Hoyte wants 'equals' dialogue assurances

Guyana Chronicle
April 9, 1999

LEADER of the People's National Congress (PNC), Mr. Desmond Hoyte, yesterday maintained that his party will only resume talks with the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) if it is assured the two sides were talking as equals.

"What we would have to insist on is a clear understanding as to whether we are talking as equals. Changing a team does no deal with the basic issue which caused the dialogue to collapse," he said at a press conference.

Hoyte outlined the position when asked about his response to a letter to him from President Janet Jagan proposing that the two sides restart the stalled inter-party dialogue with new teams.

"This letter here I believe was brought into being for propaganda purposes...they're going to spread it all over the world that Mrs. Jagan made a proposal and Hoyte rejected it," he contended.

Hoyte said he had not yet replied to the letter but intended to do so "in due course."

Referring to matters which the President proposed the dialogue address if it resumes, Hoyte said "all those are wonderful subjects for national debate, but the dialogue was intended for us to address a number of irritants."

"This is a proposal to sweep under the carpet those concrete issues that are worrying people", he claimed.

President Jagan, in an effort to restart the stalled talks between the two major parties, wrote Hoyte Tuesday proposing that the two sides meet with new teams on a specific agenda, including race relations and laws to concretise equal opportunities.

The structured dialogue between the parties under Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Facilitator, Mr. Maurice King got stuck with the PNC leader accusing PPP/Civic team leader for the talks, Dr. Roger Luncheon, of saying he and his PNC counterpart, Mr. Lance Carberry were not equals.

Hoyte had called for a withdrawal of Luncheon's remarks and a public apology for the talks to continue, but yesterday he indicated that if the PPP/Civic changes its team, what will then have to be clarified would be the capacities in which the two sides were speaking.

Luncheon has said that his statements were made in the context that one side was in government and the other in opposition.

He also explained that the dialogue often addressed issues that were in the ambit of the Government and not party matters.

However, Hoyte dismissed Luncheon's explanation as "absolute nonsense", stressing that the PPP/Civic was the ruling party and could give commitments for Government action.

"We can't give commitments for government action. We don't hold the reigns of Government," the PNC leader said, adding that in his mind the PPP/Civic were the de facto Government.

Hoyte has also accused the Government of trying to "abort the constitution reform process and abandon the Herdmanston Accord and St. Lucia Statement."

The PNC leader maintained that his party reserves the right to organise street protests.

"The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to the functioning of any democracy. It is enshrined in the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society which has been ratified by the Parliament of Guyana. The PNC will never surrender its right to organise protests whenever there is justification for them," he maintained.

He said the PNC has demonstrated "time and again its capacity to organise peaceful protests."

"The party regrets that, in the past, the Police have resorted to the use of tear-gas, and thereby created conditions for certain elements to engage in criminal activities...the PNC has on several occasions in the past expressed its condemnation of acts of violence and criminality from any quarter", he said.

Hoyte said the party "now reiterates such condemnation and firmly rejects any attempt to link it with any such activities."

Meanwhile, he said the PNC has agreed to meet representatives of civil society again as a follow-up to a first meeting.

The meeting centred on the political instability of the country and the breakdown of the dialogue. (MICHELLE ELPHAGE)