That course of treatment was not identified in the press release but Stabroek News has been told that the President will be undergoing chemotherapy.

Both the surgical intervention and chemotherapy would be gruelling for the 73-year-old President and would leave him exhausted and vulnerable to infections. The President had been in an already weakened state when he journeyed to Havana on October 30. Several rounds of chemotherapy might be recommended and the intervals between them would depend on whether the President was in a state to endure them.

Sources say that if Granger  was unable to perform the functions of President then the Prime Minister would have to have an extended period carrying out those duties. It would raise questions over the longer term about when the President would resume and virtually rule out a run for a second term.

Sources added that given the nature of the governing coalition and the pre-eminence of the PNCR there is likely to be some tensions over the way forward and concern that the President’s absence could create a vacuum and further detain progress in many important areas including management of the economy and the oil and gas sector.

Also likely to be on the agenda of leaders of the coalition would have been yesterday’s surprise announcement by Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo that he has lodged a motion of no-confidence against the Granger administration which holds a razor-thin one-seat majority in Parliament. If the motion were put to the House it would only require one defection from the AFC’s 12 seats or someone from APNU to hand victory to the PPP/C and the government would collapse. It would be left to the Chief Whip of the coalition to marshal the governing MPs on that day and to be sure that they were all on board.

Despite the declaration of unity yesterday, the lodging of the motion comes at a time when APNU’s refusal of an accord with the AFC for Local Government Elections saw the latter being decimated in key areas on Monday such as Whim/Bloomfield and in Linden. APNU’s decision to force the AFC to contest alone has exposed the AFC and weakened it just at the time that APNU now needs it to enable stability in the government in the absence of President Granger and to stave off the PPP/C motion of no-confidence.

Given the circumstances, analysts suggest that the current conditions could strengthen the AFC’s hand in negotiating amendments to the Cummingsburg Accord for the 2020 general elections.

Both APNU and the AFC have been pilloried for failing to follow through with pledges in 2015 for constitutional reform. The AFC is seen as particularly vulnerable over this failure as constitutional reform had been one of the key planks of its campaign while in opposition. It is unclear if there will be determined movement on this front.

Observers say given all of the circumstances at the moment there could also be consideration of a Cabinet reshuffle. Which APNU official will have the ascendancy in the absence of President Granger is unclear although at one of the last rallies before local government elections on Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge was given top billing.

APNU and AFC are to host a joint media conference today at 11am at Congress Place.

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