As the lone female candidate so far to have tossed her hat into the presidential race, the United Force’s Valerie Garrido-Lowe feels she has an advantage because she brings different qualities to the table simply by being a woman.
The TUF presidential candidate, during a recent interview with SN, opined that Guyanese on the whole, especially women and the poor in society, are demoralized by the way the country is being governed. “I think as a woman I can see deeper and think deeper; so do things that are real meaningful to effect general change and positive change,” she said. She said that as a woman it is not in her make-up to just overlook issues that others may consider minor. “While a man would say okay don’t worry with that or don’t fix that, a woman would more likely look into the matter and say let us fix this first so we could get the other one fixed,” she said.
Lowe last week faced her first major challenge as candidate when her call for former leader Manzoor Nadir to surrender his parliament seat met with resistance from some of her other executives.
She spoke of a natural disadvantage of the tendency of men feeling that women can’t function in positions such as these and that they are too soft. “I am not that woman really, I can very well make a decision when I have to and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it. And I think I have an advantage because as a woman, I am a nurturing kind of person…,” she told Stabroek News.
Lowe added that being the lone female candidate could appeal to an electorate which consists mainly of women. “ I think as a fellow woman, who can understand what my fellow women are going through here and [who]would be going forth to try to fix this as quickly as possible, I think it is time that the women come together and unite behind me and try to change this whole country for the better,” she said. “I am not condemning men at all, but let’s give the women a 50/50 chance, the men have been controlling everything, all the time. It’s time for the women to take control now with support from the men of course,” she continued. “But let us women take control of our country. We can do it,” she added.
Lowe was elected as party leader in May following the resignation of Labour Minister Nadir. Nadir will not be campaigning for the TUF at the upcoming elections. The party has indentified Ismail Muhammad as its prime ministerial candidate.
The TUF, Lowe said, should be voted into office because it’s the only party that has not been tried out in “its totality”. “Our programmes, our political platform…. [were] not totally tried,” she said. She pointed to the fact that in 1960s the TUF had formed part of the government in a coalition with the PNC , adding that to some extent it has formed a coalition with the PPP over the past 10 years.
Lowe admitted that the way forward for the TUF will be difficult. The party, she said, is cash-strapped and also has to fight against the image of being aligned with the PPP/C administration in recent times. This partnership with the PPP/C, she said, has led to the TUF veering off track. “[We are] way off track because we were looked at and I still think that we’re looked at as a branch of the PPP so I think that is way off track and I think that is from the decision of having the minister [Nadir] working 10 years with the PPP,” she said.
Lowe, who has been a member of the TUF for the past 15 years, said that while she had no say in Nadir’s decision to serve as a government minister after the 2001 elections, she raised concerns after the 2006 ballot. “Those days I didn’t have a voice in the executive. In 2006 when it happened again I was the only executive who really questioned it and asked if that was a wise move and made the statement that in the next five years, I would like to see the United Force run as an independent party, not aligned to the PPP,” she said.
According to Lowe, since then many members of the party became more committed to the leader of the party rather than to the principles of the party. “Now I want to change that; the members must be loyal to the party and I need to take this party where it was supposed to be in the original instance,” she said.
Describing Nadir as “hard working” and “bright”, Lowe said that she believed he may have contributed several positive ideas to the PPP/C administration, over the past ten years. However, she said that Nadir failed in reporting to the TUF executive in the manner he should have. “He was supposed to keep us updated with everything but we really had to ask or read about it. And that is why the United Force was very quiet because we were in limbo just as the ordinary man most of the time,” she stated.
Given its limited cash resources, Lowe said that the party cannot campaign as it would like. However, she says that the ground-level groups of the party remain vibrant and are still committed to the party. The TUF is in the process of raising funds and also increasing its membership, she said.
Should she be elected to office, among the first things she would do is to increase wages, move to create more jobs and to encourage more overseas investments. Under a TUF government, the 16 percent Value Added Tax would not be lowered. Lowe’s argument is that the money earned from the VAT could be used to substantially develop the country.
otland Yard to do an overall training,” she said. She believes that the local police force could benefit from the presence of a retired police commissioner coming to serve as the head of the Guyana Police Force. Her plan is to have these officers come on two-year contracts, where they can train the junior officers and the Assistant Commissioners who will eventually be promoted to head the force.
“I think we need a rest from doing everything ourselves now. It’s not that we ‘re not capable of doing it but we are too corrupted,” she said.
Corruption is wanton in the society, particularly when it comes to government contracts and other issues. She said that committees need to be established with honest people to properly check on these issues.
Questioned about participating in a debate with the other presidential candidates, Lowe says she is willing to do so at a later stage, but not at this time. She says she is not ready for such a debate since current she is busy mobilizing the TUF and settling in-house business. While she has respect for all the presidential candidates, she believes that the TUF has the best plans and policies to bring real, positive change in the country.