Appealing to citizens to help it create a new governance system where the main parties share executive power, A New and United Guyana (ANUG) was this afternoon launched at Moray House pledging to be held legally accountable for its commitments and declaring that corruption will be tackled by calling in the United Nations and Transparency International.
Unveiled on Christmas Day with its key figures including Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, former minister Henry Jeffrey and attorney Timothy Jonas, ANUG now faces the challenge of finding purchase in the public particularly if general elections are to be held by the end of March this year following the successful motion of no confidence against the APNU+AFC government.
In a detailed statement at the launching this afternoon, ANUG identified youth, reducing poverty, consensus on governing the oil industry and climate change as major areas of focus.
Even before its launch, ANUG lost one of its key figures when businessman Terrence Campbell pulled out after he was targeted on social media. Businessman Beni Sankar has since been announced as a member of the steering committee.
In its statement today, ANUG pledged never to enter a coalition with any other political party or any of its members for the purpose of securing a role in government and said shared executive power will be its utmost priority.
A NEW AND UNITED GUYANA
We announce the formation of a political party to be called A New and United Guyana (ANUG). A Steering Committee has been established originally comprising in alphabetical order: Kian Jabour, businessman, Henry Jeffrey, political scientist; Timothy Jonas, lawyer Beni Sankar, businessman, and Ralph Ramkarran, lawyer. We are the first members of the A New and United Guyana and it is now open for membership. We have been inundated with expressions of support and goodwill.
Failed Promises, Political Loyalties and the Way Forward
The decision to launch a new political party, A New and United Guyana, emerged after several months of discussions between ourselves and others which resulted from our disappointment with the failure of the present regime to implement its core manifesto promise to make constitutional change. The manifesto promised, among other things, to establish a genuine government of national unity. We concluded that there needs to be an active and persistent political catalyst directed towards ending the gridlock caused by the racial/ethnic alliances that have plagued Guyana for all of the 70 or so years of its modern political history. We assessed that we have no other alternative than to call upon the people of Guyana to support another political party to bring about these needed changes.
No one can escape the reality that the vast majority of the electorate is already loyal to one of the two major ethnic parties, which they support in the belief that they gain some sort of protection if their party is in office. The reality is that when one party is in office the other section of the electorate feels abandoned, marginalized and discriminated against. We believe that the only solution is to create a system where both political parties share executive power so that all Guyanese can move forward in confidence that their combined interests are protected. The two main political parties are unwilling to take these steps, despite decades of promises by both of them. Only a separate political movement, a third party, can motivate them to do so.
Assist Us to Create a New Constitutional System
In calling on the electorate to support A New and United Guyana, we are in effect calling on you to assist us to create a constitutional system that will bring your ethnic parties to share executive power and give you confidence that a system of governance will be introduced which protects your interests.
Our political history has been characterized by high and low levels of ethnic confrontations, the loss of hundreds of lives, and a professional migration rate that is arguably the highest in the world. Notwithstanding the abundance of natural and human resources: gold, diamond, bauxite, agriculture, forest, fishing and more, this political stalemate has left Guyana the poorest country in the Caribbean Community and among the poorest three in the Northern hemisphere.
Our people who have left these shores have repeatedly demonstrated that it is only in Guyana that Guyanese appear less hardworking with less ambition for personal and family development. Outside of Guyana, Guyanese thrive. Therefore, the problem is rooted in Guyana and since we are fortunate not to be plagued by the persistent natural disasters of our Caribbean neighbours, and are endowed with natural resources, the problem clearly is with our social/political environment that consists of a mismatch between our ethnic configuration. Two large ethnic groups consisting of over 75% of the voting population and a competitive political system make the political context extremely toxic. This kind of environment rewards ethnic loyalty at the ballot box and makes our politicians ethnic entrepreneurs.
There are constitutional ways out of this dilemma. Elsewhere it usually takes civil wars and social upheavals to make politicians see sense and try other more inclusive methods of managing their countries. We believe that Guyanese have already paid the human and material price and ignorance can no longer be the excuse. So we stand ready with an agenda to radically reform the political system under which we live and establish a system that will give all ethnicities an equitable constitutional stake in executive decision-making and implementation.
