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Race isn’t major consideration for choosing Prez, PM candidates

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) says determining its Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidates on the basis of race is a failed model and does not determine how the coalition decides who fills these posts.

These remarks were delivered on Friday by APNU General Secretary (GS), Joseph Harmon, who, during a televised press brief, noted the coalition’s cognizance “of the historical damage that racial hatred and political prejudice has wrought.”

Traditionally, the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) has drawn the greater portion of its support from Guyanese of East Indian descent, while the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR), which has the largest footing in APNU, has its stronghold largely in Guyanese of African descent. The practice of these groups, traditionally, to vote along racial lines is credited with much of the “damage” and “hatred” Harmon refers to.

The more recent Alliance for Change (AFC)is seen as an alternative for those looking to break free from the traditional practice of race-based voting.

However, so significant, and seemingly institutionalized, is the practice of Guyanese to vote among racial lines that political parties have, it has been argued, sought to position themselves to placate their support base by who they appoint to the parties’ highest posts.

In the last general and regional elections David Granger stood as APNU’s presidential candidate while Rupert Roopnaraine stood as its presidential candidate. For the PPP/C, Donald Ramotar stood as the party’s presidential candidate, while Samuel Hinds, as per a long-standing agreement, stood as the prime ministerial candidate.

Even the Alliance for Change (AFC), touted to be an alternative third-force in Guyana’s traditional two-party system made Khemraj Ramjattan and Raphael Trotman its presidential and prime ministerial candidates, respectively, to contest the 2011 regional and general elections.

Yesterday though, Harmon dismissed the practice as a failed model, highlighting that it disenfranchises the Amerindians, Portuguese, Chinese and Europeans which comprise this plural society.

“I would not venture to say that ok, you must have an Indian and a Black, or a Chinese and a Portuguese or an Amerindian,because that formula will always exclude a certain racial group in this country,” Harmon posited. He said that “there are six races in this country and if you always have a formula that always has two, one at the top and the other at the bottom, as the case might be, you will always exclude at least four others.”

As far as the APNU is concerned though, Harmon maintained, race “is really not the prime motivation in the way we select our leadership in the APNU.” Instead, he said,“it is but one consideration that is made, but there are others.” These other considerations, Harmon told reporters, include age differentials, and gender. Each must be taken into consideration, he elaborated, before the coalition’s leaders are chosen.

“At the end of the day it will be what the membership decides…,” the coalition’s General Secretary said. 

There have been murmurs in some quarters that APNU would be unwilling to cede the presidential candidacy to AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo in a combined opposition slate.

The PNCR has already endorsed Granger as APNU’s presidential hopeful for the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.