All not well in APNU+AFC land

18 Jul 2022 14:22 #396419 by chairman
By Ron Cheong
THERE seems to be some confusion in APNU+AFC land. The players are all looking to position and reposition. APNU held a session last week; the stated intent to map a strategy to rescue the country from the PPP/C. Yes, the guys now claiming to be on a rescue mission are the same ones who tried to rig the election, holding the country to ransom for five months.

Their spokesperson charged that the PPP/C is obsessed with political domination, which seems to be much the same “non-consultation” reason that the WPA gave for they themselves withdrawing from APNU.

Meanwhile, the AFC announced that they would be pulling out of the APNU+AFC Coalition at the end of the year. They will be focusing on rebuilding the party and walking on their own two feet — but will be open to coalescing with other parties. And may rejoin APNU at a later date.

Well I’m glad all of that is so very clear now.

The AFC was formed in 2005 on the great promise that they would be the moderating force to racial politics in Guyana. Their three founding members were drawn one each from the PNCR, the PPP/C and the WPA – they were walking their talk. They were going to be the Third Force. They vowed not to join with any of the two existing monoliths the PNCR or the PPP/C. There were great promises of rotating leadership – It was an appealing platform, though it is said the plot was afoot right from the start to split the PPP vote.

In 2006, they split off 28,000 middle of the road PNCR and the PPP/C voters. Still, the PPP/C won that election with a solid 36-seat majority.

In 2011, however, the PNCR rebranded itself as APNU and took back a chunk of the vote that the AFC had previously lured away from them. But while they ceded votes back to the PNCR/APNU, the AFC made significant inroads into the PPP/C vote in 2011. This was their best year with 35,000 votes, good for 10.4 per cent of the vote or seven parliamentary seats. Nevertheless, the PPP/C formed a minority government.

Then comes 2015, the AFC breaks their pledge and runs an on a coalition ticket with APNU. Little of their founding principles remained to be seen. Their campaign accused the PPP/C of corruption. Nagamootoo was going to rescue the treasury from the incumbent government. Of course, we know what happened to the treasury afterwards. Although, the PPP/C closed the vote gap between themselves and the AFC and APNU combined, it was not enough. APNU+AFC formed the government with a margin of less than 5,000 votes.

Since the 2015 betrayal of its founding principles, it’s been a downhill slide for the AFC. In the 2018 local elections, the most recent time they ran separately from APNU, they got 9,000 votes or 4.4 per cent of the vote.

The disillusionment, disappointment and frustration from supporters, backers and members reached a breaking point when AFC parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud defected and voted with the opposition on a no-confidence motion against the coalition. This was followed by the insane 33 is not a majority of 65 farce, the attempted rigging of the 2020 election and the five-month standoff.

Their support continued downhill in 2020. The stand-alone numbers are not directly available as they ran as APNU+AFC. However, the erosion in their vote is evident from the coalition totals in districts where the AFC had boosted the APNU+AFC performance in 2015 but failed to do so in 2020.

With the above in mind, some reasonable inferences can be drawn for what caused the AFC roll-over in 2015, and what’s prompting their maybe, maybe not test probe now.

Going into 2015, their peak in support was already behind them. This was as far as they could go alone as the Third Force. But personal ambition was burning bright. A Prime Minstership and a few ministerial posts could be in the offing. Nagamootoo was available. He was more acceptable to Granger, and had stature amongst PPP/C supporters. Besides if rumour is true, Trotman had achieved his mission of using the AFC to split the PPP/C vote, it only needed to be recombined differently now to give the PNCR/APNU a shot at capturing the government. So the AFC cut a sweet deal for 40 per cent of the take in seats – more than double any possible contribution they could make to the APNU+AFC Coalition vote total.

The coalition stayed together during the Granger years, getting past whatever jockeying for position there was. But a new calculus came into being after the 2020 election loss. Now they are testing the waters with the ambiguous talk of maybe, or maybe not leaving the coalition in six months. And Norton, the new leader, does not like it. The AFC says they would retain their parliamentary seats even if there were a split. Norton says no – the confusion must be a little misunderstanding.

But all of these factors would have had to have been considered in the AFC cost/benefit of continuing to hitch their wagon to the volatile Norton train. This six-month window provides the best of all worlds. If things go worse under Norton, they’ve established some distancing from the PNCR, if not they still have an agreement in place.

The noises being made are surely timed to strengthen their negotiating hand with Norton, who is yet to fully establish his grip on certain less strident sections of his party. Also, Norton’s street tactics cannot be sitting well with those supporters who remained with the AFC. So they are likely looking to blow enough smoke to forestall those supporters gravitating back to the PPP/C.

Secondarily, this move may have some allure for Granger’s PNCers whom he had reclaimed from the AFC in 2011.

The AFC certainly were in no hurry to leave during the five-month rigging attempt. They even did their part with the Russian hackers story. So it’s hard to imagine conscience at play now, or believe that they have seen the light and now value the idea of bringing a balance to parliament – supporting good ideas from either side of the aisle, as apposed to the existing legacy Granger arrangement, in which they’re are in actuality tied to and submersed in the PNCR and its conduct, and now look to be smeared with the same brush as the new leadership.

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.

