-Says this was the intention of Article 19 (1) of the party’s Constitution
By Kiana Wilburg
With the National Executive Conference of the Alliance for Change (AFC) only six days away, concerns
continue to mount as to whether the party’s leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, can and should run for the position a third time.
While some within the party believe that Ramjattan, who also serves as the Minister of Public Security, is allowed to do so, there are others who feel otherwise.
This is the case with co-founder of the Alliance for Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman. He is of the belief that the leadership of the party should be rotated. He made this comment during an interview with this newspaper yesterday.
Trotman reminded that the AFC’s Constitution says “The various senior positions of the AFC, including those in the National Executive, Regions and Groups ought to be rotated as far as is possible so that no member is allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms in the same office, so as to ensure a broader activism in leadership positions by the membership.”
Further, Article 8 of the same document says that the National Executive Committee shall comprise the following voting members: the leader, the chairman, deputy chairman, general secretary, treasurer, ten members each representing the diaspora in the USA, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean and five persons co-opted by the National Executive from among the members to ensure gender, age, ethnic and regional representation.
With this in mind, the AFC Executive Member commented, “The Constitution says ought to rotate and I believe that we should, unless there is some extraordinary situation. The delegates will of course, have a right to choose. But I believe that we should try to adhere to the constitution unless the delegates feel otherwise…I believe that it is something the delegates would have to make a decision on.”
Trotman continued, “So definitely, it does not say ‘shall’ like the Constitution, but I believe the intention of the framers of the AFC constitution— and I was certainly one of them— was to ensure that there was movement. And we should do our best to ensure that we honour the spirit of the (AFC) Constitution…I believe that this is something the delegates would have to ponder and make a decision on.”
The Minister of Natural Resources reiterated that while the AFC’s Constitution does not make it “absolute” that the position of leadership be rotated, he firmly believes that “the spirit and intent” of the phrase ‘ought to rotate’ was to ensure there was “a constant flow.”
Trotman added, “Ramjattan is my good friend; he is a good leader. I always say to people that I like his tenacity and he has led the party well. It’s a matter for the delegates to ponder, and he and I have spoken on it…and it is up for discussion. We are allowing our names to go up for leadership along with others.”
The AFC Executive Member said that he does not foresee the matter causing any problems among members.
In yesterday’s edition, one letter writer, Pradeep Bachan of Region Five, expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that Ramjattan would be running for the leadership position for a third time.
Bachan in his letter stated, “I find it very disheartening that Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, Leader of the Alliance for Change, who has condemned the third term for Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo sees it fit to justify a third term for himself. This must be a non-issue for the AFC. I was part of the National Executive Committee from the year 2006 to 2011 when the AFC Constitution had the rotation principle for the leadership.”
The AFC member said that that aspect was amended, paving the way for other leaders to contest for the leadership, making the AFC more democratic.
He went on to state, “The current AFC Constitution provides for anyone to contest the leadership once they are financial members for one year, but nothing is stated about third terms which is understood to mean that two terms are allowed.”
Bachan also accused the AFC Leader of refusing to do the honourable thing by not running for a third term. In this regard, he commented, “I find that to be very unprincipled, because in the past, before the constitution was amended from the rotation principle, it provided for two terms. Now I see a misuse of conscience.”
Bachan said that at the AFC’s upcoming national conference, Region 5 delegates will not support Ramjattan for any third term.
He stressed that a third term will only bring disunity and confusion to the AFC. In this regard, he reasoned that anyone elected for a third term is in danger of becoming a dictator.
In response to his concerns, Trotman said that the AFC represents a democracy and members are always encouraged to give their views. He maintained that the delegates will determine the way forward.
Trotman disclosed that he has discussed the matter with Ramjattan and “no one wants to harm the party.”
He assured that “everything will be resolved in the right way.”
Yesterday, the AFC via a statement to the media, sought to clarify Article 19 (1) of its constitution which says, “The various senior positions of the AFC, including those in the National Executive, Regions and Groups ought to be rotated as far as is possible so that no member is allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms in the same office, so as to ensure a broader activism in leadership positions by the membership.”
The Party said that the Constitution does not make it mandatory for such rotation and leaves room for the membership to nominate or elect leaders to continue in a post for a longer period. It said that the larger membership may want this recognition of the experience and expertise of certain leaders, and in the interest of the unity of the party’s leadership.
The Party also stated that the matter of the interpretation of the AFC Constitution is for AFC members who will freely elect and re-elect leaders. It further noted that there will be 16 contested positions at the AFC National Conference. These include; Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairman, General Secretary, and National Executives (12 positions). These positions will be filled after elections by secret ballot.
The current elected members are Khemraj Ramjattan who is the Party Leader, Vice Chairman, Moses Nagamootoo and General Secretary David Patterson. The post of Chairman remains vacant. It was held by attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes.
National Executives include Michael Carrington, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, Vladimir Glasgow, Cathy Hughes, Neilson McKenzie, Charrandas Persaud, Latchmin Punalall, Dr. Veerasammy Ramayya, Mark Ross, Abel Seetaram, Raphael Trotman and Trevor Williams.
The deadline for nominations is noon tomorrow and the final list of nominees will be announced on Wednesday. The National Conference will be held at the Vreed-en-Hoop Primary School.
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