AFC not afraid of consequences in parting ways with APNU – Ramjattan

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

…not prepared to give up parliamentary seats

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan has positioned that his party is not afraid of the consequences which may arise after parting ways with the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) this year-end, amid chatter about the reduction of its parliamentary presence.

The AFC had announced its split from the coalition earlier this month, after forming the APNU/AFC seven years ago.

In a press conference on Friday, Ramjattan outlined that the Cummingsburg Accord provides for termination between three to five years. The AFC would have agreed on three years at its recent National Executive Conference (NEC).

Now, he said they are “unafraid” of the consequences to come and are unprepared to give up any of its parliamentary seats.

“We opted for the three-year termination…I do not see anything that would affect our parliamentary relationship in Opposition. I’m unafraid of the chatterati about consequences on our nine parliamentarians.”

Ramjattan added, “We’re not going to give up our seats. Those seats were earned. The APNU people will know that too. Why should we want to give up our parliamentary seats when being in Opposition now, that is a good platform to carry out Opposition works.”

The AFC leader has contended that his party will continue to engage the APNU in maintaining its working relationship.

When the split was announced, Ramjattan had said that the AFC would only consider entering into a new coalition with the APNU closer to the next General and Regional Elections due in 2025. While the AFC had announced its decision to remain in the coalition with APNU until the expiry of the Cummingsburg Accord in December, no definitive position was shared regarding the party’s way forward until this announcement.

Initial reports were that the AFC decided to stay in “a revised political alliance with APNU, whether coalition or a parliamentary cooperation agreement but the AFC must demand and secure a firm agreement and structure for it to have a greater influence on policy positions and political action within the alliance while maintaining its independence and rebranding and regaining its identity”.

The AFC had joined hands with the APNU to contest the 2015 General and Regional Elections and the coalition subsequently won. The parties signed the Cummingsburg Accord, which outlined the parliamentary seats and ministerial portfolios for AFC and APNU members, respectively. However, APNU, led by former President David Granger, had been accused of continuously violating the accord.

On December 24, 2019, after much back and forth between APNU and the AFC, a revised Cummingsburg Accord was signed, but the full details were never released to the public.

Following the AFC’s recent NEC, the APNU issued a statement whereby it expressed satisfaction that the smaller party decided to stay in the coalition. It had added that the AFC’s decision to remain in the coalition will “add impetus” to the parties’ “joint efforts” to win the next national election.

Since it came into office after joining forces with the APNU in 2015, the minority AFC has been criticised for the submissive role it has been playing to the APNU. Decisions the former Government made, such as the closure of sugar estates, which put thousands of sugar workers out of jobs, were passed unchallenged and even supported by the AFC. This is despite the AFC retaining the Agriculture Ministry.

This passive relationship with APNU was cited by former AFC parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud, as one of the reasons he voted for the No-Confidence Motion that brought down the APNU/AFC Government in 2018.