President still open to meeting Hoyte

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
October 30, 1999

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has identified the 2001 general elections and the constitutional reform process as front-burner issues for discussion with PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte.

But he feels the talks should not be confined within the framework of the Herdmanston `peace' Accord Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders brokered last year between the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main opposition PNC (People's National Congress).

Mr. Jagdeo told a press conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown yesterday that he was still open to meeting Hoyte.

But he believes the meeting should not have conditions attached to it, a position CARICOM leaders backed at their special meeting in Trinidad this week.

"I publicly said that I as the President of Guyana will be responsible for all the governmental obligations flowing out of the Herdmanston Accord.

"Elections and constitutional reform are those matters which fall within my portfolio and in that context I am willing to meet with Mr. Hoyte", President Jagdeo said.

"But I'm also willing to meet with him in the context of meeting Guyanese leaders to move our country forward.

"Because I do not feel that Guyanese leaders should only meet within the framework of the Herdmanston Accord. That's a very narrow framework," he declared.

"There are many, many issues of concern to our people that are outside of that accord.

"And I think that we're responsible Guyanese leaders and we must want to meet to resolve those other issues."

The PPP/Civic and the PNC last year signed two CARICOM-brokered "peace" agreements.

The Herdmanston Accord and the Saint Lucia Statement were reached in January and June, respectively, amid rising tensions and violence sparked by PNC anti-government street protests in Georgetown.

President Jagdeo said when CARICOM Heads of Government in Trinidad and Tobago backed him meeting Hoyte, it was with the thinking that the encounter should not have pre-set conditions.

The President assured that the PPP/Civic Government will do all that was necessary to ensure elections were held by the proposed January 2001 deadline, but he emphasised the process has to be a multi-party engagement.

"I am confident that we will do all that is possible to have the elections by that date.

"Of course, to have elections, it's not the PPP or the President that is the sole party to honour decisions.

"And we do hope that the other parties that are involved in setting up the mechanisms...that they will express a similar commitment and they would reflect that commitment by action," President Jagdeo urged.

Asked about his willingness for civil society participation in the political interactions between the two major parties, Mr. Jagdeo said his Government was committed to such an engagement.

"The People's Progressive Party/Civic has always encouraged the participation of civil society in the resolution of our difficulties in this country and my meeting with the private sector at the business summit (earlier this month) was concrete evidence that we want to walk closer...with civil society," the President said.

He said that since returning to Guyana, he had not seen a response from Hoyte to his last letter, but will decide what to do when he received it.

The President said he continued to believe that positive results can come out a meeting between himself and Hoyte.

"I am a patriot and I strongly believe in a good future for our country.

"I will keep trying to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties in this country...and I'm hoping for the best," he said.

Hoyte, in response to a letter from the President inviting him to meet, suggested various issues which Mr. Jagdeo could address as an indication of his earnest intentions, before the possibility of a meeting was considered.

These include the immediate reconstitution of the land selection committee to reflect a more equitable political balance, condemnation and banning of pre-dawn exercises to evict squatters and a release of the report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1996 sea defence breach at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

While the President said he interpreted the letter as setting out pre-conditions for the meeting, Hoyte refuted this at a press conference this week.

The PNC leader said he was willing to meet "on mutually agreed terms and at a mutually convenient time with a functionary identified by the PPP/Civic...who is vested with the authority to speak for and bind the party on general and specific matters."

But the President said he was willing to include for discussion the matters raised by Hoyte in his letter to him, when the two met.

CARICOM is backing moves for an urgent, unconditional meeting between President Jagdeo and Hoyte.

Mr. Jagdeo, when he took office more than two months ago, extended an invitation to meet Hoyte and leaders of other opposition parties "to iron out our differences".

But while other leaders have met the President, Hoyte has not yet done so.

Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. Kenny Anthony, assigned special responsibility by CARICOM heads for Guyana, appeared to have had no success in nudging Hoyte into meeting President Jagdeo after meeting the two separately here last week.

Before flying out, he called for an urgent meeting between President Jagdeo and Hoyte, saying he had had no firm commitment for such an encounter.

Anthony argued that the meeting was a critical step to help iron out kinks in the political dialogue between the two major parties, and move the process forward.

CARICOM heads endorsed that position in Trinidad this week.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples