AFC’s leaked emails show Executives dissent with President’s GECOM appointment

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…Ramjattan labels dissatisfied party members as “rogue elements”

As the Alliance For Change (AFC), the minority party in the coalition Government, continues to grapple with the in-house fallout over the unilateral appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), more leaked emails of top local and overseas executives revealed that the decision taken by President David Granger is not going down well.

On Wednesday, a number of pieces of correspondence between top party executives were leaked to the media. In one of the correspondence amongst the party’s local and overseas executives, AFC’s David Patterson, who is the Public Infrastructure Minister within the coalition Government, stated that he had serious issues with the decision to make a unilateral appointment – a move which, he bluntly pointed out, the party would not have accepted had it not been in Government.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson

“Were we out of office, would we have accepted such a decision to unilaterally appoint a Chairman? The answer is NO! Therein lies my first major issue—why are we accepting it now?” detailed the email sent by Patterson on October 22 at 10:02h.

He went on to say in the correspondence that, “This appointment now sets an unwanted new political procedure in our country…the PPP paid a heavy price for setting precedence when they prorogued Parliament in 2014. We should not be supporting the “loopholes” or “tie breaking clauses” in our Constitution – these should only be used in the absolute last resort.”

During the discussions among top AFC executives, several key members expressed their concerns about the unilateral appointment.

However, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan on Wednesday blasted dissatisfied party executives who leaked the emails.

“I do not see any damage flowing from a frank discussion with members who want to know our position. If leaders are not frank with our membership, we won’t be an accountable party. There will be that and there will also be rogue elements in parties and that is what happened here…I don’t understand how that is responsible membership of a party by people who are educated and qualified.”

He further outlined that the party could take no disciplinary actions against those members, who leaked the correspondence to the media, since according to him they have severed ties with the party.

Some three weeks ago, key members of the AFC Canadian chapter pulled out from the party, with Secretary of AFC-Canada, Laurence Williams, expressing grave concerns in a letter over the unilateral appointment of the new GECOM Chairman.

Williams said the party’s group in Canada agreed that the AFC should publicly call for the appointment to be rescinded and for one of the 18 persons nominated to be appointed. He also stated in that missive that AFC-Canada would no longer be associated with the AFC.

However, it said it would “continue to support the Guyanese people’s quest and struggle for national unity, democracy, transparency, accountability and peace and progress”.

However, in response to the correspondence from the AFC’s North American chapter, Ramjattan had told sections of the media a few weeks ago that the party will not backpedal on the decision to support the appointment based on the opinion of one group.

AFC Chairman and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

Now, additional leaked emails showed that the sentiments expressed by the party’s Canadian grouping are shared by its United States chapter. In fact, Chairman of the US group, Dr Rohan Somar, ridiculed the manner in which the party handled the situation. He was referring to the October 20 statement issued by the AFC in which it distanced itself from being involved in the decision-making process but supported the Head of State’s unilateral appointment.

“In my view, the AFC public disclosure of `We played no part in the process… yet… we support the decision to avoid a constitutional crisis!’ Really! This position makes the AFC looks weak and impotent. You are seen by the common man as being treated as a stepchild or a poodle in the coalition,” Somar vented.

He went on to point out that the excuse given that the AFC supported the decision to make a unilateral appointment to avoid a “constitutional crisis” was nothing but a hollow excuse.

“You were already in a constitutional crisis with the continued delays in the GECOM and for variety of other reasons,” Somar posited in the correspondence, which was leaked.

The AFC, in response to the leakage of internal correspondence, earlier this week reiterated in a statement that while it supported the President’s move, the party was not consulted on the appointment of Justice Patterson as GECOM Chairman. It further called the leak an act of “political mischief” attempted by “political opponents”.

Last week, the first set of leaked emails from Ramjattan to the party’s executives, detailed him admitting to advising the President that he could appoint a chairman outside the lists of nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

Meanwhile, this most recent set of leaked emails contains correspondence from other top AFC executives including Dominic Gaskin, who is the son-in-law of President Granger, and Cathy Hughes, in which they also expressed concerns over the unilateral appointment.

Gaskin reportedly said in the leaked email that he was not happy with the President’s decision, while flagging the Head of State for not handling criticisms head-on.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin

“I’m not happy with this outcome, but I can’t think of anything we could have done to prevent (the President’s decision)… Even more unfortunate, while the Leader of the Opposition has been elaborating on this matter at every opportunity over the last six months, the President has been issuing cryptic one-liners presumably to maintain some strategic advantage over Jagdeo. I believe this has backfired badly…,” Gaskin posited.

Moreover, Hughes, in her correspondence, outlined the potential impact that this decision would have especially in light of the “racial insecurities” and the PNC’s past elections rigging record.

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