ATTORNEY-General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall appearing on the “Political Scope” programme on Monday explained the “Cummingsburg Accord” and its many questionable implications as regards Guyana and the up-coming General and Regional Elections.Named after its place of realisation, this political tryst, formed by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) (itself an umbrella group) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) has been described by AG Nandlall as “essentially a merger of the two major opposition parties in one political amalgam, with the expectation and intention of competing against the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) at the next elections.” He added that his belief is that “those who are the intellectual authors and designers of this arrangement see it as the vehicle by which the PPP/C can be ousted at the next General and Regional elections.”
Minister Nandlall opined that this alliance of the Parliamentary Opposition is most fallacious in its reasoning. The last election, in 2011, saw the combined numbers of voters for these two parties barely nipping the incumbent’s tally. However, the AG pointed out that unlike mathematical logic, in politics, the sum of all the parts does not necessarily mean the ‘desired whole.’ This is because at the last General and Regional Elections, the motivation and incentives for voting for the AFC and APNU were quite different from what at present the coalition is appealing to.
It should be noted that many voted for APNU because of seeming negative sentiments against the People’s National Congress (PNC). On the other hand, others went to the AFC, since the party was not going to merge with anything that has a ‘ring of the PNC,’ and because it also promised a new third force, with freshness and vitality. However, this new alliance, according to the minister, betrays a number of negatives. For those who are still anti-PNC, and who cannot risk any tenure from its leaders again, they cannot go to the AFC, as this party is now subsumed in the alliance, which is vastly PNC in personnel and practice. At the level of human reasoning and logic, these candidates may either abstain or resort to the PPP/C, based on its track record alone.
He explained that in their calculation is the idea they would be able to replicate that performance and that it is this thought that is driving them in this new, hasty and suddenly conjured arrangement.
CUMMINGSBURG ACCORD AND ALLIANCE
A second important factor that the AG expounded on is that of the very core being of the alliance. Apart from thinking mere mathematically, the alliance, during its obscure in-house meetings never addressed issues and policies on the governance of Guyana. Primarily the two sides were waging a battle for power-sharing, deeming this as ‘discussions and negotiations’. In his view, the AG sees this kind of tussle as planning for the ‘sharing of the spoils’ of victory, assuming that mathematical logic prevails.
On exposing the actual agreement, the minister highlighted that the very document is replete with a number of worrying concerns for the Guyanese electorate. Minister Nandlall stated that the Cummingsburg Accord, based upon what has been published, is essentially an agreement between the two political parties and that has no foundation in law, as “it is not grounded in the constitution.” He proposed that whether or not the merger will bear the anticipated fruits is contingent on two main principles: first, its terms and conditions; and secondly, the actual character, personality, credentials, willingness, determination, and commitment of those who are part of it.
The worrying aspect is the way that the two parties have come together and how unilaterally they have decided that they will essentially subvert the supreme law of the land, the Guyana Constitution. AG Nandlall explained that the accord itself and the way that it distributes powers and shares Cabinet responsibilities are against constitutional provisions, which actually prescribe what the powers of the Presidents are, what the powers of the Prime Minister are, and how persons are appointed to the Cabinet.
So then, the AG sees the document more as “intended to be a farce on the population,” adding that by itself, the document declares that the Presidential candidate will only and limitedly enjoy, if he becomes the president, reduced executive powers, and the Prime Minister, if the elections are won, expanded powers.
He noted that “The Constitution of Guyana provides very clearly that the President is the Supreme Executive Authority of Guyana, that he is the Head of State, and that he is Commander- in- Chief of the Armed Forces.” Thus what the alliance, with its accord is seeking to foist on the people, is not based on actualities of the laws of the country. In layman’s term, the minister pointed out that the Constitution vests in the President, the express freedom to appoint ministers of his choice and also the prime minister and vice president if he so wishes.
So, in reality, according to this Accord, “these constitutional provisions have all now been made redundant, as they collide with the constitution, (and we know that) it is the constitutional law that must prevail against any agreement or statue, so what we have is something that is void ab initio and unconstitutional, and therefore of no legal effect.”
Minister Nandlall expounded on a topic of tremendous gravitas, when he pointed out a few pertinent issues in the event of PPP/C’s loss of governance. He detailed that for the accord to work, it has to rewrite the Guyana Constitution, and this cannot be done in a facile manner.
He showed that, legally, for the alliance to have its way, “it will require a two-thirds majority, at a minimum, for any one of those provisions to be made a reality.” He went even further, showing that “some of them may require a referendum.”
