In search of a meeting

Guyana Chronicle
October 24, 1999

JUST in case there was any doubt about its usefulness, Saint Lucia Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, assigned responsibility for Guyana by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, yesterday reminded Guyanese about the need for a meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and leader of the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC), Mr. Desmond Hoyte.

Dr. Anthony flew here to assess the situation ahead of this week's 7th CARICOM special summit in Trinidad and Tobago, which President Jagdeo will also be attending.

When he assumed office on August 11, President Jagdeo told the Chronicle he would be inviting Mr. Hoyte to meet but the PNC leader has so far shown little inclination for such an encounter.

Despite the clear reluctance of Mr. Hoyte to meet in the more than two months since the President took office, Mr. Jagdeo has not given up on the meeting.

Dr. Anthony met the two separately while here last week but said at a press conference yesterday before leaving that he did not get a firm commitment to a meeting.

Sceptics would argue against the chances of such a meeting, given Mr. Hoyte's antipathy to meeting former President Janet Jagan while she was in office, the prodding he had to get to even shake Mrs. Jagan's hand when they signed the Saint Lucia Agreement last year in Saint Lucia (which brought cheers from Dr. Anthony and other CARICOM leaders there) and his well-known attitude to Mr. Jagdeo.

A planned meeting with President Jagan last year, organised by CARICOM Facilitator, Mr. Maurice King, did not come off when Mr. Hoyte walked out after certain issues he raised were not taken on board.

He also steadfastly refused to take up Mr. Jagdeo's several challenges to debate economic and other issues while the President was Finance Minister, insinuating, among other things, that that was beneath him.

The views of the sceptics against the encounter are fairly widespread but there are many who believe some good could come out of the two leaders sitting down and talking to each other.

Engaging even relentless opponents in dialogue for the national good is becoming common place among leaders elsewhere in the region and in the wider world and there is no reason to doubt the value of such encounters here.

When he assumed office, President Jagdeo said: "To consolidate our collective efforts into a great national project aimed at modernising our society will take tremendous effort. The essence of such a venture requires me to embrace all sections of the society.

"I extend a hand of friendship to those who are in opposition and invite them to sit with us and iron out our differences so that we can have a common cause to serve - a cause in service to our people and nation."

Others have but the leader of the main opposition party is still to hold that hand of friendship extended by Mr. Jagdeo.

This should, however, not be a cause for despair and civil society and others should heed Dr. Anthony's call to lobby to try to bring off such a meeting.

"I am convinced that there is urgent need for President Jagdeo and Mr...Hoyte, as the principal representatives of the two major political parties, to meet and engage in constructive dialogue on some of the major issues troubling the people of Guyana", Dr. Anthony said yesterday.

The reaching out cannot stop but rebuilding the nation and forging ahead has also to be maintained.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples