PPP/Civic, PNC to resume dialogue
Commonwealth Secretary General breaks 3-month deadlock

By Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
May 10, 1999

THE DIALOGUE between the two major political parties is to resume soon following successful intervention by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku.

At a press conference yesterday before his departure, the Commonwealth Head announced that both sides, the governing People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main minority People's National Congress (PNC) should have their first meeting next week.

"I am glad to announce that both sides have agreed to resume their dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. In this context, they agreed that the remarks that the parties were not equal and the subsequent breakdown of the dialogue were regrettable and ought not to have occurred. They further agreed for the future to avoid behaviour and language that (are) capable of undermining the constructive nature of the dialogue," the Secretary General quoted from the agreement reached between the two sides.

Chief Anyaoku told reporters at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, where he stayed during a three-day official visit here, that the parties also agreed that the political dialogue which will restart on an "agreed" agenda, should not be "confused with dialogue between the Government and Opposition".

He said that the agreed statement arrived at late Saturday evening after several separate intensive meetings with the two sides, was dispatched shortly afterwards to Regional Heads by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Mr Edwin Carrington.

Carrington is to mediate the initial resumed meeting next week in the absence of CARICOM-appointed Facilitator, Mr Maurice King.

The statement was initialled by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon for the PPP/Civic and Executive party member, Mr Lance Carberry for the PNC.

The two also headed the teams of the structured dialogue which broke down in February.

The talks, under King, a former Barbados Attorney General, choked when PNC leader Mr Desmond Hoyte accused Luncheon, of saying he and his PNC counterpart, Carberry were not speaking "as equals".

The PNC leader had called for a withdrawal of Luncheon's remarks and a public apology for the talks to continue.

President Janet Jagan in an effort to restart the stalled talks between the two major parties, had written Mr Hoyte proposing that the two sides meet with new teams and work out a specific agenda including race relations and laws to concretise equal opportunities.

Following the President's letter, to which Mr Hoyte has not yet formally responded, the PNC leader indicated that if the PPP/Civic changes its team, then what would have to be clarified were the capacities, in which the two sides were speaking.

Luncheon had said that his statements were made in the context that one side was in Government and the other in Opposition, explaining that the dialogue often addressed issues that were in the ambit of the Government and not party matters.

President Jagan and Mr Hoyte in January and June last year signed two CARICOM "peace" agreements, the Herdmanston Accord and the St Lucia Statement respectively, amidst violence and tensions caused by PNC anti-government street protests.

Mr Anyaoku has urged that all Guyanese should work to ensure that the country remains stable.

"I am confident that your political party leaders, your professional bodies and your civil society as a whole, will want to succeed in ensuring that this country remains stable and harmonious," the Secretary General emphasised.

Chief Anyaoku, whose term of office ends in July next year, indicated that he was satisfied with the agreement reached between the two sides. He told reporters that his planned visit to the Iwokrama Rainforest Project on Saturday had to be called off because reaching a resolution took more time than he had anticipated.

The Commonwealth is playing the lead role in the Iwokrama scheme aimed at helping the international sustainable development thrust.

Mr Anyaoku met with the Iwokrama Board of Trustees and witnessed the South American launch of the Report of the World Commission on Forests.

In his meetings with the leaders, he said he laid on the table the "stark realities" of the situation.

"I think it would be fair to say, that after very intensive discussions, and I really do mean intensive discussions because I met several times with both sides, I was happy at the outcome. My concern was to get the inter-party dialogue resumed, and I focused all my attention on factors that would help to bring that about," Anyaoku.

He declined saying whether the reason for the break-down was a valid claim.

The Secretary had his first meetings with Acting President Sam Hinds and PNC leader Mr Hoyte on Friday.

Mr Hinds is acting for President Janet Jagan who is out of the country on a private visit.

The PPP/Civic team included Foreign Minister, Mr Clement Rohee, Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth, and Dr Luncheon, while the PNC team included Mr Carberry.

Chief Anyaoku said this is his second direct intervention in the Guyana political situation, recalling telephone conversations last year he held with President Jagan and Mr Hoyte during problems here.

Mr Anyaoku also said the Commonwealth will continue to support the efforts of CARICOM in maintaining dialogue between the two parties.

The Commonwealth Head arrived here last Thursday stressing that he hoped to re-energise talks between the two sides.

He also met and addressed the Constitution Reform Commission, while here, signalling the Commonwealth's commitment to lending support to the process.