‘FED-UP’ Ber­bice at­tor­neys launch new po­lit­i­cal party

-to push for new elec­toral sys­tem, fed­eral gov’t

Stabroek News - - Front Page - By Bebi Oos­man

The Fed­eral United Party (FED-UP), a new po­lit­i­cal party, was launched yes­ter­day by three Ber­bice at­tor­neys, who said they would be cam­paign­ing for re­forms to Guyana’s elec­toral sys­tem to en­sure that par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives are di­rectly elected by vot­ers, and the cre­ation of a fed­eral sys­tem of gov­ern­ment.

Head­ing the party are at­tor­neys Chan­dra So­han, Ryan Craw­ford and Ho­ra­tio Ed­mon­son.

So­han, a for­mer mag­is­trate, at the launch yes­ter­day af­ter­noon at the Cen­tral Coren­tyne Cham­ber of Com­merce build­ing in Rose Hall Town, Coren­tyne, said the party has been in the works for a few years. He said af­ter they as­sessed where the coun­try is and where it is head­ing, they de­cided that it was time for a new party, which led to them form­ing FED-UP.

“When we look where Guyana is com­pared to where other coun­tries are, we re­ally haven’t made no progress in this coun­try,” he said. “At one point in time, we felt dis­gusted with what we see and… we got more dis­gusted… we are now just fed up,” he added.

He said af­ter talk­ing with cit­i­zens, they dis­cov­ered that they are fed up too. “We are of the strong be­lief that the only way to ad­vance this coun­try is by way of elec­toral re­form and to have con­sti­tu­tional re­form. We have just come out of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions and we have seen that the con­stituency sys­tem still pre­vails in this coun­try. The con­stituency sys­tem is one which al­lows ev­ery per­son to have a say im­me­di­ately in terms of who they want to be their rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment level. We are now say­ing that is what we want to be the elec­toral sys­tem na­tion­ally,” he de­clared.

De­scrib­ing a first-past­the-post elec­toral sys­tem, So­han stated that his party is sug­gest­ing that the coun­try be di­vided into 65 con­stituen­cies, with ev­ery party be­ing al­lowed to con­test con­stituen­cies of their

choice “and if you should win your con­stituen­cies, you go to par­lia­ment.”

He added, “The sys­tem which we have now al­lows each po­lit­i­cal party to put up a slate of what­ever num­ber of can­di­dates they want and then what­ever (num­ber of) seats is al­lot­ted to that party, they choose from that list of can­di­dates who they want to go to par­lia­ment.”

So­han ar­gued that cit­i­zens are not sat­is­fied with the cur­rent elec­toral sys­tem, which sees 40 of the 65 mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly elected via pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the re­main­der from the 10 re­gions, which are used as con­stituen­cies.

Fur­ther, he said his party will be ad­vo­cat­ing for a fed­eral sys­tem where the coun­try is di­vided into three coun­ties, with each hav­ing its own ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“That is noth­ing new to us be­cause we have the re­gional sys­tem. All we are talk­ing about now is merg­ing the re­gions into big­ger re­gions and then those re­gions will be­come the three coun­ties where we can have a dif­fer­ent level of gov­er­nance sim­i­lar to what we have in the re­gional sys­tem, but yet the ob­jec­tive now is to take away the power or the con­trol of cen­tral gov­ern­ment as we have to­day to the ex­tent that it means re­duced power to cen­tral gov­ern­ment that we have right now,” he as­serted.

So­han said they are hop­ing to get “all the votes in Re­gion Five and Six” so as to se­cure some seven seats in Par­lia­ment, which would ex­pe­dite their ad­vo­cacy.

‘No de­vel­op­ment’

Fo­cus­ing on Ber­bice, So­han charged that not much has been done for the an­cient county for many years. “There is no de­vel­op­ment com­ing to Ber­bice. Ber­bice has been sti­fled for as long as we can re­mem­ber. The only time we hear any­body pay­ing any in­ter­est to Ber­bice is dur­ing elec­tion time and right af­ter that Ber­bice is for­got­ten,” he said.

As such, the party’s first step will be to work to­wards tak­ing con­trol of Ber­bice, “and that will be part of the ob­jec­tive which we believe we can be able to achieve.” He ex­plained, “If we were to merge Re­gion Five and Six for the county of Ber­bice, we are say­ing we can do a lot more with a con­stituency sys­tem and with con­trol over Ber­bice.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, he pointed out that ev­ery year, hun­dreds of stu­dents grad­u­ate from the Uni­ver­sity of Guyana’s Tain Cam­pus but em­ploy­ment cre­ation within the county re­mains in­ad­e­quate. He said more em­pha­sis must be placed on cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment for the youths through­out the coun­try as he noted that the lack of jobs has led to them flee­ing from Guyana “be­cause they have no other op­tion.”

“The gov­ern­ment of to­day has said it is not their re­spon­si­bil­ity to cre­ate jobs. So, if they do not cre­ate jobs, who will for us?” he ques­tioned.

“The gov­ern­ment must be able to cre­ate jobs. We are not say­ing the gov­ern­ment must cre­ate a civil ser­vice or pub­lic ser­vice job but if you are go­ing to get the pri­vate sec­tor in­volved, you need to give them the en­cour­age­ment, you need to give them the con­ces­sions so that they can be able to in­vest and en­er­gise our economies,” he de­clared.

How­ever, So­han said, the present and pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments seem to lack the knowl­edge to do so as their only fo­cus has been to gain power. “We are fed up of that. We are look­ing to take this coun­try to a dif­fer­ent place where we can all live and co­ex­ist peace­fully,” he as­serted.

