Nagamootoo says AFC can negotiate more power from APNU
…even after abysmal performance at LGE
It has had a poor showing at the Local Government Elections (LGE), and criticisms abound that it has lost its independence since coalescing with the larger partner, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), but Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is still hoping that his party, the Alliance For Change (AFC), can get a better deal out of the Cummingsburg Accord.
Nagamootoo made this statement at St. Paul’s Retreat at Vryheid Lust on Saturday, only a short while before news emerged that party leader Khemraj Ramjattan had ousted him as the AFC’s preferred Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections.
Asked by the media whether that party could expect the same allocation of parliamentary seats after the next General and Regional elections, his response was:
“(We’ll) have to go back and reconfigure the formula. And however that is reformulated, it has to be what we old time politicians call dialectically. You have to take account of changes; everything has to happen in that way.
“There is a platform we have been standing on so far, the Cummingsburg Accord, and we can improve on the platform. I’m hoping that we can.”
Nagamootoo noted that even if the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) necessitates early elections this year, an arrangement could be worked out in a short space of time, as occurred in 2015.
The AFC has previously been criticised, especially from the parliamentary Opposition, for what many describe as the submissive role it has been playing since joining forces with APNU as a coalition ahead of the 2015 polls.
Decisions such as the closure of sugar estates, which has put thousands of sugar workers out of jobs, have gone unchallenged, and have even been supported by the AFC. This despite the portfolio of the Ministry of Agriculture being held by an AFC party member, Noel Holder.
In addition, there has been the strategic re-allocation of responsibilities away from Ministries headed by AFC officials to other Ministries. There is also the fact that, despite the Cummingsburg Accord stipulating that the Prime Minister has responsibility for chairing cabinet and domestic issues, this has not been followed through.
The AFC top leadership had, in mid-November of 2017, moved to revise its governing agreement with its majority coalition partner. This made little headway, and talks of revising the agreement petered out after the AFC’s showing at the LGE in 2018, their having failed to win a single Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC).
Notwithstanding all this, Nagamootoo is still insisting that the AFC has political influence. He pointed out that at the delegates conference itself, members of the party, both local and overseas, turned out in their numbers.
“The AFC started out as a 10 per cent party, as a junior party in the coalition. Today the AFC is a significant partner of the coalition,” Nagamootoo told the media.
“The AFC has under its wings strategic ministries. Look, they have been calling me rubberstamp and a person without power, and everything else, but tomorrow you’ll see. If I announce I am walking, (they) will celebrate, because they’ll think they got rid of (me).
“So you’ll have the critics saying all manner of things. At one point, they’d say the AFC is being bullied in the coalition, and another time they’ll say the AFC is dead. So you don’t bully the dead.
“We cannot work according to the agenda of the detractors; we have to work in real terms: that here is a party that is a member and part of a coalition,” he declared.
Nagamootoo also responded to allegations that the AFC was just recycling its old leaders. For instance, on Saturday, Ramjattan was also elected unopposed as leader of his party, prior to being chosen as the PM candidate, riding on the endorsement of former leader Raphael Trotman.
Both David Patterson, Public Infrastructure Minister and eventual AFC General Secretary, and Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes had previously declined nomination for the leadership of the party, paving the way for Ramjattan’s election.
Trotman, the Natural Resources Minister, has in turn been endorsed as Chairman of the party by Ramjattan, and this was not opposed. Hughes was also re-elected to her post as Vice Chair.
Nagamootoo is still insisting that the AFC is a party that believes in giving others in its membership a chance to lead. According to the PM, time is needed to “incubate” the party.
Commenting on his own future with the party, he noted that he is not a “dinosaur.”
“I believe (that) at some point in time, Nagamootoo will have to make way for someone. That, for me, is the perfect transition. I’m not here as a dinosaur, to stay or an old boat dropping my anchor. That is not my thought,” he said.