Ralph Ramkarran, Henry Jeffrey front new political party

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Former heavyweight of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Ralph Ramkarran, who is also a former Speaker of the National Assembly, and former PPP government Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey have formed a new political party to contest the next general elections.

Ramkarran had walked away from the PPP with a one-sentence resignation; Jeffrey served as a Minister under four government ministries, under the PPP. The others with them are attorney-at-law Timothy Jonas and businessman, Terrence Campbell.

Both Ramkarran and Jeffrey are columnists with the Stabroek News.

Jeffrey was associated with the PNC – the largest faction in the APNU coalition- and then switched to become a member of the Civic arm of the PPP which won the 1992 general elections under Dr Cheddi Jagan.

At that time, he was appointed Minister of Labour, Housing, Human Services and Social Security.

When Jagan’s widow, Janet, ran for office and won in 1997, she made him Minister of Health and when Bharrat Jagdeo contested and won his first election in 2001, he made Jeffrey Minister of Education.

When Jagdeo won elections again in 2006, Jeffrey was appointed Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation but resigned two years later following a disagreement with the then President.

In 2011, he endorsed the APNU Coalition, which together with the AFC resulted in a minority PPP government.

Ramkarran, a lawyer who became a Senior Counsel in 1996, served as Speaker of the National Assembly from 2001- 2011. His son, Kamal, is the current President of the Guyana Bar Association.

Ramkarran currently sits at the helm of the Cameron & Shepherd, Guyana’s oldest law firm, which he joined in 1977.

He served at the highest level of the PPP since the mid-1970s.

His father, Boysie Ramkarran, was a powerful member of the PPP, serving three times under PPP governments in the early 1960s when Guyana was still under the British. The elder Ramkarran also served as General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

In the mid-1990s, Ramkarran also served as the Guyana Facilitator to the United Nations Good Officer Process under the Geneva Agreement to find a solution to the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.

On June 29, 2012, at an executive party meeting, he said he was met with hostilities after he wrote an article about corruption.

At that meeting, he claimed he was “gratuitously and irrelevantly accused of being untrustworthy” and that “after forty years in the leadership of the PPP, such an accusation was about as much as I could bear.”

He resigned from the PPP the following day.

Timothy Jonas, a prominent attorney-at-law, served twice as President of the Guyana Bar Association, the last being in 2011.

Timothy Jonas

Recently, he rejected an attempt by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to be nominated as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.

His wife, Nadia Sagar, also an attorney and former head of the Transparency Institute, was nominated for the position, but President David Granger rejected her as well as all of the other nominees submitted by Jagdeo.

In mid-2017, Jonas, his wife, and others formed a group called RISE, which they said would advocate for constitutional reform.

Businessman Terrence Campbell was among those who emerged at the forefront of RISE.

Terrence Campbell

At the time of the formation of RISE, he said: “I did speak to the fact that we would like to see the electoral space of our democracy reinvigorated and the members of RISE that I know are people of integrity, who are post-racial and personally I would like to see them- regardless of whether their objectives are achieved or not- I would like to see them get involved and all of you get involved in the political space post 2020 or post constitutional reform.”

He also said then: “…we are all political animals; we are here because we are interested in politics.”

Campbell was born on the Essequibo Coast and pursued a law degree but could not complete it because of financial constraints.

Later, he obtained a Masters Degree in International Business at the University of Westminster. He became a resident of the United States and moved there in September 1997.

He had applied to do a Doctorate in International Business and Economics at Pace University but returned to Guyana in 1999 to revive his car rental business and the courier service Fedex Guyana.

On his return, he formed an insurance Brokerage company called Apex, for which he is a consultant.

In 2005, he landed the Church’s Chicken franchise, which has over a dozen stores across Guyana; that franchise was followed Mario’s Pizza, Dairy Queen and Quiznos. Recently, his company Camex added the Pollo Tropical brand to the local market.

The four men announced the formation of the party on Christmas Day.

Please see below their full statement:

We are four Guyanese concerned citizens who have been engaged in discussions for the better part of this year on what we can do, if anything, to assist in resolving the difficult problems of moving Guyana forward in harmony and for the benefit of all our people. We entered our discussions without any preconceived notions of what could be done, if anything.

