By Lisa Hamilton
THE People’s Republic Party (PRP) – already dubbed the ‘pastors party’– is the newest political group to create a stir amongst the public which wants to know whether their religious freedom and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) rights could be affected if the party is elected into government.
The Guyana Chronicle spoke with the party’s Presidential Candidate, Dr. Valerie Leung, who sought to answer the questions pouring in. On Saturday, at the Ocean View Hotel, the party was launched with representatives: General Secretary and Pastor from Linden, Terrence Joseph; Region Four Coordinator, Pastor Patrick Bourne; Region Six coordinator, Premraj Parshotam; Pastor of the God’s Cathedral of Praise, Timothy Norton and Sister, Glennis Smith along with Dr. Leung.
The party intends to contest in all 10 administrative regions and is expecting great support from their congregations with the main aim to “eradicate corruption” from Guyana. Although several new parties launched recently, the PRP has to be the most controversial. While its code of conduct speaks to the management of Guyana’s resources with “impeccable honesty”, non-participation in illegal practices or nepotism; freedom of religion, speech and respect, it also speaks to the support of laws and practices which uphold all human life from conception to natural death as sacrosanct and the upholding of marriage as solely between one biological, non-directly related male and female. The latter two have clashed with the varying views on abortion and the LGBTQ community.
Abortion, during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, has been legal in Guyana since 1996 under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. Except in cases where it endangers a woman’s health, it is also only legal if done with the consent of the pregnant woman and by a licensed medical practitioner.
Meanwhile, consensual same-sex activity between adult men and gay marriage is illegal in Guyana. To be clear, Dr. Leung said that the PRP does not condone either of the two.
BELIEF VS RIGHTS
Check under any social media post of the story and one would see the mixture of views which encompass: “Praise the Lord!”, “is this a joke?” or “the church and politics should not mix”. However, its presidential candidate, who is not a pastor but a woman of God, told the newspaper that such political governance may be the only way to save Guyana from self-destruction. “Ask yourself, why is it that this country, so rich in natural resources, a country that doesn’t have to contend with natural disasters time after time, why is it that we have not become rich and why is it that countries like Singapore that have little or no natural resources are so wealthy?” she questioned, adding: “It is corruption that has made the difference.”
Meanwhile, on the topic of homosexuality, she said that the PRP would not make it illegal as such is “not possible”. What the party will do is try to show care to the LGBTQ community and to help them “heal”. “I believe that as a government, caring for the LGBT community should be expressed in reaching out to them.
Dr. Leung is a remigrant from Canada, a former Senior Lecturer at the University of Guyana and works in the law field. Questioned about how the PRP’s view would coincide with the global and regional call for legalisation or acceptance, she wrote it off as the international community often seeking tolerance but being intolerant and “malicious”. “Just as they urge countries to support abortion and such things, I believe that those things are wrong and, somewhere in the world, there must be governments and leaders who have the courage to say ‘this is wrong’,” she said.
“I feel compassion for these people but I don’t believe that we can make laws based on desire and fantasy.” This conflict with the 2018 ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that Guyana should work on adjusting its culture to include all sections of society including LGBTQ persons. The CCJ said that Section 153(1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, which makes cross-dressing criminal, should be “struck from the laws of Guyana.”
Although the pastors represented are from different denominations, they want to protect their children from teachings in schools related to masturbation, sodomy, cross-dressing, sexual fluidity and other acts which some Christians view as immoral. Dr. Leung also noted that, if elected or awarded seats, the PRP would lobby against the holding of the annual Pride Parade and the “vulgarity” aspect of Mashramani.
The PRP Presidential Candidate stated that there is no mention of God in the Code of Conduct and persons ought not feel as if the party is on mission to Christianise Guyana.
She said that one doesn’t have to be a Christian to be a part of the party but must be a person of morality and able to meet the party’s code of conduct. Should the PRP gain seats in the National Assembly, it hopes to source its representatives from skilled persons in the church in the areas of oil and gas, agriculture, law and more. Asked about funding and the level of support received thus far, the presidential candidate said that it has enough to give the party to courage to contest in all regions. The party’s colours are purple, gold and white and it is represented by the symbol of a lamp emanating light with the map of Guyana in the centre.