With its main goal being shared executive governance to end decades of ethnic insecurity, A New and United Guyana (ANUG) yesterday entered the political fray with what it said was a legally enforceable pledge not to coalesce with any of the major parties to secure a role in government.
“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,” the group said in a statement that accompanied its launching at Moray House in Georgetown yesterday afternoon.
“We will not join either of the political parties to go into government,” one of the founders, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, said at the launch.
Ramkarran, a former executive member of the PPP and former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, was one of six members of the party who said they were disappointed in the failure of the current administration to implement its core manifesto promise to make constitutional changes, and hence the reason for joining with others to form a multi-dimensional party whose main aim is to bring political stability to an unstable political environment by providing the balance of power.
ANUG founding member and former PPP/C government minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said its pledge to never enter a coalition with any other political party or any of its members for the purpose of securing a role in government will be legally enforceable.
To demonstrate the seriousness of those commitments, he said, the public would be able to take the party to court for violating either or both commitments. “If the court rules against us, we make a legal commitment to resign from Parliament,” he said.
Among the founding members at the head table for the launch were Ramkarran, businessman Kian Jabour who holds dual citizenship, having been born in Canada, and businessman Beni Sankar, who said that all his life he has been apolitical. At the 70, Sankar said, he cannot now sit by and allow the political instability to continue because of ethnic polarisation and the failures of governments to live up to their promises.
“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, marginalised 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,” the new party said in its statement.
Attorney Timothy Jonas, who also holds dual citizenship by descent and whose idea it was to form ANUG to fulfill the promise breached by the Alliance For Change (AFC) to bring about a balance of power, said he grew up on one side of the fence but having assessed the situation and not being satisfied with it, he reluctantly became involved. (Jonas is a member of the board of Guyana Publications Incorporated, which publishes Stabroek News.)
Asked about the party’s presidential and prime ministerial candidates, Ramkarran told Stabroek News that the party will meet in another few weeks to determine who its candidates will be. Based on all that is going on in terms of the court cases filed in relation to the no-confidence motion against the government, he said he expects that the elections will be held by mid-year.
In his presentation, Ramkarran noted that Guyana has been politically unstable, and more so since 2011 when the PPP/C did not win an absolute majority and “foolishly insisted” on running a minority government which did not last. This has been continued by the current government taking office with a one-seat majority and pretending that they had a five or ten-seat majority. The same thing that happened to the PPP/C having to demit office in a shortened term, he said, is now happening again.
The instability is likely to continue, he said, unless there is a governance system that eliminates or substantially reduces the potential for corruption or the authorities will buy over the Guyanese people with some economic reforms that will reduce their fears of domination by the other side.
“That is what happens when one side wins; the other side is frightened. When the other side wins, this side is frightened. One of the biggest fears is that one side will share in the economic pie,” he noted.
Nevertheless, he said, when oil begins to flow “the pie will be big enough I believe” for the authorities to bribe the Guyanese people.
“Not that they will not be alert to the bribery, Guyanese people are very intelligent, but it will sap their energy to fight because they will be busy paying the mortgage, finding the best schools for their children, thinking about what motor car to buy and all of these things.”
Energies will be directed elsewhere, he said, “and in the meantime, while your energies or the energies of the Guyanese people are directed elsewhere, the big money is going into the pockets of very few. That is what is going to happen.”
This issue of instability has to be urgently settled before the oil begins to flow, he said.
According to Ramkarran, ANUG’s role is to advocate for constitutional measures to eliminate permanent political instability, which is likely to continue if it is not addressed.
As a third force party, he said, ANUG has made a solemn pledge to join neither of the major political parties to form a government. “If one of the parties gains a plurality and not a majority and they are searching for a party to give them a majority, we will not be there,” he added.
Meanwhile, the party in its statement, said ANUG was now compelled to essentially fulfill the major commitment of constitutional reform to which the PPP, PNCR and AFC paid lip service.
The statement said the coalition government’s special commitment to form a government of national unity to introduce “a meaningful constitutional reform programme geared towards improved governance and fair representation” and the constitutional reform committee which was established to “complete consultation, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly within nine months” has not published a report and its work “has been clearly abandoned.”
The statement said since ANUG members made their intention to form a party known, they have noted that the coalition government has disappointed significant numbers of people including the young people who cannot find employment, lack educational opportunities and who are not part of the decision-making process.
“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 publicised, nationally debated and implemented in the full glare of national attention.”
On the APNU+AFC government’s failure to establish a genuine government of national unity, the statement said, “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.”
ANUG identified youth, reducing poverty, consensus on governing the oil industry and climate change as major areas of focus.
“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,” it said
On corruption, it said both main parties and the AFC have promised an end to corruption but this plague has continued to haunt the country and to deprive 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,” it added.
Even before its launch, ANUG lost one of its key figures when businessman Terrence Campbell pulled out after he was targeted on social media.