Says Tameshwar Lilmohan of AFC-Canada
By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Mr. Tameshwar Lilmohan is President of the Alliance for Change (AFC) Support Group, in Canada. Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan is a Vice-President in the Coalition Government in Guyana, representing the Alliance for Change (AFC) Party. He is also Minister of Public Security in the Government.
The AFC-Canada was in the news recently when it withdrew its support for the AFC in Guyana. Mr. Lilmohan explained that the reason was because of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM, by President David Granger. The core values of the AFC were abandoned in the process, he argues.
In this exclusive interview with ‘The West Indian’, Mr. Lilmohan speaks about his relationship with the AFC-Guyana, the current state of finances in the organization, the appointment of the GECOM Chairman and the future prospects of the AFC as a ‘third party.’ Mr. Lilmohan was speaking to Dr. Dhanpaul Narine of ‘The West Indian’ in New York.
Q: Mr. Lilmohan, welcome. Has Mr. Ramjattan deceived the public?
A: Mr. Ramjattan has not been straight with the public. You will recall that when President Granger appointed Mr. Patterson as Chairman of GECOM, Mr. Ramjattan told us that he had nothing to do with Mr. Granger’s decision. In other words, Mr. Granger made his decision and Mr. Ramjattan found out like anyone else. But that is not true. Mr. Ramjattan was involved in the decision. He has abandoned the core values of the AFC which is to be independent.
Q: What are the facts?
A: Mr. Ramjattan, by his own admission in the emails, revealed that he and Mr. Trotman reviewed the second list of candidates and expressed the view to the President that none of the persons on that list were fit and proper. He said that he advised the President that if he (the President) is of the same view, then he should go ahead and exercise the provision under S.161, which is the unilateral choice. Now, if this is not being involved in the process, then tell me what is? Look at the emails and make up your own mind. Mr. Ramjattan was fully involved in the appointment of the GECOM Chairman. Mr. Ramjattan misled the public.
Q: What has been the response of Mr. Ramjattan to the disclosure of this evidence?
A: Mr. Ramjattan in classic political double-speak called the AFC-Canada ‘mischievous’ while he has admitted that he did consult with President Granger on the second list. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the AFC then went ahead and endorsed Mr. James Patterson as the GECOM Chairman. What does did tell you? The AFC and Mr. Ramjattan are Mr. Granger’s poodle.
Q: What is the current status between the AFC-Canada and the AFC in Guyana?
A: We have not severed ties with the AFC. In our correspondence with the AFC, we have asked the leaders and the NEC to respond to our concerns that were expressed in unanimous resolutions. We have stated that we will withhold our support and association until we have a response. To date we have not received an official response.
Q: Do you believe that the AFC has been honest with the public?
A: The AFC is autocratic. The AFC has many good, well-intentioned people, especially the foot-soldiers. Even some of the leaders, like Mr. David Patterson and Dr. Rohan Somar, are genuine about their concerns and express them vehemently in internal circles. But the dissenters in the Party are bludgeoned into submission by Mr. Ramjattan’s autocracy. He makes irreversible decisions without consultation and then expects everyone to fall in line. If you don’t agree with him you are deemed a rogue. The objective is to give the impression that all is well in the camp and that true democracy prevails. This is a lie.
Q: How much money was raised by the AFC-Canada for the AFC in Guyana?
A: The AFC-Canada has raised substantial amounts of money for the Party. This chapter has played a strategic role in ensuring that its funds and other contributions had the most impactful effect in elevating the AFC to Parliament. The AFC-Canada organized and held at its own cost, the first AFC International Convention. With assistance from Guyana-Canada Business & Professional Corporation, we held many successful forums promoting Guyana, and with the most senior Government officials present. The AFC-Canada donated the first cheque towards the purchase and the building of the Party’s head office in Guyana. We did so on the clear understanding that the property will be held in Trust. To date, we are not privy to this Trust Agreement. We are asking the question, who owns this property and why is this not made known to other executives and members? Thousands of dollars are unaccounted for and loans to the Party are unpaid with the creditors talking about pursuing legal actions. Mr. Ramjattan has made public pronouncements that he does not have to rely on AFC-Canada contributions anymore; there are many lining up to contribute. Really? As the saying goes, a sucker is born every day.
Q: Mr. Ramjattan has gone on the offensive against you personally. How do you respond?
A: Mr. Ramjattan should be mindful of vilifying people who disagree with him. It would be to his benefit to ponder and take seriously differing opinions. The AFC would not be in this precarious position today if he heeded advice. At the first AFC International Convention, held in Canada, the leadership was warned about the inevitable humiliation of AFC if it continues to be marginalized by the PNC’s dominance. Mr. Ramjattan and Mr. Moses Nagamootoo smothered any criticism and refused to acknowledge the majority’s view that AFC is a mere poodle of the PNC. Many resolutions were passed at this Convention but none was ever implemented.
Ramjattan stated at the Convention, “in the AFC if you speak your mind you will not be thrown out, as was done in the PPP”. Yet, when many like myself, speak our minds, we are deemed as rogue elements. This treatment was meted out to over a dozen devoted AFC members. He called Haseef Yusuf a rogue Councilor when, as an accountant, Yusuf questioned the authenticity of AFC finances.
The same measures were dished out to Gerhard Ramsaroop, Gaumattie Singh, Sixtus Edwards, Sasenarine Singh, Veerasammy Ramayya, Euclid Rose, Irwin Abdulla, Laurence Williams and many others. If you don’t agree with Ramjattan, he will throw you under the bus. He demands absolute loyalty and obedience.
Q: Were you looking for any personal perks from the government?
A: I would like to nail a wicked lie. Mr. Ramjattan suggested that my reason for disagreeing with the President’s unilateral appointment of GECOM’s chairman was that I was not appointed as Guyana Revenue Authority’s Commissioner General. This is Mr. Ramjattan’s most self- deprecating statement yet. Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and Mr. Ramjattan sought my help after recognizing the assets I can contribute. Mr. Ramjattan sent me an email advising me to apply for the position at GRA and he endorsed my application. I prepared and presented a 38-page document, entitled “How I envision the operation of Guyana Revenue Authority moving forward” to GRA’s Board Directors in June 2016. I would like to state here for the record that I have never received any form of payment from the Guyana Government, nor do I want any.
Q: If an election were to be held tomorrow do you think that the AFC will do well?
A: The AFC has done irreparable damage to any hope that a Third Party will succeed in Guyana. They have planted the seed of deep distrust. The simple truth is that the AFC’s leaders, who hold lucrative government positions today, are caught in a death trap. They will not risk the wrath of President Granger by expressing any dissension; this will mean losing their jobs and with nowhere to go. The Party has lost too much ground and is unlikely to recover. A third political Party in Guyana, by definition, must be truly independent. It is my fervent belief that after the marriage with the PNC, the AFC has forever lost its independence and its core values. The game is over. We are back to the two-horse race. It pains me deeply that the people are right back where they started: choosing the lesser of the two evils.
Q: Finally, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran has called on the AFC to resign their ministerial positions and become backbenchers in Parliament. Do you agree?
A: That is one consideration but the AFC needs to reassess its position to maintain its independence. The AFC is sliding downwards and cannot negotiate from a position of strength. This will become clear when they meet in February next year to renegotiate the Cummingsburg Accord.
(Next week: The emails).