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08 Aug 2022 13:41 #396568 by chairman
In an interview with the AFC’s Leader Khemraj Ramjattan: Coalition Politics, the Political and Economic situation in Guyana and the Future of the AFC and then again, I read his Press release in which he again reiterated that the Coalition made the right decision to close the sugar estates in 2017, saving billions of dollars from going down a ‘black hole’. Wales Estate was closed in December 2016.
I do feel compelled to remind Ramjattan that in 2015 on the campaign trail he made a promise to sugar workers at Whim that no sugar estate will be closed and that sugar workers will get a 20% wage increase. The AFC also circulated a pamphlet to that effect. Pretending to seek resolution to the problems facing GuySuCo, in that same year when the Coalition assumed Office, a multimillion-dollar Commission of Inquiry was conducted by several ‘sugar experts’ and one of the recommendations was that no sugar estate will be closed since the Industry can be made viable by 2025. But in December 2016, Wales went under the guillotine. Then in May 2017, the Coalition presented the White Paper on ‘State Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry’ in Parliament which recommended that the industry be ‘right sized’ to ‘ensure a viable future’ according to the then Agriculture, Noel Holder. By the end of 2017, three other estates, Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore were guillotined as recommended by the ‘State Paper’. The Coalition claimed that the ‘right sized’ industry comprising of 3 estates will produce 147,000 tons of sugar annually. This never materialized and Ramjattan should have ventured to explain why this did not happen.
Maybe Ramjattan would like to explain what happened to the $30 billion bond which the Former Minister of Finance proudly stated that it was to be used to revitalize and ‘rescue’ GuySuCo. According to a DPI Report in July 2018, ‘The SPU has said that GuySuCo needs $30Billion, over a four-year period, to provide a much-needed capital injection, support infrastructure maintenance and upgrades at the Albion, Blairmont, and Uitvlugt estates, which the state is keeping, and to develop new co-generation capacity to support estate operations and sell to the national power grid’. Did any of these were achieved? The monies were simply squandered as Guysuco plunged deeper and deeper into crisis as sugar production continued to fall. The PPP/C in its manifesto in 2015 had said that an allocation of $20 billion would have brought back the industry to viability at that time. But after the piecemeal destruction of the operating estates and the complete annihilation of the closed ones it would take billions more to now revitalize GuySuCo.
Mr Ramjattan needs to know that the then Minister of Finance Mr Jordan had said that all the closed estates will not be ‘mothballed’ but will be in operable conditions to attract investors. This never happened even though millions were paid to PricewaterhouseCoopers to revalue the assets and to receive ‘expressions of interests.’ It was reported that some 70 of these ‘expressions’ were received but not one bore fruit since the estates were in an advanced state of deterioration. Even today investors are shying away from investing in any of the closed estates because of the same reason. Today, Ramjattan has the temerity to boast about the AFC’s ‘legacy’ to partner with the PNC to destroy assets worth in excess $100 billion, many of these assets are unsalvageable. Not only the fixed assets but the human assets were strewn along the wayside with no form of sustainable livelihood offered or available to them. Yet Mr Nagamootooo had the gumption to shamelessly state in Parliament that he will ‘light a candle for the dismissed sugar workers. This is the AFC’s legacy.
It must be recalled that in 2019, in order to appease sugar workers, Ramjattan told them that with oil money there was no need for the sugar industry. According to him, the citizenry would ‘become filthy rich in the near future with the booming oil sector coming on stream’. Therefore, this is an implication that the Coalition’s future plan was to completely do away with the entire sugar industry.
This was highlighted by Ramjattan again in the Globespan interview where he boldly and proudly proclaimed that the AFC’s legacy to the future generation is: the closure of the sugar estates and the Production Sharing Agreement with Exxon. This is unbelievable as it is ludicrous.
Mr Ramjattan seemed to relish any opportunity to attack former AFC Executive member, Mr Sasenarine Singh who is now the CEO of Guysuco. I would like Mr Ramjattan to recall what factors he said were responsible for the current state of GuySuCo. Though he did not admit to the failure of the Coalition to recapitalize the industry, the gross and deliberate destruction of the assets, and the mismanagement, he did admitted that the EU price cuts, the world market price for sugar, the high production costs and the shortage of labor and the floods due to climate change, reeked havoc to the sugar industry.
If Mr Ramjattan had done an iota of investigation he would have known that Guysuco is embarking on a mechanization program as directed by the President himself which will see Guysuco fully mechanized by 2025 thereby bridging the labor availability gap. This will also see a huge contraction in the unit cost of production. At the same time the CEO has recognized the need to change the sales mix and for some time now the sale of packaged sugar has overtaken the sale of bulk and bagged sugar, In fact this has increased the revenue of GuySuCo by more than $1.7 billion. GuySuCo has already recognized that packaged sugar is the future and will bring in revenue of over $750 US per ton. Ramjattan admitted and this is where the Corporation is heading. This will have the immediate effect of not only achieving the break-even point but will push the Corporation back to profitability. In addition, Mr Ramjattan is ignorant of the fact that GuySuCo workers are not limited to ‘cutlass and punt trajectory’. This is an insult to GuySuCo workers. Many of these workers are skilled tradesmen and who supplement their incomes by doing skilled jobs in the Factory and outside of the industry during the out-of-crop periods.
I saw once again read that Ramjattan is calling for the CEO to be replaced and I wonder loudly whether he is serious about the future of the Sugar Industry or he just wants to get even with Mr Sasenarine Singh who resigned from the AFC in 2014. Ramjattan should have backed calls for the Coalition’s Minister of Agriculture to resign or be fired since he failed the entire Sector but he did not. This is utter hypocrisy.
Mr Ramjattan will continue to expose the true nature of the AFC which is merely to secure power at any and all costs. They will coalesce once again with the APNU, they just want a better ‘deal’.

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.

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