…sign of coalition govt’s failure and NCM’s validity – Trotman
The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Saturday voted overwhelmingly for Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan to be the Prime Ministerial candidate for the coalition at the next General and Regional Elections, bypassing the incumbent, Moses Nagamootoo.
According to sources, over 200 delegates supported Ramjattan. In his brief comments after the vote, Ramjattan noted that the party saw him as “fit and proper” for the role; hence, he was elected. He also sought to dispel reports of a rivalry between himself and the incumbent Prime Minister.
“I suspect in the minds of the large sections of the National Conference membership, I was fit and proper for it … (I told them) I would do a good job of it, if I am made Prime Minister. And that was largely it. I had spoken to a number of the delegates and they asked some searing questions. I think I provided very good answers,” Ramjattan said, noting that the questions pertained to what he would do to create jobs and reform the Constitution.
“He (Nagamootoo) was most gracious. He has been a mentor since PYO [Progressive Youth Organisation] days. And, of course, I regard him highly. And he came across and he gave me a big hug,” Ramjattan explained to the media.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson – who was also elected for the second time as the party’s General Secretary (GS) – intimated that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was duty-bound to accept Ramjattan as President David Granger’s running mate as long as the Cummingsburg Accord was in effect.
“The Alliance For Change is a political party in its own right. The AFC has made a recommendation it will stick by. So just like we did in 2015, we will do in 2019 or 2020, if we stay in a coalition,” Patterson said.
“If we’re in a coalition and we’re governed by an agreement and that agreement is currently in effect, it says the AFC shall nominate a Prime Ministerial candidate. There’s nowhere in that agreement that says we’ll nominate a Prime Ministerial candidate who the coalition accepts or not.”
It is a decision that leaves Nagamootoo with only the role of ‘elder statesman’ in the party, should the AFC’s partner, APNU even honour the Cummingsburg Accord.
In addition, replacing Nagamootoo is something that former leader Raphael Trotman had warned would undermine the coalition Government in the eyes of the people, by seeming to validate the Government’s failings and the passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM).
“The No-Confidence Motion was a direct challenge on the Granger-Nagamootoo leadership. In my view, if we were to jump to replace either gentleman in an emotive way, we would be openly conceding that the motion and vote were justified and valid,” Trotman had stated in sections of the media back in February.
With the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) expected to rule on the NCM cases on Tuesday, elections could be called as early as this year. There are some who have opined that APNU could sidestep AFC and go the route of choosing a Prime Ministerial candidate from within its own grouping.
Meanwhile, Ramjattan was also elected unopposed as leader of his party earlier on Saturday, riding on the endorsement of former leader Trotman. Both Patterson and Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes had previously declined nominations for the leadership of the party, paving the way for Ramjattan’s election.
Trotman, who is also Natural Resources Minister, was in turn endorsed unopposed as Chairman of the party by Ramjattan. Hughes was also re-elected to her post as Vice Chair.
With outgoing General Secretary Marlon Williams not contesting his position, it was understood that there were five nominees: former GS Patterson, Michael Leonard, Beverly Alert, Leonard Craig, and Michael Carrington, with Patterson emerging the eventual winner.
Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee will comprise recently-minted Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar, Junior Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Valerie Garrido-Lowe, new parliamentarian Reynard Ward, former Chronicle General Manager Sherod Duncan, City Hall Councillor Juretha Fernandes, Trevor Williams, Vince Adams, Suraj Singh, Allison Mohamed, Subaschand Orilall, Rickey Ramsaroop, and Derek Basdeo.
Not making the cut was Director of Public Information Imran Khan, who in the run-up to the National Executive Council (NEC) had complained of threats being made towards him and his wife to run them out of the party and back to Antigua.
According to Patterson in his interaction with the media, there were a total of 14 motions on the floor. He noted that some of them had to do with making changes to the party constitution. One such motion was for members of the National Executive Committee to not be Cabinet Ministers.
A recent letter writer had drawn attention to the issue, arguing that while the Committee was supposed to hold Cabinet Ministers hailing from the party accountable, it could not do so if those very Cabinet Ministers are the executives. This motion, Patterson revealed, was defeated.
“Of the 14 motions, six were passed, four were withdrawn, and the other four were defeated,” Patterson informed the media.