Mar 22, 2021 News
By Kemol King
Kaieteur News- A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was formed on Valentine’s Day in 2015. Two heavyweights in t
The lone coalition constituent party that stood for democracy – JFAP
The Justice for All Party (JFAP) was the only constituent of the APNU+AFC coalition to admit that the PPP/C had won the election. It did so even before Chairman of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), (ret’d)
Justice Claudette Singh SC, made the final declaration in August 2020. It was in June last year, after the national recount came to a close, that JFAP Leader, Chandra Narine Sharma said “Enough is enough, I say! It is time for Guyana to move on!”
“I simply cannot remain silent on this any longer,” he had said. It appears the central leadership of the coalition had hoped he would keep silent for longer. JFAP knew it would have gotten frozen out of the coalition for the stand it took. After the results were declared and it was time for the Opposition to take up seats in the National Assembly, JFAP complained that it was not consulted. General Secretary, Savitree Singh-Sharma had told this newspaper in August last year, that JFAP proposed its own representation on the coalition’s list, but that “We were left out.”
She did not mince words. Singh said that JFAP was left out because it “spoke out against the obvious wrongdoings that were happening” during the elections.
“Not fake parties, not cardboard parties,” Granger had said, justifying his sidelining of small parties.
In that very month, JFAP publicly stated that its membership in APNU+AFC was under review.
By early September, the party announced that it would exit the coalition.
Jaipaul Sharma, who had assumed ministerial posts under the Granger government, by virtue of his membership in JFAP, made a decision to switch to the main constituent party of the coalition, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) in January 2020.
Jaipaul Sharma was so dedicated, in his service to the party’s leader that, not only did he support it despite the transparent attempts at electoral fraud; he also appeared to compare Granger to the Creator.
“For it is written that I shall serve H.E President David Granger him only shall I serve,” Jaipaul Sharma had written in a Facebook comment, in June last year.
This appears to have been Sharma’s personal interpretation of the Holy Bible’s Matthew, Chapter 4, Verse 10: “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’’
Mere weeks after the coalition lost the five-month fight, Jaipaul Sharma backslid and jumped ship. He announced his retirement from politics. He noted, despite spending only eight months with the PNCR, that he was “humbly” passing on the mantle of leadership.
The WPA and Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who left to be ‘Miss Independent’
Although JFAP was the first party to speak out against the coalition’s attempts at election rigging, it was not the first party to leave APNU+AFC. WPA had left about two weeks earlier. Much of its grievance with the central APNU+AFC leadership was over non-consultation.
“We have had to live with PNC’s decisions being imposed on the rest of the APNU. Unfortunately, although the Coalition is now out of power, nothing has changed for the better within the APNU,” WPA had said.
Though Granger had claimed all parties were consulted in the decision-making for Opposition parliamentary seats, WPA contradicted Granger in a public statement announcing its departure from APNU+AFC. It had taken umbrage to Granger potentially referring to it as a “cardboard” party.
“For a party without much material resources,” it had stated, “we have endeavoured to compensate in areas in which our strengths are manifest.”
WPA even noted that it spoke out in the coalition’s defence during the five- month post-election
standoff. This was even as the APNU+AFC made repeated attempts to rig the elections.
All this, WPA had said in its own defence, while registering its discontentment that it was informed by media reports that APNU decided on its representatives for the next National Assembly, with no prior consultation. It said that it was only informed that its Chairperson, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley was selected as one of the persons after it wrote the PNCR General Secretary, Amna Ally to enquire about the state of affairs.
“We view this as uncomradely, disrespectful, insulting, a gross disregard for principle and, therefore, unacceptable,” the WPA had stated.
Despite the fact that WPA requested the persons appointed without consultation be removed, Sarabo-Halley had other ideas. Determined to serve in the National Assembly, she left the WPA and has not announced membership with any other constituent party of the coalition. Though Sarabo-Halley operates with the APNU, she is not a member of any of its constituent parties. This is unprecedented, in Guyana’s history.
AFC – ‘No longer the public’s pitbull, but the PNC’s puppet’
The AFC has faced an exodus of members since the coalition failed to rig the elections last year. Kaieteur News is aware of
six such resignations, most of which were made due to the nature of the party’s relationship with APNU, more specifically the PNCR.
Region Five Councillor, Abel Seetaram, left the party in October last year. His resignation letter to the party’s Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, stated, “The AFC I join since its formation is no more. The PNC swallows the AFC. The AFC cannot stand anymore to represent its members nevertheless the public. It’s my firm belief that the AFC has lost its footage and strength to continue in the political arena and the leadership seems to be sucking up to everything that the PNC wants.”
