Hold back the cheers

Guyana Chronicle
May 11, 1999

MOST Guyanese may be forgiven if they did not break out dancing and cheering at the weekend announcement by Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, that he had succeeded in getting the two major political parties to agree to resume their structured dialogue that faltered on what many felt were flimsy grounds.

This lack of enthusiasm is well-grounded in all that has gone before this latest brokering initiative by another overseas concerned grouping.

It now seems like a long time ago, after the internationally and locally-sanctioned general elections of December 15, 1997, that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) dispatched three `wise men' here to broker a `peace' agreement amid violence and rising tensions from anti-government street demonstrations in Georgetown by the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC) which refused to recognise the results of the elections.

That first `peace' accord led to a CARICOM audit of the elections which found nothing wrong but which the PNC was not happy with.

And after more violence in fresh anti-government street protests in Georgetown in June, another `peace' deal saw CARICOM appointing a facilitator, former Barbados Foreign Minister, Mr. Maurice King, to guide a structured dialogue process between the PNC and the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic).

Those talks took some time to get off the ground, then floundered about two months ago after the PNC got annoyed because it felt insulted by a remark from the leader of the PPP/Civic team which it interpreted to mean that it was not equal to the PPP/Civic.

Fresh street troubles broke out in Georgetown in March, the facilitator went home, the donor community which has been financing the process expressed concerns about the developments, and the uneasiness prevailed.

President Janet Jagan wrote PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, suggesting fresh teams and specific agenda items. Mr. Hoyte told reporters he would have responded and a response is still being awaited.

CARICOM leaders meeting last month in the Dominican Republic, again considered the Guyana situation and were to have issued a statement which has not yet been agreed on.

Then the Commonwealth Secretary General arrived last week, announcing he hoped to get the process going again and warning that Guyana was at crossroad and faced the challenge of managing pluralism.

He said he cancelled a planned visit to the Commonwealth-backed Iwokrama Rainforest scheme in the Guyana interior, which holds much promise for the rest of the world, because of the time it took for him to reach a resolution.

"I am glad to announce that both sides have agreed to resume their dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect", he announced Sunday.

Mr. King yesterday would not commit himself to carrying on without some further assurances.

Although there is always hope and there is now fresh hope with the weekend movement, Mr. King's caution is quite understandable in the absence of the clear will by some to move on.

We too are holding back the cheers.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples