The AFC conundrum and its fight for relevance
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LAST November I asked columnist Freddie Kissoon to send me a document labelled “Review of the AFC and the Way Forward” which he had in his possession about the AFC leaving the coalition.
Kissoon did send me the document. I was, however, reluctant to analyse it until I received further information in the mainstream media. No name is on the document, printed or signed. I believe it was written by some members of the AFC.

In brief, the document states that the AFC said that it would eventually leave the coalition, but did not say exactly when. The following statement of the 17-page document speaks to the supposed position of the AFC: “From all indications in the media and in political circles, the PNC is not honouring the letter of the agreement, has acted unilaterally, disrespected its partners, and could well jettison the Accord to expand its power in the Parliament and regional councils.”

The rest of the document is a heap of hogwash, detailing a sorry and sordid narrative on how and why the AFC had become a spent force and how it should redeem itself. It is suspected that the party will use this document to conduct itself when it departs the coalition in December. So, if interested, pay attention to it.

Now we know, if we are to believe Khemraj Ramjattan and his sidekick in the dailies, that the AFC will indeed leave the coalition when the Cummingsburg Accord expires in December 2022.
To illustrate, one section of the media declared that Ramjattan revealed that on “the 31st December, this year, that the Cummingsburg Accord comes to an end and then we maintain our independence and go hit the ground running, have good relationship with the APNU, have good relationship with the PPP, criticise them whenever we have to… and maintain an independent position.”

Put differently, the seemingly AFC intends to embark on a journey to rebuild itself and seek new coalitions. May I ask: is this a reality check in which helplessness has now morphed into hopelessness? I guess this question can only be answered with time.

The Cummingsburg Accord is an agreement originally signed by the APNU and AFC in 2015 and revised in 2019; it will end in December 2022. The parties would then have to broker a new agreement or add terms under the agreement or part ways.

I argue here that the AFC is off with its decisions to leave the coalition. The timing is uncoordinated with its ambitions and goals. I premise my position by saying what and how I responded to a Facebook post when the AFC declared that it would leave the coalition. I said, oh yeah, the AFC will depart from the coalition, but on which flight, and where is it going, and who will accept it? In other words, does anyone really care?

Moreover, the dearth of information other than the one Kissoon sent to me as to why it is leaving lends credence to the suspicion that this migratory political party was not too certain when it joined APNU on Valentine’s Day in 2015, and it is now not sure how it would exit the coalition. Is this a case of a coalition of confusion?

I will supply two reasons why the timing to leave soon is off. The first reason is that the AFC should have claimed independence soon after the No-Confidence Vote in 2018 rather than staying with the coalition’s position and fighting a useless mathematical case that 33 is not the majority of 65. The AFC should have, or at least some members, stuck with Charrandas Persaud’s position that the PNC was trampling upon its promise with AFC on wheeling and dealing equally in the coalition.

This was one reason Persaud voted against his own government. By seeing and treating Persaud as a traitor, the AFC party became the larger traitor, as many, including its own supporters, saw it as being in bed with the dogmatic PNC. The No-Confidence Vote should have been a question for the internal dynamics of the coalition first, and to the PPP second.

The point is that the AFC has now taken the same position as Persaud for leaving the coalition. The difference is time. If the AFC had taken any semblance of independence during the No-Confidence Motion and the later vote, it would have displayed a consistency of being a Third Force party within the coalition. The No-Confidence Vote was an opportunity to prove that important characteristic and go to polls in 90 days as required by the Constitution. By leaving the coalition in December, we are convinced that the AFC has finally received the message which Persaud had sent to them in 2018.

The second reason is that the AFC should have declared its intention to leave the coalition during the five-month election impasse, especially around April, when it was clear that attempts were being made to rig the March 2020 general election. This was a missed opportunity, which would have revealed that the AFC was not in bed with the PNC, or at least slow down the “rotting process”, according to Kissoon (To be continued). lomarsh.roopnarine@jsums.edu

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