The for­mer mag­is­trate pointed out that Ber­bice is filled with a lot of re­sources and with good gov­er­nance, ma­jor de­vel­op­ment can oc­cur within a short time. “We’ve got the baux­ite, we’ve got the oil sit­ting out­side there, which is go­ing to be tapped one of these days. We have the forestry, we have the brains, we have the land,” he pointed out.

So­han said it is quite up­set­ting to see other coun­tries with less re­sources de­velop rapidly, while Guyana, which is filled with re­sources, is stuck at one level. He blamed this state of af­fairs on pol­i­tics. “When we came to the fi­nal as­sess­ment, we have come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that the race pol­i­tics of this coun­try is (what) is sti­fling us. The race pol­i­tics of the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties in this coun­tries is tak­ing us nowhere,” he said.

So­han added that it is ev­i­dent to his party that Guyana, since gain­ing in­de­pen­dence, is go­ing “around in a cy­cle” since one of the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties “is lead­ing us.”

The for­mer mag­is­trate noted that a third party, the Al­liance For Change (AFC) had emerged, and quickly gained the trust of cit­i­zens and led them to believe that they were go­ing to take Guyana for­ward. “But then we see that their in­ter­est was more self­ish than it was for na­tion build­ing,” he charged.

He fur­ther opined that the con­stituency sys­tem at the na­tional level is one the party be­lieves will break the “racial di­vide in this coun­try.”

“We believe strongly that if we are able to bring the con­stituency sys­tem into our na­tional elec­toral sys­tem, we can be able to bridge that racial di­vide and be able to elect that per­son who we want to go to par­lia­ment and rep­re­sent us,” he em­pha­sised.

Elec­toral re­forms

Ad­di­tion­ally, So­han said, the party will sug­gest re­form­ing the elec­toral sys­tem so that vot­ing for mem­bers of par­lia­ment and lo­cal author­i­ties are done at the same time. “You vote for your lo­cal gov­ern­ment the same time, this is not go­ing to in­cur any ad­di­tional costs, its one elec­toral sys­tem…you vote for your lo­cal gov­ern­ment, your MPs and your pres­i­dent ev­ery four years, one time,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to So­han, FED-UP be­lieves that such a sys­tem will make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence in Guyana’s de­vel­op­ment. He said the party hopes that it will be able to cam­paign as freely as it would like with­out any in­ter­fer­ence.

So­han was in the news last Novem­ber when a charge of wit­ness tam­per­ing against him was dis­missed. He was ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to ob­struct the course of jus­tice in the pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry into the charge against Mar­cus Brian Bis­ram and the five other ac­cused in the mur­der of Num­ber 70 Vil­lage car­pen­ter Faiyaz Narine­datt.

Mean­while, Craw­ford, who said that he was very ner­vous to speak at yes­ter­day’s launch, ex­plained that sev­eral rea­sons led to him be­ing a part of FEDUP. Ac­cord­ing to the at­tor­ney, who gained no­to­ri­ety when a video of him spew­ing ex­ple­tives in an in­ter­ac­tion with a po­lice­man dur­ing a traf­fic stop went vi­ral, he has al­ways wanted to rep­re­sent Guyana and the Caribbean. He said that as a par­ent, he be­lieves that he has to step up and change the en­vi­ron­ment in which his chil­dren are liv­ing and grow­ing.

Guyanese are no strangers to politi­cians de­vel­op­ing them­selves on tax­pay­ers’ monies while the cit­i­zens suf­fer, Craw­ford ob­served. “We don’t need any­thing, we are not here to gain fi­nan­cial wealth or any­thing, we are just here be­cause of greater con­cern for our peo­ple,” he in­di­cated.

He pointed out that noth­ing is be­ing done to tran­si­tion stu­dents from the uni­ver­sity, sugar work­ers and other per­sons, to the oil and gas sec­tor. “We have been so busy with oil and gas and we don’t have a plan and no one knows any­thing that’s hap­pen­ing,” he de­clared.

Fur­ther touch­ing on sugar, Craw­ford stressed that he be­lieves more could have been done to sub­sidise the sugar in­dus­try rather than fir­ing sugar work­ers who have fam­i­lies. He also said that the process of sev­er­ing the sugar work­ers could have been done bet­ter by cre­at­ing other em­ploy­ment for them. FED-UP, he said, hopes to stamp out the idea of sup­port­ing a par­tic­u­lar party be­cause of eth­nic­ity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Craw­ford said he be­lieves that Guyana has al­ways been a po­lice state where the gov­ern­ment of the day uses the po­lice force to its ben­e­fit and to per­se­cute cit­i­zens.

He re­ferred to his own case, which re­sulted in charges, and he said that he is pre­pared for what­ever is thrown at him.

Ed­mon­son, mean­while, said that for more than five decades Guyana has suf­fered tremen­dously be­cause of its pol­i­tics. As a re­sult, he said, “The time has come for some real or­gan­i­sa­tion that would have the in­ter­est of the peo­ple at heart, the in­ter­est of Guyanese cit­i­zens, our chil­dren at heart and not just con­cen­trate on go­ing to par­lia­ment and mov­ing up in the po­lit­i­cal arena for per­sonal gain, and that’s why we are here.”

He said FED-UP wants to unite all Guyanese where “we can rub shoul­ders to­gether.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, he opined that dur­ing elec­tion pe­ri­ods, politi­cians use cit­i­zens’ dif­fer­ences to tear them apart but em­pha­sised that the time has come for that to stop. “There will be need for con­sti­tu­tional changes be­cause a con­stituency gov­ern­ment is a gov­ern­ment that fos­ters democ­racy,” he said, while em­pha­sis­ing that such a sys­tem will en­sure that cit­i­zens can hold their lead­ers ac­count­able for their ac­tions.

Mem­bers of FED-UP: From left are Ryan Craw­ford, Chan­dra So­han and Ho­ra­tio Ed­mon­son

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