Black Immigrant Daily News
PNC Leader Aubrey Norton and AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan
The Alliance For Change (AFC) has officially quit its coalition with the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), with the smaller party’s leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, saying that their parliamentary relationship will revert to what it was pre-2015.
In an interview with this publication, Ramjattan explained that the Cummingsburg Accord officially came to an end last month, as was decided at the party’s National Executive Conference (NEC). He also said that the party would keep the nine seats it has of the 31 Opposition parliamentary seats allocated after the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“We withdraw from the partnership agreement that we had, which by the expiry of either three or five years we could have withdrawn out of, because we got our seating, 9-22, in accordance with the party we went to the elections with,” Ramjattan said.
“We will work in the Parliament, communicating and collaborating there. For every other department and activity of our party, we will do it independently. That won’t necessarily mean that we won’t be together on issues. But we are free to be independent, we go and do whatever we gotta do, just like before the accord was signed on.”
In July of last year, it was announced that the AFC would be parting ways with APNU upon the expiration of the Cummingsburg Accord at the end of 2022. Ramjattan, who had only just been re-elected Leader of the AFC when he made the announcement, had also said the decision was taken at the party’s NEC. He explained 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.
“The decision on whether we should remain was, in a sense, decided at this National Conference. We have the Way Forward document that was given to every delegate at our conference…In this document, which we did about eight months ago, was to argue the case at the NEC: what are the pros and cons and what we should do,” Ramjattan had explained.
The AFC’s next NEC is meanwhile due for late 2024 or early 2025.
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 on Valentine’s Day in 2015, outlining the parliamentary seats and ministerial portfolios for AFC and APNU members, respectively.However, APNU has consistently been accused of 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.
One of the notable fallouts between APNU and the AFC dates back to September 2020 regarding the election of the Chair and Vice Chair for the Region Four Regional Democratic Council (RDC) whereby the AFC was snubbed for the position of Vice Chair despite a previous agreement between the two sides.
The move had resulted in AFC’s David Patterson resigning as General Secretary of the party, but he had subsequently flip-flopped on that position – only to then lose his bid to become the leader of the party last year at the NEC.
The AFC faced criticism while in Government for the submissive role it had played to APNU. Decisions the former Government made, such as the closure of sugar estates, which put thousands of sugar workers out of jobs, went unchallenged by the AFC and were even supported by the smaller party. 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.
There is also the fact that despite the Cummingsburg Accord containing stipulations that should have seen the former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo being vested with the responsibility for chairing Cabinet and domestic issues, the former APNU Government never honoured this.
Meanwhile, current APNU Leader Aubrey Norton, whenever asked by the media last year about AFC’s impending withdrawal, had said very little on the dissolution of the coalition – save to reiterate that the smaller party was free to do what it wanted.