‘We have to prove ourselves’

Senior members of the AFC at a press conference hosted at Parliament Buildings Wednesday. From left are Ministers of Business, Public Security, Natural Resources, Public Infrastructure and Public Telecommunications, Dominic Gaskin, Khemraj Ramjattan, Raphael Trotman, David Patterson and Cathy Hughes, respectively.

…AFC leader says going alone only fair to APNU

THE Alliance For Change (AFC) decision to contest the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGEs) alone will clearly demonstrate the party’s value within the APNU+AFC coalition government and is also a chance for it to prove itself.

Party Leader and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, made the point Wednesday during a press conference held by the hierarchy of the party. “The AFC needs to prove itself to itself. I believe that it should prove itself to its partner; it’s only fair. We shouldn’t demand to the APNU in 2020 that we have a right to be there. We should be able to say this is what we bring,” he stated.

Statement by Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Raphael Trotman on the party’s decision to go to Local Government Elections’ polls alone.

Stressing that the party needs to also prove itself to the citizenry, he said the exercise is good for the party “to demonstrate that we do have the strength.” “This is an exercise that is necessary in preparation for 2020. We should not say to APNU we have no choice.  We should demonstrate to the people of Guyana we have earned the right to manage the people of Guyana,” he added, noting emphatically that the AFC was not rejected by the APNU led by President David Granger.

Trotman, who was once a member of the People’s National Congress (PNC), one of the largest political parties in the country, made it clear that by going to the November 12 elections alone, both the APNU and the AFC will demonstrate clearly to the people what each party has to offer separately and collectively. “We expect to be in competition against each other, but we expect at the same time in battle against the PPP,” he stated.

Trotman assured that the coalition which comprises APNU and AFC is strong at the level of national government. “The AFC is committed to not only maintaining its cohesiveness, but also to strengthening it.” The AFC leader said too that his party is confident it will “demonstrate electoral growth and expansion at the upcoming LGEs as it remains the most progressive political entity in Guyana with widespread support across the country.

“There is also room to work with independent candidates of like mind, community leaders and civil society groups generally and to mobilise stakeholders to fully participate in this important feature of our democracy… the party is in full campaign mode and will make further announcements as our victory campaign plan is rolled out,” Trotman stated.

The party stressed that the move to contest the elections alone is geared at refreshing the coalition “Going independently will refresh the coalition, so the people of Guyana will get the best of both parties,” Trotman said, noting that being in government can cause some level of complacency and in recognition of that, the “coalition needed to be refreshed.” The AFC leader reminded that this process represents the start of a campaign for the 2020 national elections. “We expect to be in competition with each other,” he noted.

Studious process

AFC’s Campaign Manager and Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson

Meanwhile, stressing that local government and by extension elections for local government is an important tool which the AFC sees as an important point of contact, consultation and service to the people, Trotman who was flanked by senior officials of his party made it clear that the decision to contest alone is “part of a studious process,” which commenced with the National Executive Committee (NEC) after taking a decision in February 2018 to engage APNU.

A deadline was set and both APNU and AFC kept revising it with the hope that common ground would be found on which to campaign together. “Both sides thought we should seek an accommodation together,” he added, while noting that the AFC drafted a proposal and the APNU from time to time sent their views on the said proposal.

Trotman does not agree that the party was forced to contest LGEs alone, as it had already decided that it would contest the polls as a party. “I believe that we were unable to come to agreement on what would be the representation. At the national level it was easier to say 60/ 40. At the local government level, it is a different elections and so it is not as easy as coming with an across the board split,” he explained.

When asked whether the request for the 60/40 per cent formula to be used as part of negotiations contributed to the outcome of the entire process, Trotman, who is also the country’s Minister of Natural Resources said, “No I don’t think so.” “We have that nationally and naturally if going into any other elections we would want that and what has worked for us,” he explained, while casting aside the suggestion that the party had bargained for more than it deserved. In that regard, he pointed to his fellow cabinet ministers who hold senior government posts. The prime minister, Public Security, Public Infrastructure, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Business and Public Telecommunications ministries are controlled by the AFC. The party also has several non-parliamentary seats.

“We have made our contribution to this coalition… We do not think our 40 per cent at national level is unearned or that we have not earned our right to be in government. The easiest thing to do is to go to what has worked or what is working. That is 40 per cent,” Trotman told reporters.

Noting that the 60/40 formula was not the sole basis on which the party negotiated with the APNU, Campaign Manager David Patterson, who also serves as Minister of Public Infrastructure, told reporters that issues of principle and policy were part of the AFC’s discourse with the APNU. He said issues such as the Georgetown parking meters and the contract between the Mayor and City Council and Smart City Solutions which the had AFC made clear it did not support, was one area of concern.

Leader of the AFC and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman

“Both sides had points that were accepted,” Patterson said. He reminded that the Cummingsburg Accord, which is still in effect, does not address LGEs. “There was no rejection of any formula. We just didn’t reach an agreement. The NEC gave us a deadline and said we should go alone,” Patterson stated, noting that the AFC has an awesome elections machinery.

Party Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan stressed that getting the institution of the AFC more robust requires its members “to go into the trenches.” “A lot of you have been saying the AFC is dead. This is but a great opportunity to prove otherwise. We know that we must be in a position to let the people out there know what it is, relevance and all of that as a party. Whatever the per cent, it will prove to the country that indeed in a general election the AFC matters,” Ramjattan stated.