Op-Ed: A Coalition partner without power

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Below is an opinion piece done by Attorney-at-Law, Member of Parliament and former Attorney General, Mohabir Anil Nandlall:

Prior to the General Elections in 2015, and under tremendous pressure from certain elements within the AFC to join the APNU coalition, Khemraj Ramjattan, its leader, predicted that were the AFC to join that coalition it would become “dead meat”. Ramjattan was correct.

Led by a power hungry Moses Nagamootoo, who wanted to taste executive power one last time before he dies and Raphael Trotman, who secretly formed a political pact with Mr. David Granger, years before in Nassau, Bahamas, Ramjattan was out maneuvered and the AFC and APNU solemnized their political matrimony on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015, with the signing of the Cummingsburg Accord.

An exuberant Nagamootoo promised the APNU that he would deliver 10% of the PPP’s constituency. Perhaps he did, I am not sure. What I am sure about is that in the succeeding 3 years, there is not a single decision or initiative for which he can take ownership that inured to the benefit to that segment of the electorate. To the contrary, one can identify innumerable examples to demonstrate that he led them blindfolded to the political slaughterhouse.

From the moment the Cabinet was appointed, the miniaturization of Nagamootoo begun. He was denied a ministerial portfolio, including that of agriculture, which he was promised and which was given to an absolutely political unknown within the AFC. Under the Cummingsburg Accord, Nagamootoo was to Chair Cabinet. At the first meeting of Cabinet, the President made it absolutely clear that he will not cede that constitutional power to Nagamootoo. It was a political descent since.

Even in the National Assembly, though he carries the portfolio “Leader of Government Business”, he bears no responsibility for any identified sector. Minister Joseph Harmon speaks for the Office of the President, and Chief Whip Amna Ally is the defacto “Leader of Government Business” in the House. His responsibilities is confined to seeking leave of the House to proceed beyond 10:00pm, when it is necessary and to indicate the date for the next sitting of the House – a date which is supplied to him by Amna Ally.

Responsibilities for the Chronicle Newspapers and The Department of Public Information (DPI), two appreciably small departments within the executive governmental structure and which were assigned to Kwame McKoy in the PPP/C Administration, constitute the full extent of his ministerial portfolio. This moved veteran and respected Guyanese-born Caribbean journalist, Rickey Singh, to remark in an article in the Chronicle Newspapers that Nagamootoo enjoys the most miniaturized portfolio of a Prime Minister in the Anglophone Caribbean since independence. Singh was unceremoniously banished from the Chronicle after that article.

His political sterility is best illustrated by the fact that he has been unable to assist the beleaguered sugar workers and embattled rice farmers, two sectors that were political battle fields in which he spent most of his life, in any manner whatsoever, as the Government of which he is the Prime Minister, unleashed a centrally orchestrated and concentrated onslaught against them for the past 3 years.

His leader and political colleague, Khemraj Ramjattan, has fared no better. From the inception, the Ministry that he was given was first degutted of an appreciable compendium of functional responsibilities, which was hitherto part of the Ministry but were assigned to the PNC’s Winston Felix and physically migrated away from that Ministry to the Ministry of the Presidency. It is obvious that even with this limited portfolio Ramjattan does not have real handle over the Ministry. The President makes the more important decisions in this Ministry.

Recall, Minister Ramjattan indicated in a letter to Commissioner Seelall Persaud that he (Ramjattan) was instructed by the President to send him (Seelall) on “Administrative Leave”. One would recall also Ramjattan’s plea of ignorance when former Chancellor Cecil Kennard was dismissed as Chairman of the Police Complaint’s Authority. Mr. Ramjattan was out of the country when Minister Felix, acting for him, sent Assistant Superintendent Mootie Dookie on “Administrative Leave”. Upon his return, though Mr. Ramjattan publicly expressed disagreement with Mr. Felix’s decision, he was powerless to change it. Minister Ramjattan played absolutely no role, whatsoever, in relation to two Commission of Inquires (COIs) done in respect of the Police Force.

Mr. David Ramnarine is widely regarded as a supporter of the AFC and someone who enjoys the emphatic support of Mr. Ramjattan, yet Mr. Ramjattan was unable to stop, not only his non-appointment as Commissioner of Police, but also his humiliating removal from the top hierarchy of the Force. Only recently, Minister Ramjattan personally promised a retired Justice of Appeal that he would be appointed Chairman of the Police Complaint’s Authority. A few weeks later, a retired High Court Judge was appointed to that position and sworn in by the President. Ramjattan was not even seen at the swearing-in ceremony.

The other political heavy weight in the AFC, Raphael Trotman, was stripped of his portfolio as Minister with responsibility for the very important oil and gas sector. The remaining portfolio, in relation to natural resources, is currently being shared with the controversial Simona Broomes, who seem to wield power over the mining sector. Indeed, one hardly ever hears from, or sees Trotman featuring in the press, in recent times.

Although constricted, the above analysis demonstrates how powerless the AFC is in the Coalition Government, of which they are the second largest partner. Even at the level of the City Council of Georgetown, their Deputy Mayor, Sherrod Duncan, was booted out of the Council and his named successor was not even allowed to be nominated for the Mayorship.

This demonstrable political impotence has led to a massive hemorrhaging of the AFC’s members and supporters. Recognizing this, the APNU has cruelly thrown it to the wolves by demanding that they contest the Local Government Elections on their own. APNU knowns that they would be devoured and that the AFC will be put to rest as an electoral force at these elections.

If the population considers them rubberstamps now, just wait and see to what they will be reduced in the Coalition Government, post their electoral death at the 2018 Local Government Elections.

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