Prominent AFC Lindener, Vladimir Glasgow served 15 years with the AFC, including as Executive Member on the National Executive Committee (NEC). In his resignation letter, while stating that the party has lost its way, Glasgow said, “I have seen members of my party that feel as I do, swallow their oppositi
on and provide their tacit approval” of untoward behaviour and the direction in which the party has gone. He explained that those who do speak out, like him, have had their voices drowned out by “hateful, bigoted, narrow-minded rhetoric” from others.
Kaieteur News is also aware that Leonard Craig, who was a senior member of the AFC, has left quietly. Craig is one of the individuals who interacted with the press on the coalition’s behalf during the national recount. He had attempted to play a role in dispersing the coalition’s attempts to discredit the elections process, including doubling down on claims about ‘migrant voters’ even after the claims were exposed as false.
In the last 30 days, the AFC faced three more resignations: former MP Reynard Ward, former executive Joel Edmonds, and former Chair of the AFC’s Georgetown chapter Michael Leonard.
Ward described the AFC’s relationship with APNU as abusive. In his resignation letter, Ward told General Secretary David Patterson, “The AFC that consumed me, my then young friends, like-minded associates (intellectuals, professionals and others), family and even other party supporters was a political force to reckon with. He said that his best time in the AFC was when it was the “public’s pitbull and not as the PNC’s puppet.”
Edmond also felt that the AFC lost its way. He said he had hoped that the party would regroup after the election loss, but observed that the party’s focus, which it had long lost, worsened after the 2020 electoral saga.
“Everyone is basically scattered,” Edmond said.
Leonard said in his resignation letter that he has contributed as much as he can, and that opportunities should have an opportunity to be part of the process.
“I don’t think my continued involvement will make any significant impact, so let a younger person come in and get an opportunity to make a change like I did,” Leonard said.
During a press conference last month, AFC executives had a lot to say about the exodus the party was facing. Cathy Hughes, for one, said that she thought many people were leaving because it is difficult to be in politics.
“We have seen since August of 2020, a clear indication that if you are part of any political party, you are more than likely to lose your job, be denied employment opportunities regardless of your qualifications and how good a fit you are for any particular posit
ion, and of course, and there are issues that surround quite often the maligning of your character.”
She and Patterson both believe it is difficult for persons to be publicly associated with the AFC at this time. However, both Hughes and Ramjattan said that though people are leaving, the executives are pleasantly surprised that “hundreds” of new members are coming on.
The centre of the rigging cabal and the ‘sanctimonious gangster’
Former Barbadian Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of the American States (OAS), John Beale, had said in June last year that former President David Granger was being described in Caribbean political circles as a “Sanctimonious Gangster”. This label stuck with Granger, as political commentators wondered whether his posturing signaled a return to Burnham-era rigging.
Former PNCR councilor, Lennox Gasper resigned from the PNCR on March 3, and cited the party’s attempt to rig the elections as the main reason for his decision.
“It was indeed an unbearably frightening experience that after 23 years in opposition, the PNCR under the coalition banner was barefacedly seeking to rig the elections in full view of Guyanese and the rest of the world,” Gasper wrote. In response, PNCR executive, Aubrey Norton dismissed Gasper as not a “real PNC”.
But Gasper is not the only one disgruntled with the PNC. Several of its long-time members have publicly criticised Granger for his silence, including James Bond. Former Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge had said that the PNCR is suffering from a leadership crisis.
On March 15, a Facebook page frequently used to propagate coalition messaging posted an open letter to Granger, calling on him to step down. The author agrees with Greenid
“It is time for you to go!” it said. “There is no role for you in the shaping of the future of the People’s National Congress.”
The APNU+AFC leader has not made a public statement in months, something the author’s of the letter see as cowardice. Credited only to ‘concerned supporters’, the letter states that Granger is incapable of considering any ideas other than his own – a nod to the coalition’s fatal practice of non-consultation.
“This pathetic leadership has set the party back by a generation while demoralizing supporters.” The concerned supporters stated. “Your dictatorial approach continues to damage the party and by extension the psyche of tens of thousands of supporters who you apparently care very little about.”
They posit that Granger has outlived his relevance, and that the right thing for him to do would be to march on to his “permanent retirement.”
Former Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, a key AFC figure during the coalition’s time in government, made some stern warnings to the coalition, which appear to have foreshadowed the AFC’s fate. The son-in-law of former President Granger had warned APNU+AFC against attacking everyone who criticised it.
“I find it regrettable,” Gaskin had said, “that the younger generation of Afro-Guyanese politicians, should they choose to further their political careers within APNU or the AFC, will be saddled with the consequences of what has taken place over the last four months. This year, I have seen many bright shining young stars from all the political parties, and it is my sincere belief that those in the APNU+AFC camp will pay the heaviest price for what has occurred.”
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