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Thursday is make or break day for coalition – sources -latest AFC deadline expires without new pact

Khemraj Ramjattan

Khemraj Ramjattan

November 11 2019

Source

The  deadline given to the Alliance for Change’s negotiators by its constituency for a new Cummingsburg Accord with APNU expired yesterday but having failed to reach consensus on the proposed terms, the two governing coalition partners will have a final meeting on Thursday which will “ultimately decide” if they split for the 2020 General Elections, sources say.

Sources told the Stabroek News that the 10th of November, 2019, deadline ended with no signed agreement as while there was much discussion nothing was concretized.

“We will write to the APNU letting them know that Thursday will be our final meeting. That meeting will ultimately decide where we go from here and at the end of that [meeting] we should be able to make an announcement on if we go at it alone or as a coalition again,” one AFC source said.

Another source said that while negotiators have been verbally assured that the thorny issue of the selection of the Prime Ministerial Candidate was resolved and some assurance given that the AFC’s proposal of Khemraj Ramjattan will be accepted, public statements from APNU “are still casting doubts in people’s mind…It is making us look bad because we are saying ‘no we are not negotiating [that position]’ and then public assertions to the contrary are made and it is belittling us…it gives us little to work with because within our own party, the rank and file are seeing those [public assertions] and are telling us to withdraw right away and telling us, the negotiators, that we are weak and all kinds of stuff,” that source stated.

Following a meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) on November 2nd, the AFC had said that the council had, “provided guidance to assist the negotiating team in finalising agreement on the remaining outstanding items. The NEC further agreed to an extended timeline of November 10, 2019 for the signing of the new accord.”

The deal being hammered out between the two parties to save the Cummingsburg Accord would see the AFC prime minister not becoming president were that position to become vacant, party insiders have explained.

Aside from the views in APNU that the AFC does not merit the prime ministership this time around, hardliners in the PNCR are adamant that the PM candidate – in this case Ramjattan – not accede to the presidency if the president had to demit office. President David Granger has been treated this year for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and his Cuban doctors recently declared that he was in remission.

APNU’s balking at the AFC’s choice of Ramjattan as the PM candidate has brought the 2015 elections-winning accord to the brink as the AFC has held strongly to its position.

President Granger intervened and met twice with Ramjattan, with the last meeting being last week Wednesday.

‘Recommendations’

Shortly before the second round of talks, Granger spoke with the press on the issue on the sidelines of the accreditation of the Jamaican High Commissioner to Guyana, last Wednesday.

“I did meet Ramjattan last Thursday and I will be meeting him again today. The talks were fruitful. And as you know, preliminary talks had commenced between the two sides, and Minister Volda Lawrence had led from our side. The talks came to a certain stage during which it was agreed that topics that could not be settled at that level would be referred to the parties’ leaders, which was done. So Mr. Ramjattan and I did receive a list of the points on which there were no agreements. That was the base agenda for our talks last Thursday. We will be meeting again and I hope that we can move forward – it might not be the final meeting, but I hope we can move forward in resolving those topics which haven’t been settled. Yes, we made some progress. We admit that our partners will have the opportunity to make certain recommendations and Mr. Ramjattan made some proposals. In the course of negotiations, it is unwise to report to the press every single discussion; every topic. It would jeopardise the overall negotiations by giving the impression that there is some stone wall, or brick wall, or the talks have stalled. They have not stalled. We met last Thursday, we agreed to meet today and I anticipate that there will be progress. There has been some indication or desire or anticipation that the talks will be concluded before December 1, 2019 and I hope we realize that objective,” he said. December 1st is not the deadline that the AFC has been mulling.

“As far as talks today are concerned, we won’t be going over the ground covered by preliminary talks, but we will be dealing with the issues which have been referred to the two leaders to be settled… We’ve tried to avoid dealing with personalities and deal with issues. I’ve explained to you previously that it is a three-part process. The first part was the agreement on core principles which has been agreed; the second part is the revision of the accord and the third part is the agreement on the Manifesto. My thinking is, once the core principle has been agreed, it will be easier to fit the elements that constitute the review of the accord. And at the third level, once the core principles and the accord are agreed, we move onto the manifesto. After that we can launch,” he added.

‘Constitution’

While he steered clear of saying that he alone will decide on a prime ministerial candidate, he said that both sides are “singing from the same song sheet” but the agreement should not conflict with the country’s constitution.

“The two sides cannot agree to overturn the constitution and both sides agreed to that. There is no conflict about that. We’ve just looked at those issues which have arisen in the 2015 accord and removed, or dealt with, the instances in which they seem to collide with the constitution…and one such is the head of Chairmanship of the Cabinet. There is nothing in the constitution which allows a political party to choose a prime ministerial candidate. Once the President is elected, the President has the authority under the constitution, to select a prime minister. Now we can have an agreement outside of the constitution that the PM candidate or nominees for the primeministership could be made and I would make the choice. That is why, at this stage, I don’t want to get involve in personalities. Once the principles are agreed, we can move forward. So I don’t want to name names now,” Granger said.

“At this stage, I’m very respectful of the contributions that the six parties can make to the victory of the coalition and I’m a prudent and wise leader, and I will make a decision that will deliver the best results; the best outcome to the people of Guyana. My objective, and that of the six parties of the coalition, would be to ensure that Guyana get the best… I don’t want to lose. I want to make sure that we win, and once we win that the country is well governed. So whoever the nominee is will be subject to scrutiny,” he added.

Three other likely issues for the APNU and AFC talks would be the number of Cabinet portfolios for the AFC, the number of seats in Parliament for the AFC and the number of representatives for the AFC in municipalities and neighbourhood democratic councils at the next local government elections.

An APNU party executive, who was privy to the negotiations of the first accord, told this newspaper yesterday that there should not be much worry about the current outcome of negotiations because he is positive that an agreement will be reached and the same APNU+AFC coalition will contest Elections 2020. “Those things happen with negotiations, where you get the talks going right down to the last second. It wasn’t easy the first time around so I do not expect it would be any much different this time. What you must understand is that both sides know, and both sides understand, that there is electoral strength in the partnership. If they set Thursday as the last day, you can rest assured that an agreement will be reached by 11:59[pm],” the executive said.

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