RAMJATTAN v NAGAMOOTOO [2019] AFC 1


As the general elections draw near, and the speculation surrounding the choice by the PPP’s of its presidential candidate is over, attention is now focused on the AFC’s choice of its prime ministerial candidate. The AFC apparently anticipates that there will be another coalition with APNU and that it will be offered the opportunity to choose the prime ministerial candidate. But no public indication has been forthcoming about the renewal of the coalition.

The Cummingsburg Accord, which is the foundation document for the coalition, has expired and the parties went their separate ways for the local government elections. Even if there is another coalition the prime ministerial candidate may well come from APNU. Amna Ally and Ronald Bulkan are available. APNU may well consider that the performance of the AFC at the local government elections, obtaining only four percent of the votes, does not qualify it for the prime ministerial slot. It could propose that the AFC now only deserves ministerial seats and far less than the forty percent agreed to in the Cummingsburg Accord.

Despite this unsettled situation, it appears that the AFC assumes that there will be a coalition and that the AFC will be asked to nominate the prime ministerial candidate. There now appears to be a raging battle in full swing in the AFC surrounding the selection of one of its leaders to be presented to APNU as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate for a new APNU+AFC coalition. It is expected that at the AFC’s conference in July the selection will be made and that the two main candidates are current Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan. While Ramjattan is a founder member of the AFC, a former leader and its current chair, Nagamootoo is a relative newcomer, who abandoned his 50 years in the PPP in 2010 to seek greener pastures in the AFC, when it became clear that he was not going to be the PPP’s presidential candidate. He was catapulted to a leading position in the AFC.

It has been alleged that Prime Minister’s Nagamootoo instructions to the Board of Directors of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, the printers and publishers of the Guyana Chronicle and Sunday Chronicle, to reinstate Sherrod Duncan as the General Manager, has as its background the competition between Nagamootoo and Ramjattan to be named as the AFC’s prime ministerial candidate. Duncan, who was on suspension as General Manager of GNNL for financial irregularities – overspending – is the head of the Georgetown branch of the AFC and it is believed that he would be influential in the election process. There was also reporting that Imran Khan and Mrs. Khan, supporters of Nagamootoo, were not initially elected as delegates, but were later given their credentials. Mr. Khan was forced to give a public explanation on this occurrence. These events suggest that battle has been joined between Nagamootoo and Ramjattan.

When Khemraj Ramjattan, who had his post as leader wrested from him by Raphael Trotman, announced recently that he was interested in the position of prime minister, it was assumed that, as an experienced politician, he would only have been speaking after he had received assurance from one or more highly influential forces within APNU that his candidacy would be looked upon favourably. He would also have had some certainty that he would be able to prevail in a contest with Nagamootoo within the AFC. He could have taken into consideration that with Nagamootoo’s limited portfolio responsibilities and his mandate to implement the constitutional reform promises in the APNU+AFC Manifesto having remained unimplemented, the position of prime ministerial candidate was ripe for the picking.

Ramjattan would also have considered that Moses Nagamootoo’s nomination by the AFC as the prime ministerial candidate for the APNU+AFC coalition was intended to be for one term only and not as a perpetual sinecure. Whether or not that was discussed within the AFC or communicated to Nagamootoo, is not known. But it is further reported that after Nagamootoo’s recent heart surgery, it was expected that he would call it a day and fully enter the ranks of the nation’s “elders,” on the door of which he is already knocking, being already his formal post in the AFC. This does not appear to be Nagamootoo’s life plan. If he was expected to serve one term only as Prime Minister, it is clearly not in writing. A wily operator like Nagamootoo, with a proven track record, would not consider himself to be bound by a vague expectation, if any existed.

The public is already high on anticipation about the result of the cases at the CCJ which, it appears, is having difficulty with the orders that it can or should make to ensure that the Constitution is not a “piece of paper,” as submitted by one of the lawyers, and that a Chair of GECOM is selected and elections held in good time. The decisions could be made but without specific orders for implementation, elections will be held in August. With decisions yet to come on whether there will be another coalition between the APNU and AFC and its terms, and whether Nagamootoo ‘skills’ will enable him to prevail over Ramjattan, more political drama is in store for Guyana.

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