July 23, 2014

The AFC implodes

The news that three high-profile members of the Alliance for Change (AFC) switched allegiance to the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) caught the leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan by surprise. This is symptomatic of the narcissism and lack of connection with its membership base that had characterised the leadership of the party from its formation.

The crossover followed hard on the heels of the resignation of a major New York financial backer, which was the result of similar obliviousness to the concerns of the membership.

The AFC has been hung on its own petard. It opportunistically offered its rabid support of the campaign of vilification against the government for alleged corruption, waged by the publisher of the Kaieteur News, who had personal axes to grind. But the attacks from the AFC, amounting to public persecution, continued.

The hypocrisy and shamelessness of the leadership of the AFC was therefore laid bare for its supporters and all Guyanese to see when concrete instances of their own conflicts of interest were exposed. Significantly, all involved finance.

First, there was the furious battle waged by Khemraj Ramjattan in Parliament to derail the construction of the Marriott Hotel, which had been in the works since 1999. What had changed since was that the ownership of the nearby Pegasus had been assumed by a client of Ramjattan, who was also a major AFC backer.

Ramjattan also repeated the identical conflict of interest when he expended valuable parliamentary time fighting a desperate rearguard action on behalf of another client, Fedders-Lloyd, rather than pushing the interests of his constituency and the country. Fedders-Lloyd had lost out in the bid on the now stalled Speciality Hospital. In any other parliament in the world, Ramjattan would have been censured by the parliamentary committee on privileges. While this was not done, supporters took notice.

Moses Nagamootoo, the other high-profile AFC executive who had crossed over from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), had also claimed to be a paragon of probity and a scourge of “conflict of interest”. This image was rudely shattered when it was revealed he had demanded and received $7 million from the National Industrial and Commercial Limited (NICIL) for filling out and filing forms for the relocation of some residents of D’Edward Village, in the path of the approach to the Berbice Bridge.

It was the same NICIL that he had criticised viciously for “corruption”, not expecting his feeding at the trough of NICIL, would be revealed.

But the final straw in the exposure of the dissembling of the AFC leadership on “conflict of interest” were the actions of Chairman of the AFC Nigel Hughes and his wife Cathy Hughes, an executive of the party. Cathy Hughes had been the public relations face of Synergy, the company owned by Fip Motilall, which the AFC maintained was totally unfit to build the road to Amaila Falls. The cognitive dissonance of this state of affairs never troubled the AFC leaders.

When it was revealed that Hughes, touted as the “new Dr Walter Rodney” and the exemplar of honourable politics, was the legal officer and company secretary of Amaila Falls Hydro Inc (AFHI), there was no stopping the tsunami of disgust.

To be the legal officer of an entity which was opposed up to the eleventh hour and then have his party make a complete u-turn was too much for even the most gullible to swallow. Why would Hughes not reveal his interest?

That AFHI had allocated US$4 million for legal fees provided for most the motive for the betrayal. The departures from the AFC have now passed the critical mass: the party will now implode into oblivion.

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