Indigenous party for launch on September 28th

Lenox Shuman

The proposed Indigenous Peoples-based political party is slated to be launch-ed on September 28th to cap off Indigenous Heritage Month, former Vice-Chairman of the National Toshaos Council Lenox Shuman has revealed.

“We simply did not want to conflict with the main heritage celebrations. The 28th caps off Amerindian Heritage Month. For us, it is the most opportune time for the launch of ‘A party by the people, for the people,’” Shuman, who floated the idea of the party in June, told Sunday Stabroek on Friday. 

The organising committee did not agree to an earlier launch in the month, he said, “Because we feel that the celebrations should be apolitical. We are sure that the Government or other people may have some things planned for September 10th.”

(September 10th is a significant date in the Indigenous Month as it is the anniversary of anniversary of Stephen Campbell’s entry into the then British Guiana Legislative Coun-cil in 1957. Campbell was Guyana’s first indigenous parliamentarian.) 

Since the core group of organisers agreed that they should form a new political party to contest the 2020 general elections, Shuman said, “The interest has grown quite significantly both within and outside of Guyana.”

At the moment, he said, they are meeting wherever they can. “Closer to the launch, we are going to have that space where we could actually have our office established. We have quite a few people on board but it is to organise them into part of the structure of the party and to have the structure in place by the launch and then start moving on to other things.”

Everyone is working on a voluntary basis at present, he said, “And that just goes to show the interest that people have and it shows that they have lost confidence in what the two major parties have to offer.”

The organising committee, in which there is about 30 people, he said, has a group of dedicated people who are working on the party’s constitution.

“Our manifesto is going to come in 2019, when we are in the campaign mode. In the interim, what we want is to launch the party with its name, colours and symbol and the principles on which we intend to operate. That would speak volumes as to what we intend on representing for the people,” he noted.

In the meantime, Shuman, who is currently in Canada, said he was reaching out to people in the diaspora. “I am trying to do some fundraising, trying to reach out to see how what we are doing correlates with what their views are of Guyana and trying to garner support.”

Asked if there were any immediate concerns on the Guyana’s political front, he said, “The fact that everyone has an idea on how Guyana’s oil wealth should be developed but government having no clear plan, is very troubling.”

He said he does not believe that people should be given handouts as it make them more dependent. The handouts, he said, do not permit intellectual growth and it somewhat stifles the country.

Guyana and Guyanese, he said, “need to look very seriously at a comprehensive educational plan.”

Teachers preparing to take industrial action to back their demands for increases in salary and better working conditions, he said, are things that should have already been agreed on and in place.

“Why are we playing politics and games with our future? That is the big question that needs to be answered,” he said, while noting that it appears that government has no clear plan on how to address the education issues and that every Guyanese should be concerned about that.

Not meeting teachers halfway in their demands, Shuman argued, demonstrates that those elected to office were only looking out for their own self-interest.

While they are busy “eating and drinking” in the Parliament at taxpayers’ expense, he said, teachers are using funds from their meagre resources to buy teaching and learning aids and to travel back and forth from school without any allowances. 

With oil wealth coming and without a clear plan in place by government at this stage, Shuman said, he does not see Guyana moving forward unless some planning involving the people is done.

“We believe it is time that we have a balancing mechanism and that is why we are in this position to bring people to account,” he said. “If we are going to transform Guyana into something post-2020, we need to look at education seriously and how we are going to treat the nation’s future. If we are going to distribute free money, why not provide scholarships and free tertiary education for every student who graduates from high school for them to their highest potentials.”                

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