Donors ready to back resumed dialogue

Guyana Chronicle
May 12, 1999

INTERNATIONAL donors have pledged to back resumed dialogue between the two main parties and other aspects of the political processes here.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Mr. Richard Olver, yesterday welcomed the commitment by the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main Minority People's National Congress (PNC) to resume inter-party talks and projected continuing support.

"We are very pleased at the events of the last several days with regard to the recommitment of the parties to the political dialogue and the resumption of the role of the facilitator", he told reporters.

Olver noted that the UNDP provided financing at the request of the Guyana Government for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Facilitator, Mr. Maurice King and said it was "ready to support that process when the talks begin again."

He said Guyana has a lot of "friends" eager to see a resumption of the dialogue.

"What's important here, is that while the choice to proceed is ultimately a choice between the parties, Guyana does have friends...they have demonstrated over the last several months that they have an abiding commitment to support Guyana as it moves forward," he stressed.

European Union (EU) representative in Guyana, Mr. John Caloghirou, on Monday also stressed that the community was ready to offer assistance to Guyana in its ongoing political processes.

He said the EU had followed closely developments in the political arena over the last 18 months "and we have given clear indications that we stand ready to offer any assistance possible in the ongoing political process."

Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, ended a three-day official visit here Sunday, announcing he had managed to get a commitment from the two parties to restart the talks.

The dialogue stalled about three months ago after PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte declared it was "in limbo" and threatened fresh anti-government street protests.

The PNC took offence to statements by leader of the PPP/Civic dialogue team, Dr. Roger Luncheon to his PNC counterpart, Mr. Lance Carberry, that they were not speaking as equals.

Anyaoku said the two sides agreed to resume talks on the basis of "equality and mutual respect."

The structured dialogue was agreed in two `peace' agreements CARICOM brokered following violence and rising tensions from PNC anti-government street demonstrations in Georgetown after the opposition party refused to accept the results of the December 15, 1997 general elections.

Olver, who said he has spoken to CARICOM Secretary General, Mr. Edwin Carrington since the new agreement, noted that the resumption of the dialogue will contribute to the wider process of constitution reform under way, for which the UNDP was also coordinating external support.

"As a result, we, Government and the Constitution Reform Commission have jointly commissioned a draft think piece on the need for external support to the process of reform and potential constitutional change", he said.

"The draft will be made available to all of us tomorrow for discussion and we intend to come together to look at the role each of us will play in financing these various processes," the top UNDP official explained.

Olver said pledges of support have come from the EU, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, but lack of a study barred them making any specific requests.

"(It's) a draft charting out what kind of external help might be needed, given the budget of the Constitution Reform Commission. We included work of the Facilitator under the Herdmandston Accord and likely or probable needs after July for amendment of the Constitution, perhaps referendum, things such as legal drafting and so forth," Olver noted.

He said the Law Faculty of the University of Guyana looked at the costs involved and "with that we'll be able to help the other donors make more specific commitments."

"They have long since firmly committed to support the process but have not had specific programmatic requests, against which to allocate money. This is an important step in bringing needs and funding together", he explained.

The UNDP has so far made available US$127,000 to the Constitution Reform Commission and Olver said he would support any requests from the Government to fill shortfalls.

He said the Government, the commission and the donors will look at what was available from sources, "what the needs are and what gaps remain." (MICHELLE ELPHAGE)

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