Ironically, we are now compelled to form a political party to essentially fulfill the major commitment of Constitutional Reform to which both parties pay lip service but neither party has demonstrated that it is serious about. By the first item stated in its Manifesto’s list of priorities the coalition made a special commitment to the formation of a government of National Unity to implement the following measures during its term in office: “The introduction of a meaningful Constitutional Reform programme geared towards improved governance and fair representation.” Later in the document it committed that a constitutional reform committee would have been given the mandate to “complete consultation, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly within nine months.” Such a committee was appointed but its report has not been published and work has been clearly abandoned.
Politicians’ promises to the Guyanese people must mean something and the people should have some way of enforcing promises. In order to demonstrate that we are not just another political party and that we are serious about what we say, we now make two main commitments. (1) Our party undertakes that it will never enter a coalition with any other political party or any of its members for the purpose of securing a role in government. (2) From the first day of taking constitutional office, or being able to otherwise influence governmental policy, we will work to establish shared executive power and within one month of being able to do so we will set about the constitutional reform process to make the necessary changes in the constitution.
We Will be Legally Bound by Our Promises
In order to demonstrate the seriousness of our commitments, our respect for solemn undertakings to the Guyanese people and the political innovations that our unique situation requires, we hereby make our two main commitments legally enforceable. By this we mean that any citizen or group of citizens will be able to go to the courts for the appropriate declarations that we have violated either or both commitments. If the court rules against us we make a legal commitment to resign from Parliament.
Opportunities for Youth
While our flagship issue is inclusive executive power, A New and United Guyana is not a one-dimensional party. From the goodwill we have received since stating our intention to form a party, we have learnt that the coalition government has disappointed significant numbers of persons in many other ways. For example, young people have been excluded from jobs and from decision-making. Policies for skills development, education and employment opportunities have been promised by both parties now and in the past. These promises have not been fulfilled or have been totally inadequate or have simply not worked. Our party will pay special attention and develop a special relationship with our youths to whom the nation has a special responsibility to prepare for the future. Proposals for youth development will be developed by youth themselves, will be nationally publicized, nationally debated and implemented in the full glare of national attention.
Our party is conscious of the devastation that has been visited on communities where workers have been retrenched or for other reasons have lost their jobs in the sugar industry, agriculture, mining, forestry or as a result of the slowdown in the economy. Consequent upon these events, communities have imploded, unemployment has soared, opportunities have diminished and poverty has increased. Immediate measures specific to suffering communities, worked out after consulting with them, will be put in place to alleviate their immediate conditions until permanent solutions in the form of employment opportunities are developed.
Guyana is about to embark on a new era of oil production. Everyone recognizes the enormous challenges that are already confronting the country as well as the woeful lack of urgency already displayed in meeting the challenges. Urgent tasks remain unfulfilled. Lack of capacity in government departments has resulted in an unacceptable level of delay and controversy in vital decision-making and in recruiting and deploying expertise in a timely manner. Our party’s objective would be to seek to develop a national consensus on the main aspects of the development of the industry and consultation on implementation and other aspects. Guyana’s adversarial political system inhibits consensus. On the rare occasions that consensus is sought, it invariably ends in controversy. We intend to break this cycle.
Oil, the Economy and the Challenges Ahead
Guyana’s economy has shown a sharp decline over the past three years resulting in lost jobs, higher taxes and increased cost of living, all heavy burdens on working people and a brake on investment and business development, which is the major way to create jobs and development. Ever increasing ways are sought by the government to withdraw money from the economy that could otherwise have been spent to sustain investment while public spending and government indebtedness has soared. With the new era of oil production, we believe that Guyana urgently needs a new era in governance. It has been clear for a long time that the occupation of the seat of government by one ethnic party alone is a prescription for the country being unable to achieve its full potential. Our intention is to provide a platform for the development of a new path forward for Guyana and with the support of the electorate, to implement the measures proposed.
In the immediate future, programmes have to be implemented for the deployment of resources to ensure that the Guyanese people obtain immediate relief from economic hardships. Those living in poverty and those who are struggling to make ends meet, which account for about 30 percent of our population, will look forward to priority support. We intend to make sure that they are accorded their due. Legal entitlements to workers will be honoured. Obstacles to business development will be removed and incentives restored.
