ANUG assures electoral fight was one of principle and not of support for the PPP
By Kurt Campbell
As Guyanese relive the dreadful months that followed the March 2020 polls amid an attempt by the APNU+AFC Coalition to rig those elections that eventually prolonged for five long months until Dr. Irfaan Ali was finally declared President in August 2020, A New and United Guyana (ANUG) – a loud voice in the cry for fairness at the time – now assures that its fight was one tied up in principle and not one of support for the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).
The political party, days after the re-election of attorney Timothy Jonas as its Chairman, says it holds true to its founding ideals to remain an independent political force that would chart a course of change from the decades of a racial approach to politics.
During an interview with the News Room on Friday, Jonas was keen to restate that position in dismissal that ANUG would in the future form a coalition or accept any form of cooperation with the PPP or the APNU+AFC Coalition.
“We are not going to hold hands and go arm-in-arm with any of the two large parties. We sided and took the moral position that elections must be fair.
“I can’t even say that is a promise that is hard to keep because the history of Guyana shows that when a small party makes that mistake, they get swallowed up,” Jonas said.
The ANUG Chairman recalled the joining of political strength between Peter D’Aguiar, a leading businessman and leader of a third political force at the time with former President, the late L.F.S Burnham’s party in the 1960s and more recently the joining of forces between the Alliance for Change (AFC) and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
“Neither of them [the United Force and the AFC] exist anymore in any meaningful sense… for self-preservation alone, I will be an idiot to try and convince ANUG to do that,” Jonas added.
He believes it would simply be suicide for ANUG to throw its support wholeheartedly behind any of the two major political parties.
Jonas said if the APNU+AFC had won the March 2020 polls then ANUG would have similarly fought just as hard for the Coalition to be in government amid a bold statement that ANUG’s representation is for the “thinking voter” and not “party loyalists”.
“When you support the PPP to get the fair election, man, half the country smiling at you and shaking your hand on the road and tell you what a good thing you are doing. When you criticize the PPP, the other half come and says ‘I like what you are saying.’
“The problem is that you have not persuaded party loyalists from either side of the error in their ways… I’m holding out for the independent thinkers,” a grinning Jonas asserted.
He said ANUG was created to try to find a middle ground in an attempt to appease the polarisation of the two main ethnic groups. He believes that the wind of change is upon Guyana with more thinking voters who have risen above ethnic alliances.
The swing vote he calls it, people who are now voting on principles and policies.
Jonas recalled the PPP/C’s minority government in 2011 which later led to a change in government in 2015 and when the APNU+AFC Coalition government didn’t know any better, a return of the PPP/C to government.
“It shows that the independent voter has the power to effect a real change… We are no longer moribund by ethnic politics because we now have that swing vote… our intention is to galvanise and unify those voters,” he added.
The ANUG Chairman believes independent political forces like ANUG, regardless of how small, can push for an independent Parliament where the Westminster system can work as it should and the entire country can feel represented rather than half.
“Parliament has no power independent of the government… you can talk until you are blue in the face, you can kick and scream and rant. You can stage walkouts; you can insult the Speaker of the House until he sanctions you and when you’ve done all of that, the government MPS with its majority will vote the government line.
“We have seen with the changes of government in recent years that half of the country’s interest is represented and lip service is paid to national unity,” Jonas said amid a strong belief that the answer is an independent parliament, pushing for an inclusive system of governance.
“The government represents half of Guyana, the government does not represent the people of Guyana… and unless the opposition, whichever opposition it is, is allowed to be involved, the people of Guyana will not be represented by our leaders,” he added.
ANUG currently makes up the Parliamentary opposition through a joinder arrangement with two other political parties that contested the 2020 elections – A New Movement and the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP).
The LJP Leader, Lenox Shuman currently represents the parties in the House but an ANUG representative is expected to replace him sometime next year.
Jonas said while ANUG is not keen on retaining the Deputy Speaker post which Shuman now holds, it intends to bring to Parliament a transformative legislative agenda.
“We will send a rep. next year. When that happens, we are going to take a slightly different approach from Mr. Shuman… We will be making proposals for legislative reform.
“Our proposals will be explained and rationalised and we will see how they are dealt with,” Jonas explained.
He said in a general sense, the fight then will be for more inclusion of the political and parliamentary opposition.
“We will propose a change in legislation that mandates that the opposition have a say on key agencies like the Petroleum Commission, the Housing Board.”
Jonas believes that the future of Guyana should see no opposition party excluded from the decision-making process.