PNC members leave Constitution Committee meeting

Guyana Chronicle
October 14, 1999

REPRESENTATIVES of the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC) on the Constitution Reform Select Committee yesterday walked out of a meeting after an exchange between a PNC member and one from the Government delegation.

Sources said Mr. Lance Carberry and Ms. Deborah Backer of the PNC left the meeting before it had moved to the business of the day, after Carberry was told he was `wasting time' by Mr. Bernard De Santos of the People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/Civic).

The exchange started when the meeting was called to order and Chairman, Minister Reepu Daman Persaud announced that two documents were circulated outlining the capacity of the Secretariat working with the Select Committee and the programme to meet the month end deadline for considering recommendations by the Constitution Reform Commission.

According to the sources, Carberry, however, said the document did not address some of the concerns he raised and noted that the Select Committee was working behind schedule.

He also repeated from previous meetings that the Secretariat could not handle the Select Committee's work arguing that because of a lack of resources, they might have to conclude their task in the same "haphazard" manner of the Constitution Reform Commission.

But, the Chronicle understands, De Santos, a former member of the Commission objected, saying he would not sit and hear the work of the Commission being described as haphazard.

Carberry then retreated saying he did not mean haphazard.

De Santos told the PNC member that he was talking of the Select Committee being behind schedule but his repeated raising of the same concerns at each meeting was as much wasting time and wasn't advancing the work of the committee, the sources said.

It was then that Backer and Carberry left.

Carberry could not be immediately contacted for comment.

Persaud, in an invited comment, urged the PNC members to return to the committee so that the body could get on with its work.

"Since we are all committed to this project let them return and let us continue with the task," he suggested.

"The committee is working collectively so far and views are fully aired. We have worked well so far and I feel we can achieve the objective of the task given to us by the Parliament", he said.

The Select Committee is considering electoral systems, the judiciary and Parliament, recommendations given to it by the 20-man Constitution Reform Commission.

The Select Committee had agreed at the start of its work to complete considering the recommendations by October 31, and take them back to Parliament.

The Commission, sworn in on January 22 by then President Janet Jagan, met a July 17 deadline to present its report to Parliament, as provided for in two Caribbean Community brokered "peace" agreements, signed last year between the governing PPP/Civic and the PNC.

These agreements were signed by Mrs. Jagan and PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, amid rising tensions and violence sparked by anti-government street protests in Georgetown.

Fresh elections are projected by 2001, following the presentation of the report and its consideration by Parliament.

Hoyte last week threatened "unpleasantness" if the Select Committee did not meet its month end deadline for reviewing recommendations and sending them to Parliament. (MICHELLE ELPHAGE)

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