AFC favours pursuing all ‘legal and legitimate’ options on no-confidence vote - Ramjattan
AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan on Friday said that the party agrees that all options must be pursued to sort out the raging controversy surrounding the December 21 passage of the no-confidence motion against the APNU+AFC government but stopped short of saying whether the party supports the argument that 34 votes and not 33 was required for the motion to be carried.
“The party didn’t argue that specifically. The party says everything that is legal and legitimate, we must pursue and the lawyers will have a handle in that and that is what we are doing,” Ramjattan told the Sunday Stabroek when asked if the party supports the argument, first raised by former AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes.
Ramjattan said that the party’s executive met “immediately after” the motion was passed on December 21 and it has decided that “we (AFC) must do exactly what the government is doing, try to get all options open.”
The Sunday Stabroek also reached out to party leader Raphael Trotman who disclosed that the AFC’s management committee has been conferring on the issue and this continues. He said that he would prefer not to disclose “our positions right now.”
AFC member Charrandas Persaud defected from the government benches to help the Opposition PPP/C pass the historic no-confidence motion 33-32 against the government. Hours after, he departed for Canada where he remains. He was subsequently expelled from the AFC and has been recalled as an APNU+AFC parliamentarian.
The Sunday Stabroek has since learnt that efforts are being made to identify a replacement before next Thursday, when the National Assembly is scheduled to reconvene.
Meanwhile, Trotman in a statement to party members on Thursday, said that the “attack” by Persaud was well-planned and he urged them to remain strong.
“The unexpected events of December 21st have left us shocked and hurt. It is clear the manner in which the monstrous plot was unleashed was intended to cause maximum damage to the Government,” he said in the statement which was seen by this newspaper.
Trotman said that for the party, it is a “double blow” because the Government is now threatened, and the attack came from within the ranks of the AFC. “This attack was well-planned, timed and executed. So let us not believe that what happened was conceived and executed in a few days or weeks. We dropped the ball by not treating this seriously enough, and by failing to recognise that one of our own could vote in favour of the Motion,” he said.
As the Leader of the party, Trotman said, he has to shoulder the responsibility for some of these outcomes and for moving things forward. He added that in doing so, he does not accept that he was responsible for what happened because of his response to statements made by PNCR executive and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence.
Persaud had told reporters that Trotman’s treatment of Lawrence’s comments impacted his decision.
“You take her statement… I am PNC, my friends are PNC, I will give wuk to PNC and then what did Trotman do as leader? I wrote to him (Trotman) and said we have to make a statement. What did Trotman do as leader of the AFC? He defended Volda Lawrence and then she apologised and Trotman looked as if he was just pissed on by Volda Lawrence and I am taking this as a member of the AFC because I have no say. What about AFC? For Volda it’s not about being Afro or Indian but about being PNC,” Persaud had said.
Trotman has denied that Persaud wrote him on this matter.
Trotman told the party members that it is in his personality to always see the good in people and to accept that good people can say, and do silly and hurtful things.
He said that during his political career, he had defended Ramjattan when he was a member of the PPP, and had called on the PNC to apologise for aspects of its administration. More recently, Trotman said, when he was Speaker, he released PPP/C parliamentarian Clement Rohee from the restriction of speaking in the National Assembly.
“All of these defences of people from other parties saw me viciously attacked, and I remind myself that I look for the good in people and not demonize them for mistakes made when I know them differently,” he said.
Trotman acknowledged that the noconfidence motion has been a “wake-up call for us long before it was even voted on. The vote has made the concerns of the people even more acute. The AFC and Government have recognised this as a significant political indicator and it will not be business as usual. We have made a commitment to listen, to accept that we have erred, and seek to change; whilst providing leadership.”
Trotman said that while the motion was passed with 33 Members of Parliament supporting it, there is a strong and compelling argument that it requires 34 votes to see the resignation of the Government.
“There is also a strong argument that in order to bring a successful “No Confidence Motion” the lists proposing the motion must first have an electoral majority of its own and not depend on anyone crossing the floor, as this practice is not allowed in our parliamentary rules,” he said, adding that it is for the Speaker or the High Court, ultimately, to decide.
The AFC did not have an electoral majority when it lodged a motion of no confidence in the PPP/C government in 2014.
“It would be irresponsible of the AFC to ignore or deny these views when the “consequences” of the vote, as the Speaker described them, are being considered,” Trotman said, before informing that the next few days and weeks are going to be testing for the citizens, and members of the AFC.
“I have taken full responsibility to lead our efforts to regroup and rebuild. Let us join hands. We have to remain strong. Securing ourselves from any further slippage,” he said, noting that the party has matured and grown stronger each year since its formation in 2005 and had survived several “destabilising” episodes.
“I have no doubt that we will get past this one, once we remain committed to each other, draw on our strengths, and work to address the valid concerns of our members and supporters,” he emphasised.