The AG intoned that he has “not seen in the agreement, any reference to constitutional amendments being effective (so as) to give effect to this accord, and in any event, one cannot predict that assuming that they, the coalition, should win the election, that they will enjoy a two- thirds majority.” So that important question, according to the minister, has not been considered in the accord, and “it means that the Presidential candidate, in the form of Mr. David Granger, and the Prime Ministerial candidate, Moses Nagamootoo, have essentially publicly declared, that they are the two most powerful, intended constitutional office holders, and they have declared to the nation an intention, a willingness, and a preparedness to violate, flout and to subvert the constitution.”
In this vein, the AG touched on the seriousness and sacredness of the Guyana Constitution, as “beginning with the President, he will be required to take an oath of the office, should the alliance win the election, and that oath of office binds him (and any other taking the oath), to uphold the Constitution of the land, but (he sees that) they have all bound themselves to another agreement that is violative, contrary, and in conflict with the Constitution.”
OPPOSITION’S LAWYERS OBLIVIOUS
AG Nandlall expressed perplexity regarding the many constitutional and legal violations which have taken place in the Tenth Parliament, “notwithstanding the presence of so many lawyers in the opposition that it would appear that the presence of so many lawyers is a non sequitur to what actually unfolds.” This, he explained, is because there are two important aspirants for the two most important constitutional offices of the land, holding up an agreement that binds them together and which agreement is violative of the constitution.
In referring to AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan and Nagamootoo, he said that these two gentlemen are lawyers and “they are telling the nation that we intend to violate the constitution, we intend to subvert the constitution, despite what the constitution says about what the powers of the President are, and what the powers of the Prime Minister are, (that is) we will disregard those constitutional provisions and we will bind ourselves to this (our own) arrangement.”
On the other hand, the AG thinks that it could be that something is being “silently agreed to by these two individuals and their respective groupings, that this agreement is a farce and that it is never intended to be followed.”
AG Nandlall declared that he is more attracted to the view that it is a farce, “because when one examines the agreement itself, then one is more likely to conclude that the thing is a sham.”
In support of his view, he highlighted that the President is prepared to give up executive powers and instead hand over those powers to the Prime Minister, who will then enjoy and expand the powers. This kind of rationale is baffling and suspicious.
He pointed out that this has to be so because “when you look at the respective political strengths of the two major parties in this union, you find that the strength of the PNC overwhelms that of the AFC, but yet when you examine what the AFC gets out of this political accord, it far outweighs its political strength.”
Minister Nandlall exemplified this construct by noting that “we are told that the Prime Ministerial candidate, who will come from (the lesser) AFC will enjoy this great expanded constitutional role and powers, as the AFC will get the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, they will get the powerful Ministry of Home Affairs, the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Natural Resources, and those are the most powerful ministries in any government.”
The list goes on, and the AG pointed out that the AFC will get two vice presidents, in addition to being guaranteed 12 seats in the National Assembly. It should be noted, the minister pointed out, that the AFC, at its best, got just seven seats at the last elections, and so “I do not know by what stretch of imagination they can now get five more seats, as this Accord gives them five more seats.”
“The flip side,” explained Minister Nandlall, “is that the PNC by themselves have been able to deliver 26 seats on their own strength in the previous election. And now, here they are, giving 12 seats; and on the last occasion, they gave five seats to the other members of APNU-the Justice For All party, the WPA, and the National Front Alliance, even though these are political parties, who by themselves could not get a seat in the parliament, so the PNC just gave them five, now we are told that the PNC will give AFC five, as I predict they will lose the elections but the AFC will get twelve seat.”
In fact, the Attorney General invoked the assessment of the Founder/Leader of the AFC Raphael Trotman, who was quoted in the newspapers as saying that the AFC “got much more than they bargained for.”
In reinforcing his thinking about the nature and import of the alliance, the AG reiterated that this accord, based on details gleaned after carefully parsing and appraising it, “is a fraud on the Guyanese people and a farce, and it is never intended to be enforced nor executed, because it is not in keeping with real politics.”
For the minister, the accord is designed to induce a particular section of the population to get them to give their votes to the alliance, “but there is another component of it that we must examine also, and my humble view is that it will not work.”
He detailed that the personalities and players involved will be crucial in determining whether or not any agreement will be actually enforced in practice, as “when you examine the record of the PNC, they had coalitions before, they had coalitions with the United Force (UF) in 1964, and it did not work, it lasted a few years and the leader of the PNC, at that time, Forbes Burnham, he made a public declaration that the PNC would never enter a coalition arrangement again.”
Minister Nandlall recapped that during the governance of the PNC, all efforts at coalition politics were rejected, and on the contrary “the PNC kept themselves in power by rigged elections and use of authoritarian methods, employing instrumentalities like the army to keep this power.” He elaborated that the PNC resorted to violence to keep themselves in power, and so it is easy to deduce that “the party is rooted in an ideology, a history, and philosophy not to share power.” He pointed to a second feature, that is, that even when out of government, the PNC’s own internal politics was not to be trusted.
