Presidential candidate of the newly-launched Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Lenox Shuman yesterday announced that he will be giving up his Canadian citizenship to vie for a seat in the National Assembly.
“Because of a firm commitment to making a difference in Guyana and as a parliamentarian who swears to uphold the Constitution of Guyana, my first act cannot be to break the law,” Shuman said last evening to a round of applause at the launch of the LJP at the Georgetown Club, where he also disclosed that the party had already attracted an offer of a $100 million donation but refused it because it was unsure of the source.
The LJP, which Shuman has been instrumental in founding, has as it symbol two hands of different colours clasping. It has identified itself with the colour, blue.
The launch, held in the dining area/ballroom of the Georgetown Club, was packed.
Indigenous citizens comprised the majority of those in attendance. It is expected that given Shuman’s national profile as an indigenous leader, the party could draw significant support from the indigenous communities. Shuman has, however, said the party will be one for all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity.
On the issue of giving up his citizenship, Shuman said he loves Canada because it has given him much that he could never repay. “I am not leaving Canada because of hate or anything of that sort. I am taking this position because I do believe that what I have learnt in one of the best countries in the world can benefit my homeland and it is what is required by the laws of Guyana,” he declared.
The diaspora, he also said, has much to offer and he noted that the country’s two largest parties, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), could not be what they are without it. “The diaspora has a significant role to offer and I think it is time we look at how we could deal with constitutional reform to ensure that our sons and daughters who would have left our shores for whatever purposes are given that opportunity to come back and serve Guyana,” he added.
Shuman, who has held Canadian citizenship for 28 years, was asked how soon he will
be relinquishing his Canadian citizenship. “I really don’t know the process. I have to obviously sit down and have a discussion with the Canadian High Commission and obviously with the Government of Canada,” he said before admitting that it is not a very easy thing to do and it is “a really big issue for a lot of people, friends and family because they think that it is a bit foolish.”
Many people want to go to Canada, he said, “and here I am leaving there and wanting to come here. It is something that people are struggling to understand.”
Shuman said he has reached out to the Canadian High Commissioner but was unable to meet with her but he will reach out to her again.
Unlike Guyanese who can hold dual Guyanese and Canadian citizenships, he said, he understands that there are current Members of Parliament who claim to have dual citizenship with the United States, which is not possible. By swearing allegiance to the US, he said, they would have given up their Guyanese citizenship.
Asked how he became the party’s presidential candidate, he said, he was the lone candidate identified from among a caucus of about 25 core members. “In terms of the prime ministerial candidate it is still evolving,” he added.
‘No small feat’
Asked who finances the LJP, Shuman said, “I cannot disclose that.”
Asked why, he said, “Because our funders are not willing to be identified in that sense.” Some of them have literally, he said, been victimised by the public.
Claiming that the LJP has turned back over $100 million because the party did not know where the money was coming from and if the businesses are legitimate or whether they are trying to launder money through it, Shuman said, “You would have to agree that for a start-up party, to turn away $100 million is no small feat.”
He added, “We have to go through due diligence, then we look at it and if it is in our interest to go that route, but we are not going to take money from everyone.”
Asked further why the secrecy now about the party’s financiers, he said by the time elections come around, the LJP intends to make its funding public. He explained, “We are going to talk to those people so that we could present that, to disclose who the donors are and how the monies are spent. I am sure that on our website there is going to be a constant monitoring of our finances, but I cannot say we are going to show you the balance.”
On partnering with smaller parties, Shuman said the LJP had discussions with A New and United Guyana (ANUG) “but I don’t see it is in our interest to work with them at this point.”
“In terms of smaller parties we invited them to come on but we are not going to go and fold ourselves under them because their ideologies do not align with ours,” he added.
Asked if it is in the interest of the LJP to work with other parties, he said, “We don’t want to be placed in a position like the AFC,” which forgot why it was formed after joining up with A Partnership for National Unity. The LJP, he added, does not want to be subsumed into another party as it has a bold vision for Guyana and it does not see that in either of the two major political parties.
Asked why he did not say at the launch that LJP does not plan to align with either of the two big parties, he said, “I don’t think that it is a point high on our priority list. We want to leave the negativity behind. We want to run a positive campaign based on vision and principles and our commitment.”
To critics who say he was pro-PPP, he said, “I was never aligned to any political party.”
On the party’s programmes and policies, Shuman said, they will be made known in its manifesto. Nevertheless, he did mention that it supports the legalisation of hemp, and that it believes that land should be given to retrenched sugar workers on the condition that they develop them not only for themselves but for the benefit of the country.
The party, he said, “is not a fly-by night party that forms in the rush of election’s fever for personal gain. Rather, our aim is total service to our country and our people.”
The DNA of party, he said, is non-racial, non-sexist, non-homophobic and he pledged that it “will always hold the nation above its interest” and not like some leaders or parties that hold their parties’ interests above the nation.
On allegations resurfacing recently in the state-run Guyana Chronicle that he was involved in molestation of a minor and financial mismanagement during his tenure as Toshao of St Cuthbert’s Mission, Shuman said, “the allegations are baseless.”
Under the PPP, he noted, “the Chronicle was used as a propaganda machine. When in opposition, this [APNU+AFC] administration had complained about it. The tables are literally turned and they are doing the same.”
He said that someone at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs wanted to remove him from office when he was the Toshao of St Cuthbert’s Mission and accused him of molestation of a minor, financial crimes, mismanagement and making decisions outside of the council, triggering an investigation in 2017, during which time he was suspended as toshao. “Those investigations came back with nothing, so I was reinstated in March, 2017. My understanding is that that person now sits on the GNNL [Guyana National Newspapers Limited] board,” he said in an apparent reference to ministerial advisor Mervyn Williams.