Decision to launch new party took ‘courage,’ ‘insanity’ amidst divisive politics

-ANUG founder

The absence of women was notable at the launch of the ANUG. (Photo by Terrence Thompson)

“No one in their right mind is going to happily come to face the hurricane that is politics in Guyana—the mudslinging, the ugliness, the unfair accusations, the cross accusations and the skepticism from the voters who are not happy. Yet, when they see a third party, when they see a suggestion that someone wants to make a change, they say, ‘This is an opportunist,’”  co-founder of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) Timothy Jonas told the party’s launch at Moray House, Georgetown on Friday.   

At the time, he was giving his reasons for becoming politically involved.

“I am involved very reluctantly,” Jonas admitted.

“People sit in corner shop, clubs and with neighbours and complain about the current situation in which the government has failed to fulfil its manifesto promises to change the political landscape through constitutional reform to reflect a cohesive society,” he said, but “no one has taken the step to say we will do something about it.”

He added that it was not a criticism because he could empathise.

“To take the step to go out into the public, to crawl out from your comfortable hiding place and to face the ugliness that is our politics, is a step that requires possibly a bit of courage but certainly a bit of insanity,” Jonas stated.

On his reason for becoming involved politically, Jonas said, Guyanese have been skeptical, jaded and unhappy for so long although they sit down as people of one ethnicity next to another ethnicity without thinking about it.

“Yet, every five years we have a fight. The reason we have a fight is not because we are happy with our leadership. It is because we are unhappy with our leadership. We console ourselves by telling ourselves our folks are better than the other folks and the other folks are worse than ours,” Jonas stated. That has created a vicious cycle in which, he said, there is no reason for discussions, there is no rational consensus. “There is just noise, mayhem and anger,” he said.

He added that he could not happily anticipate a situation in 2019 or 2020 to go to a polling station to vote and see only two places to put his X, both representing the PPP and the PNCR, which he said have caused Guyana much harm for 50 years.

“Like it or lump it,” he said, “they have been the cause of our division. The individuals in the party are not to be blamed. I grew up on one side of the fence. It was only as an adult I was able to see that my brother (cricketer Shivnarine) Chanderpaul loves Guyana just as my brother (cricketer Carl) Hooper.” 

He added, “I cannot go to a polling station and see a black party and a brown party.”    

‘Smarter than the men’

Asked about the absence of women at the head table, at which six men sat, Jonas said it was not because women do not support the party and its immediate objectives, but because the women “were smarter than the men.”

Women, he noted, represent more than half the population.

When the women he approached “with the grand opportunity to aggrandise themselves and go to the front and seek power because oil is coming, all of them pragmatically, practically, quite correctly informed us that while they support us,” they said they had jobs or small businesses and could not afford being victimised at this time for various reasons.

The women at this stage not being at the forefront, he said, did not mean that the newly-formed ANUG was without the support of women. Most of the work in the organisation of the launch, he said, was done by women, some of whom were in the audience.

On the issue of dual citizenship, which was brought to the fore by expelled Alliance For Change MP Charrandas Persaud, who holds dual citizenship and who voted against the government in a no confidence motion on December 21, 2018, Jonas admitted that he is Guyanese by birth and British by descent.

Noting that businessman Kian Jabour, another founder member of ANUG, is a Guyanese who was born in Canada, Jonas said the validity of his and Jabour’s citizenship will be questioned if they are to take public office. 

On the “grey area” about whether someone who is a citizen of another country, not by his own act or by descent, runs afoul of the constitution, he said, “Insofar as there is a grey area, no one sitting at this table will present himself as eligible to go into Parliament.” If there needs to be a decision by the court, he said, “that decision will be had before anyone sitting here who may fall afoul of the provision, goes into Parliament.”

Those who were former Members of Parliament and were now leaders of ANUG, he informed, do not hold dual citizenship.

Dilemma

On the issue of campaign finance and financing of ANUG, Jonas said, “So far no finance has been received from any external source. All monies spent so far have come from our pockets.” Some businessmen and other people who want to help, he said, “have come forward, very generously, to make offers.”

Like the women who support the new party, he said, “They want anonymity.” They do not want either the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) or the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) to know that they are helping ANUG, he said.

“They do not want their faces known. They do not want us to say who they are. That presents a dilemma.”

However, he said, when and if ANUG receives funds, the decision is to, until finance campaign legislation is in place, publish on its Facebook page every donation received, the amount and the date.

“That way the person who gives the donation can be satisfied that it is transparently accounted for. He sees the figure and not his name. We will publish our expenditure, so that hopefully that establishes a system of financial transparency. That protects those who show goodwill but also gives the transparency in any effort like ours,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Jabour said he was born in Canada and at three-years-old, he moved with his parents to Guyana, where he attended both primary and secondary schools. Due to financial constraints, he relocated to Canada to attend college, then moved back to Guyana at age 20.

He has had some successes and failures in business he said, and has noted the lack of funding for small businesses and lack of support for young entrepreneurs, which is a situation that he said needs to be corrected.

Having invested in agriculture, he said, he can see the needs of many people since embarking on the agricultural journey and he would like to make a difference to their lives. “I personally am tired of all the empty promises with no action. So I put myself out there to make an impact. I want to be an example to everyone who is fearful.”

He said he “may not be as distinguished or politically adept” as his colleagues, “but I do know what it is to want to make a difference.”

 

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