For the further protection of the Guyanese people, our Party intends to end the mutual accusations about corruption and do something about it. Both main parties and the AFC have promised an end to corruption but this plague has continued to haunt us and to deprive the Guyanese of billions of dollars which should have been devoted to their welfare. It sustains immorality and cynicism in the society. We intend, as a matter of urgency, to seek advice as to best practices from Transparency International and the United Nations, who both have wide, international experience and expertise in dealing with corruption prevention. Codes of conduct for government and state officials will be enshrined in law rather than promulgated for voluntary observance.
The Guyanese nation also need protection from climate change. In the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties held in Paris in December 2015, Guyana in its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) made a commitment ‘to eliminating our near complete dependence on fossil fuels. Given our solar, wind and hydropower potential and relatively small national demand, we believe that with adequate and timely financial support, Guyana can develop renewable power supply for most of its needs by 2025.’ Since the discovery of oil and gas the government has dropped the Amaila project and is talking about the use of gas for its energy needs. Given that the country is also set to be a substantial producer of fossil fuels by 2020, in would appear that instead of maintaining and increasing its ambition the Guyana government is reducing its ambition. ANUG takes seriously the issue of climate change and our climate commitment, and we are committed will take the best way forward in consultation with stakeholders and our international partners.
Why We Are Different
The public may well ask: We have had new parties before. Some have failed the Guyanese people. Others were rejected. What makes you different?
In the past, the successful new parties have sought to primarily target the party in power with the intention of removing it from office. These parties, particularly the United Force (UF) and Alliance For Change (AFC), ended up in coalitions and in government. Both ended up as weakened political appendages. The Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) criticized both main parties as not worthy of support. It fell by the wayside. This is not a path that we will take.
Our policy is not to replace the parties merely because they are equally bad. Our policy is to change the system so that the two main parties, and our own if we win the majority or a plurality, will work in a constitutional framework that demands inclusion and cooperation. Both main parties have recognized the logic of our ethno-political dilemma that forces policies of domination. This in turn leads to marginalization and discrimination or accusations of such by each side when not in government.
The PPP recognised this and promised in 1991 to change it by constitutional reform. The PNCR recognized it in 2002 and APNU+AFC promised in 2015 to similarly change it. These promises were not fulfilled. All experts have concluded that the political instability that is created by these failures restricts social and political development. It has and will now continue to allow the growth of corruption.
The Dangers of Doing Nothing
This political system is no longer credible and no longer serves the interests of Guyana and of the Guyanese people. We accept the challenge to create a constitutional system where both major parties and ourselves, if the Guyanese people place their confidence in us, will embrace the necessity of working together and where ethnic groups will feel that their interests are being or will be protected.
The dangers of allowing the current political and constitutional systems to remain in place have been demonstrated for all to see, with the no confidence vote on December 21. Unless there are changes, the most likely outcome of elections will result in success by slim margins or by plurality. In the latter case in 2011 the largest party refused to reach out in coalition with one of the opposition parties. The result was unstable government between 2011 and 2015. The government in 2015 had one seat more than the opposition. The result has been its defeat by a no confidence vote. Currently, tensions are high as the Guyanese people await decisions by the courts which, if their final conclusion is that the no confidence vote is valid and lawful, will result in too little time remaining for elections to be held. In the meantime, the Guyanese people are divided, investors are nervous, the Venezuelan Government is emboldened and everybody loses. We advocate constitutional measures that will eliminate this state of permanent instability which is likely to continue if it is not addressed.
The Promise of a New and United Guyana
By voting for A New and United Guyana, the electorate will ensure the existence of a government over which they have not only political but legal leverage over its core commitments. The inclusive framework we will establish will banish tendencies towards domination and dictatorship and will create an inclusive governance arrangement consisting of all political parties above an agreed level of support. This would lead to the broad acceptance of political, economic and social policies and economic and social progress will be accelerated. Ethnic communities will feel safe and secure in the knowledge that they will have a seat at the table and that their interests are being protected.
A New and United Guyana represents the interests of all Guyanese. Join us.
January 18, 2019