Mr. Nandlall recalled that “all of the PNC’s congresses, even the last one, August of 2014, were marred with allegations of rigged elections, padding of the list, and disenfranchisement of large sections of the memberships of that party.”
He highlighted that many leading political figures in the PNC came out and made very damaging statements about the internal democratic process of the party. For the AG, this means that “you have a political party, both in government and whilst it has been out of government, which has a long history and tradition of not being democratic, and instead being authoritarian, even in its own political structure and electoral processes.”
The minister also focused on the AFC and its dubious nature, as well as its duplicity of character. Initially it came out as a party in 2006 “with certain fixed and publicly declared principles that were said to be the cornerstone upon which the party is built.” The party did state that it was going to be a third force, and that “they are going to be a new political culture, that they are going to bring to Guyana (this culture), explaining that the symbol of a key, (was) the key to open Guyana’s future, to unchain the people of Guyana from the politics of the PNC and the PPP/C, and that they would never collate with the PPP/C nor the PNC, a party that will provide a new breath of fresh air and breeze, blowing through the democratic channels of our country.”
However, the minister poignantly noted that “those very idealistic principles upon which that party was founded, all of those have been thrown through the window, by simply an invitation extended by the PNC to join them.” This, for the AG, is really “the lure of power.”
AG Nandlall recalled that the AFC had said over the longest while and quite incessantly, that there will never be a fusion with another party. In fact, he still remembers, that just one month or so, before the accord was actually signed, Mr. Ramjattan, the leader of the party said that if the AFC should collate with the APNU, the AFC would be ‘Dead Meat.’
Mr. Nandlall concluded that the AFC is a party that is embroiled in internal ramblings, noting that “members once championed the cause of transparency, of good governance, of accountability.” However, as their many leaders keep resigning, their one common allegation hovers around a lack of transparency, a sense of accountability and high-handedness, by those in the upper echelons.
Minister Nandlall went as far back as 2012, citing Berbician Haseef Yussuf, who left the party, and now only recently, Balwant Persaud, “all of them making the allegation that there is no accountability in that party, that there are no records of money that is received by the party, that the party acts in a high handed manner, that there is no consultation.”
At the deeper level, the minister explained that there was no consultation, when Nagamootoo was made the AFC’s Presidential candidate. The same he said obtained when the accord and the coalition were entered, that is “the party is being hijacked by four or five named individuals, and I say all of that, to deal with the quality of the players, who are part of the coalition, I say that to demonstrate that they have never, on both sides, demonstrated pro-democracy tendencies, they have not demonstrated that they are bound by any set of principles,” the AG lamented.
In concluding remarks, the AG repeated what he said that all Guyanese already know, that is, “the healthy PPP/C’s track record of progress and how we have transformed the Guyanese economy and the lives of the Guyanese people over the last 22 years.” For the minister, this solid background covers all the sectors, “be it the agriculture, education, health and housing and you will see the transformational hand of the PPP/C at work.”
He added that the Guyanese people are quite comfortable with the PPP/C administration, as “we are the known ones to be trusted, and we have a track record and we have touched the lives of Guyanese of every walk of life in this country, from one end to the other end.”
AG Nandlall stated that Guyanese, wanting to be objective, can indeed point to something, either in their street, village or community and show the transformational developmental hand of this Guyana Government.
He pointed out that on the other hand, “the amalgamation of two parties, the merger of two parties, one which has been in government and during that time rigged the elections in Guyana to stay in power, brought a country that was identified to be the breadbasket of the Caribbean, from that high position to one of bankruptcy… being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, second to Haiti , and in the interim, destroyed every single sector in the economy, and to keep itself in power, was prepared to do anything, and so has been implicated in various allegations of murder and assassination. This for the AG is the sordid record of the PNC and on the other hand, he said, you have the AFC, which is made up of some persons who have come from the PNC.
The minister was not soft on those who defected from the PPP/C, to join forces elsewhere. He outlined them as “people who are bitter and feel that the people of Guyana owe them, and therefore they should enjoy government.” He pointed to the reality that “these few do not stick to any set of principles and that the very things that they speak about publicly, they do not practise them it in their own private political party.” He said that this kind of people are not in for the long haul, but “are here to try their hand and see whether they get political office, as their vision is short termed.”
For Minister Nandlall there are just the two simple choices for the electorate: on one side, they have security, a great track record, and people to trust, where the PPP/C is concerned; on the other hand, there are the people who have impoverished Guyana and who would do anything to get their hands on the reins of government. (GINA)