In its column published in the Sunday (April 17, 2016) edition of Kaieteur Newspaper, the Alliance For Change (AFC) stated, “We are obliged to conduct our affairs in a civil but forthright manner, which will always be focused on doing what is best for the people of Guyana. This, we believe, is the guiding principle of national leadership….This, our good people, is what we mean by MATURE GOVERNANCE”.
The column also noted that it “wish to allay the fears of all Guyanese in and outside of Guyana which suggested that the AFC may have been getting ready to separate itself from the APNU+AFC Coalition. This is not so!”.
Questions of a perceived rift within the coalition arose after a statement was issued by the AFC calling for the powers of the Minister of State Joseph Harmon to be cut, following his involvement with the controversial Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin and the appointment of Brian Tiwari as Business Advisor on Sunday, April, 10 2016. The party also called for the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (WRCOI) to be released to the public and relatives of the deceased. Additionally, it had expressed the view it is not pleased with the direction in which the Agriculture sector is heading and may be getting ready to push for changes, including the appointment of another person to assist subject Minister Noel Holder. It was also of the view that officials of the Agriculture Ministry needed to meet and have dialogue with the Wales Estate sugar workers. During the post Local Government Elections (LGE) period, the AFC had also complained that the APNU is hogging seats on the councils; an issue that was eventually sorted out by the parties.
According to the AFC column, this public dialogue between the ruling parties is rather a “new political culture” which is an “exhibition of political maturity and tolerance for different political views which also allows “space for political partners and political adversaries to demonstrate independence of thought and the freedom to ventilate their disagreements without acrimony or discord”.
“It allows for partners to share different points of view and to discuss these differences in order to arrive at common ground, just as married couples do…This new, open culture can only benefit the nation. We’d like the nation to accept that while the members of the Coalition will not agree on every matter, we are tolerant of other people’s opinions, and mature enough to accept constructive criticism”, the column stated.
It also stated that, “No more should Guyanese people be forced to endure the culture of complete and total adherence to the “maximum leader” as was practiced by the PPP regime…Prior to May 2015 we had all been subjected to a decadent political culture which did not consider the best interest of the citizenry. This new culture that the Coalition is honing is a deliberate departure from the ‘old’. The process is not easy or simple. Sometimes we stumble, sometimes we disagree, sometimes we take missteps. We are certainly mature enough to take some steps back, re-examine the decisions we make, change them when they need to be changed, then move forward with consensus from all concerned”.
The question of the perceived rift between the parties was also posed to President David Granger and leader of the Peoples National Congress (PNC); the largest party in the coalition, during his weekly programme ‘The Public Interest’, to which he also denied.
The president supported the AFC’s claim noting that each party within the coalition has their own interests and are entitled to express those views. “Parties have their own interest, and they’ve brought those interests into the coalition. I am not afraid of debate or discussion; and from time to time, parties make releases to the media or to the public. As President, I can’t control those releases, and they are free to do so. But in the long term, at a strategic level, I am convinced that all six parties are committed to the coalition and they want to see the coalition have a successful tenure in office” he noted.
The Head of State further pointed out that the ruling parties will continue to support freedom of expression, noting that it is not harmful to the coalition but is a healthy debate.
The coalition was formed prior to the 2015 General and Regional Elections, on Valentine’s Day, 2015 with the signing of the Cummingsburg Accord.
In this regard the column noted that, “the AFC intends to remain true to every single caveat in the Cummingsburg Accord that was signed on Valentine’s Day 2015. This accord, though not written in stone (all signatory parties may suggest and obtain consensus for adjustments as circumstances unfold), remains the light that is guiding the Coalition through the long process of restoring Guyana’s economy, our international image, and the physical and procedural infrastructures that EVERY citizen must benefit from, including the instruments that distribute power and control”.
In the May 2015, APNU+AFC won the General and Regional Elections with 206,817 votes, narrowly beating the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) which won 201,457 votes.