Citizens tired of promises, launch political party to contest 2020 polls

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By Bibi Khatoon

A group of citizens, some previously attached to parties in the governing Coalition, say they are tired of promises by leading political parties and have formed what is called The Citizenship Initiative (TCI) to contest the March 02, 2020 elections.

“As a nation, we have put the reins in the hands of two major groups who have shared power for 53 plus years but yet we are still faced with many of the old struggles,” said Shaz Ally, who stopped supporting the PPP and voted for the APNU+AFC Coalition at the 2015 polls.

Ally, a website developer, was the first to publicly say he was behind the initiative. Also prominent in the group is Ruel Johnson, the government’s Cultural Policy Advisor, whose contract expires at the end of the year.

He has used his personal Facebook page to complain about the modus operandi of the Coalition and his own frustrations with the delay in getting the Cultural Policy approved.

Johnson said youths are being treated like babies in the current government and are not being given the opportunity to realise their ideas. Johnson has been a part of the current Government –which campaigned on youth involvement in politics –since its assumption to office in 2015.

The Citizenship Initiative was launched on Thursday evening at Herdmanston Lodge, Queenstown, Georgetown.

Others who came out at the forefront of the Initiative are teacher Rondha-Ann Lam, businessman Alfonso De Armas and Yonnick David, Director of Medical Diagnostic Supplies Guyana Inc.

Member of The Citizenship Initiative, Yonnick David, Director of Medical Diagnostic Supplies Guyana Inc.

“We have been marred by ethnic divisions, limited opportunities for holistic economic development and questionable leadership since then [Independence].

“Granted no leader is perfect and no one Government is expected to solve all of the problems their countries face, at the very least, leaders are expected to tackle the problems they inherited and make them better rather than dragging them out and sometimes even making them worse,” Ally stated.

Ally said there is a poverty of ideas in the Government and recognising this, the group of leaders got together earlier in 2019 and decided to form the political party.

Lam said she wants a Guyana where leaders choose the country over party paramountcy.

With a promise to hold the Government accountable if it is not able to secure a majority vote, The Citizenship Initiative said it is aiming for enough votes to gain at least one seat in the 65-member National Assembly where a majority is needed to approve the passage of legislation.

A section of the gathering at the Party’s launch

The 2011 elections led to a minority Government with the opposition having a one-seat majority, while the 2015 elections led to a one-seat majority Government.

“No one group should claim the right to make decisions for a nation forever. We believe in sharing the responsibility in governance for we know it will take courage, commitment and involvement from all sectors to see the difference we want to see happen,” Ally said.

Under the theme “Mobilising political transformation through civic empowerment,” the party seeks to push civic engagement to bring about change.

Following the signing of the Cummingsburg Accord between the APNU and the promising AFC in 2015 and recent announcements that the Liberty and Justice Party is also engaged in talks with the APNU, some members of the audience raised doubts about the continued independence of The Citizenship Initiative.

However, Johnson said the party has to intention of collating with any other party.

“You cannot say you have goals to change the status quo and then join the status quo,” he said in response to questions raised.

Campaign Financing

Johnson said the party is being funded by its members but is open to accepting campaign financing.

While previous parties have broken promises to put in place laws governing campaign financing, The Citizenship Initiative committed to disclosing its financiers even without laws in place.

The party said it will ensure that its financiers are aware of this before accepting donations but will put code names for those who have valid reasons for non-disclosure.

However, he said the option for codes will not be available to anyone donating more than G$2M.

The party unveiled six pillars under which it will campaign. Those are: (1) International Leadership, (2) Social Cohesion Security and Equality, (3) Infrastructure for the Future, (4) Education and Human Resources Development, (5) Economic Security Diversification and Growth, and (6) Participatory Citizenship, Enhanced Governance and Public Accountability.

The plans will be taken to different communities to allow others to make an input, it noted.

The TCI has not yet selected a Presidential Candidate but said the person will fit the criteria to realistically lead the party.

Trinidadian political activist Nikoli Jeam-Paul Edwards

The Initiative was lauded by Trinidadian political activist Nikoli Jeam-Paul Edwards who called on citizens to have confidence in themselves to take up leadership roles.

“Small things add up and this has to genuinely be a citizenship thing,” he said.

The Citizenship Initiative is now the fourth political party to be launched this year with the intention to contest the upcoming general and regional elections.

The others are: Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) led by former Vice Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Lenox Shuman; A New and United Guyana led by former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran; and the Federal United Party, with Berbice attorneys Chandra Sohan and Ryan Crawford at the forefront.

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