The majority of the electorate, albeit a bare majority, welcomed the election of the new APNU+AFC government in 2015 and many looked forward to a change, not only in policies but also in a reduction of the divisions that had beset our country for decades. We were all very impressed with the APNU+AFC manifesto promise in 2015 to implement reforms to our Constitution that would allow separate presidential elections, the prime minister coming from the party obtaining the second highest votes, and each party securing 15 percent or more votes to have a share in the Government. We believed that this accorded with the broad sentiments and interests of the Guyanese people and that they would wholeheartedly support such changes. We believed that such changes would have ended adversarial politics in Guyana and would have ensured that the interests of every ethnic group are protected. We noted that the Opposition clearly stated that it was not opposed to constitutional reform and we were therefore hopeful that it would have embraced this process.

By the time we began our discussions it had become clear that the Government had no intention of honouring its election promise of constitutional reform. As a result of this failure, politics as usual has continued, thereby perpetuating the divisions even as Guyana has discovered petroleum resources that will transform our country. The ethno-political discord has continued, the sterile political differences have dominated, mutual allegations of corruption flow continuously, ethnic discrimination is alleged, no political agreements of consequence have emerged and the continuation of political instability which has long inhibited economic development has continued.

With the experience of two unstable governments, the continuation of the internecine discord reflective of ethno-political disputes and need for a higher degree of political unity to deal with the enormous and urgent problems of devising systems and structures to cope with and manage the new petroleum industry, we believe that the urgent necessity to reform governance mechanisms to reflect inclusive governance is self-evident and is the most urgent issue now facing the Guyanese people.

We decided that the only way in which we can effectively promote our vision for Guyana and to effect the changes we think are necessary, is to enter the political process and to utilize the synergies within it to achieve our objectives. We therefore decided to establish a new political party to be called A NEW AND UNITED GUYANA. Its primary and immediate, though not sole, objective, is to promote constitutional reform leading to inclusive governance. We also have a full menu of proposals to deal with all aspects of governance and have been working on those to be published at an appropriate time. We will announce those proposals and seek the support of the Guyanese people for them in the election campaign. We will implement them if the Guyanese people elect us to office. In relation to constitutional reform, we believe that the APNU+AFC manifesto proposals are a good starting point for national debate. We will consider our own proposals at a later date and in doing so will rely on a free debate among the Guyanese people.

We are very conscious of the history of third parties in Guyana. While we hope to obtain the confidence of the Guyanese people at the forthcoming elections to become the majority party, or one holding the plurality, we understand that for the time being we will be categorized as a third party with the usual negative connotations, having regard to the history of the TUF, and more recently, the AFC. We would like to assure the Guyanese people that, if we do not secure a majority or plurality of votes at the elections, under no circumstance will we ever join in a coalition with either of the major parties to sustain it in office or for ourselves to gain political office or positions. We will offer to make this promise justiciable so that if we violate it we can be taken to court. We are aware that such promises have been made before. It was made by a party that predicted that it will become “dead meat” if it aligned itself with one of the major parties. That prediction has come through. And it will come through for our party if we do the same.

We are not in this for political or financial gain or office. We are in it for bringing about the unity of the Guyanese people by ensuring that all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity, and all young people, would feel secure in the expectation that their interests and welfare will be protected. This would be so because on our proposals, the major political parties, hopefully including our own, which are supported by the vast majority of Guyanese, will be part of the government defending their interests. Guyanese who support one of the major parties, therefore, should feel no sense of betrayal of their party of preference by supporting our Party because our struggle is to get all major parties participating in the government.

We expected elections sometime next year and were only in the preparatory stages of establishing our party. We accept the need to broaden our representation to include all ethnicities, genders, religions and youth in the party and its leadership and will work towards that end. We expect a large influx of friends, well-wishers and young people and from among the tens of thousands of Guyanese who are dissatisfied and are looking for leadership. We expect to provide a political home for all Guyanese. We invite all civil society organisations and other political groups and parties to support our agenda. We have been in discussions with leaders of the Liberal and Justice Party. We look forward to more discussions to develop close cooperation. It is because of the fast moving events that we now take the opportunity to make this announcement at this time.

We wish the Guyanese people a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

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