Coalition seeks alliance with Shuman’s party to pull Amerindian votes
…as coalition still to decide on Granger’s running mate
The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is currently in “exploratory” talks with Indigenous Leader Lenox Shuman’s party – the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) – which is being seen as a move to attract Amerindian voters.
Leader of the APNU, President David Granger, on Wednesday confirmed that he has been in preliminary exploratory talks with Shuman, a former Toshao of St Cuthbert’s Mission and former Vice Chair of the National Toshaos Council.
“We’re looking for common ground, we’re looking for areas of convergence. The policy of A Partnership for National Unity is that we are inclusionary and we welcome other parties who share our objectives to develop Guyana, Guyana’s children, Guyana’s environment. Mr Shuman has given me the assurance that, you know, there are areas of convergence between the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and what he thinks the APNU stands for,” he told reporters.
According to Granger, while Shuman is convinced that there is a wide area of convergence between the policies of the two parties, no actual agreement has been made by the two sides.
It was reported that Shuman says he will be doing a final analysis before making any decision on possibly coalescing with other parties. He has reportedly held talks with the other political parties.
He contends that his intention is not to get positions but to further development for a better Guyana. He also wants to ensure that the resources from the impending oil and gas be equally distributed among all Guyanese, especially the Indigenous people.
Despite this position, Shuman is looking to join forces with a party whose Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott back in 2017 said Amerindians were “avaricious” since they had too much land and threatened that they would not benefit from the new oil revenues –something which he still refuses to apologise for to date.
Nevertheless, the LJP and APNU are expected to meet again sometime this month.
The APNU is a five-party alliance led by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and comprises of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Justice for All Party (JFAP), National Front Alliance (NFA) and the Guyana Action Party (GAP).
The PNC-led APNU has managed to pull in most small parties in Guyana, including the country’s largest third force – the Alliance for Change (AFC) – which it coalesced with back in 2015 to get into office.
In fact, these talks between LJP and the APNU come even as the APNU is in the process of reviewing the Cummingsburg Accord, which was signed in 2015, with its minority coalition partner AFC.
“We’re multi-tasking… The APNU is looking after its relation with the Alliance for Change as well as the proposal relation with the Liberty and Justice Party,” Granger told reporters on Wednesday.
With regards to ongoing renegotiation process with the AFC, the APNU leader noted they have already completed the first step in a three-stage process, that is, agreeing to a set of joint core principles.
He previously revealed that the five partners within the APNU fraction compiled a list of core principles which included issues surrounding Indigenous affairs and cash grants from oil revenues, among others. These have been accepted by the AFC.
Going forward now, Granger said that the committee is currently at the stage of ironing the process to review the Accord. Following this, they will establish a joint manifesto for next year’s March 2 General and Regional Elections.
However, an issue that has been stirring much controversy in recent times is the APNU leader’s running mate for the upcoming polls. Granger will be returning as the APNU’s Presidential Candidate.
The Cummingsburg Accord stipulates that the APNU gets the Presidential Candidate and the AFC will provide the prime ministerial candidate. As such, the minority party has elected its leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, to run alongside Granger at next year’s elections.
But while Ramjattan and the AFC is confident that he will be running as the PM candidate, the APNU is yet to accept his candidacy. The majority coalition party said that this will have to be discussed by the two coalition partners.
According to Granger on Wednesday, this topic is yet to come up for discussion.
“It is not something that has been discussed. I pointed out, previously, that we look at principles before personalities; it is important we get the principles, and we’ve hammered out the core principles. We’re now hammering out the revision of the Cummingsburg Accord and then we’ll come to personalities in due course. We’re not in a hurry,” he asserted.
Since coming into office after joining forces with the APNU, the minority AFC has been heavily criticised for the submissive role it has been playing, especially when it comes to key national issues.