AFC prepares to go solo if talks with APNU collapse

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The Alliance For Change (AFC) says it is prepared to contest the March 2020 elections solo if their demands are not met as negotiations for a revised Cummingsburg Accord continue with its coalition partner, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

“We anticipate that there will be an agreement by Monday but we cannot wait, we’ve already missed a deadline. We have accepted another deadline but in the meantime, we are getting ourselves ‘battle ready’ and we are prepared, if we cannot reach an acceptable agreement, to move ahead alone with our campaign.

“It is an unlikely scenario which is not our preferred scenario but we have to be prepared to go alone if necessary,” AFC member Dominic Gaskin said at a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Friday.

“In any negotiation, you do get to a point when I think both sides realise you can’t go any further and it is useless to proceed,” he added.

The AFC said the single matter which remains outstanding in the negotiations, is the allocation of parliamentary positions, ministerial positions and Regional Democratic Council (RDC) seats.

The 2015 Cummingsburg Accord which was signed by the two parties to form the Coalition, allocated 40% of the seats to the AFC and 60% to the five-party APNU.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan was selected the AFC’s next Prime Ministerial Candidate

Asked whether the party is seeking to retain its 40%, Gaskin who is a member of the negotiating team, did not respond in the affirmative but said: “we have not said that this particular matter is non-negotiable but as in any negotiation, once something is on the table, were we to deviate from that formula, the question would be what are we getting in return or what are we giving in return.”

He said the AFC is always flexible and is looking for an acceptable outcome.

The News Room understands that the APNU is asking its smaller coalition partner to give up some of its Ministerial portfolios.

The AFC currently has responsibility for the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Public Telecommunications, Natural Resources, Public Security, Agriculture; the Business and Tourism sectors and along with the Prime Ministerial post.

Previously, the contentious issue during the negotiations had been the selection of a Prime Ministerial Candidate but Gaskin refused to confirm reports that the APNU has finally accepted AFC’s Leader Khemraj Ramjattan as that candidate.

“I don’t want to divulge any detail that has been negotiated,” Gaskin said, noting that nothing is written in stone or guaranteed.

Ramjattan was selected for the post at the AFC’s Congress on June 15. Ramjattan’s ability to be a good running mate for President David Granger is being questioned given that he is responsible for the Public Security sector which has had its fair share of challenges.

However, Gaskin said “our party has full confidence in Mr Ramjattan’s ability to function in that role. We believe he brings a good balance to the Presidential Candidate [David Granger], we believe Mr Ramjattan has been a very strong leader of the AFC, a founding member and we have no reservations at all in proposing him for a Prime Ministerial Candidate and we are confident he can bring votes to the coalition.”

The renegotiation of the Cummingsburg Accord started in August, months after one of the AFC’s Parliamentarians, Charrandass Persaud casted a vote of No-Confidence against his own party in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, the People National Congress reform, which is the largest party in the APNU, says negotiations with the AFC are going well.

Volda Lawrence, the Chairman of the PNCR told a press conference at the PNC’s Congress Place headquarters on Friday that discussions are still ongoing in relation to the Cummingsburg Accord, however, she too stayed clear of confirming reports that Ramjattan will be President Granger’s running mate for the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

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