CARICOM to review staying in political process here

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
December 18, 1999

CARIBBEAN Community (CARICOM) heads of government are to early next year review the continued participation of the grouping in Guyana's political process, their mediator in the political dialogue here indicated yesterday.

CARICOM-appointed Facilitator, Mr Maurice King told reporters that after his second tenure as mediator in the structured dialogue between the two major party finishes at year end, the heads will be reviewing the process "to determine whether the process should continue after 31st December, 1999."

But he declined saying whether he would be interested in returning here as facilitator if requested, noting that the CARICOM heads of government have to review the entire process before making any decisions.

"Whatever decision is taken has got to be taken in consultation with the political parties who have been signatories to the Herdmanston Accord", he said, referring to the first CARICOM-brokered `peace' accord between the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC).

"...apart from everything else a third and very important consideration has to be that adequate financial arrangements would need to be put in place if the process is to be continued," King said at the CARICOM Secretariat headquarters in Georgetown.

The former Attorney General and Foreign Minister of Barbados who is to leave Guyana today, was sent here last year September by CARICOM to mediate talks between the PPP/Civic and the PNC. His contract was renewed in March this year.

Asked whether there were problems with the financial arrangements for his second stint, King declined discussing the issue at the press conference.

International donors in May, through mobilisation by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), pledged to back resumed dialogue between the two major parties.

UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Richard Olver noted then that the organisation had provided financing for King's stay at the request of the Guyana Government and it was "ready to support the process when the talks begin again."

Olver could not be reached yesterday to comment on whether the financial arrangements had been kept up to date.

However, King after giving an outline from start to end of the process with him as mediator, stressed that it was essential the two major political parties in Guyana continue dialogue, with or without the presence of a mediator.

"In any democracy, it is healthy that both sides, and that parties in a democracy, continue talking to each other," King declared.

"It's going to be important for your democracy that this dialogue continues. It's going to be important that the people of Guyana understand very clearly in their own minds that it's for the people of Guyana, the major political parties in particular, to engage in trying to resolve the problems of your own country."

He said Guyanese should resent the interference of outsiders in telling them how to deal with issues of their own nation.

"In the final analysis, you have to make those decisions. You have to solve your problems.

"And you should not expect, in fact, you should resent other people coming from outside to dictate to you what you should do about your own life and about your country," the CARICOM-appointed official said.

King said while there was not progress in getting many of the specific agenda items raised by the two parties addressed, the dialogue was significant because it at least allowed them to start talking.

"Progress in a dialogue of this sort clearly depends on the political will of the parties to resolve matters. If there is that resolve matters and to deal with issues there will be a tremendous amount of success," the mediator declared.

According to him, the teams worked to complete their business before he left for Christmas, and essentially the dialogue process is closed for the rest of the year.

Leaders of the PPP/Civic and the PNC teams, Mr Donald Ramotar and Mr Lance Carberry respectively, thanked King for his efforts in the process which according to Carberry "could not be easy for him" since it was intended to be a process of resolving issues and that was hardly achieved.

And while Ramotar said the PPP/Civic is committed to talking with the major opposition party with or without a facilitator, Carberry said the work of a mediator could be more effective if the dialogue is committed to a time-bound process.

He voiced reservations about the commitment of the PPP/Civic during the talks to the resolution of the land and house lots distribution issue which was raised as a priority of the opposition party.

The PPP/Civic's priority matter, the Elections Commission, was also not resolved at the dialogue level.

The PPP/Civic and the PNC have agreed to proposals for the formation of an Ethnic Relations Commission and are awaiting the approval of their executives.

King earlier this week confirmed that the two sides agreed in the political dialogue to common proposals for setting up the commission.

The proposals, King said, deal with duties of the commission, appointments and membership.

He did not foresee the executive of the two parties having problems with the proposals since these were pretty straightforward, King explained.

A 20-man Constitution Reform Commission in July recommended that an Ethnic Relations Commission be established and King explained it is envisaged that when the legislation providing for that amendment goes to Parliament, the proposals settled at the dialogue level will form part of the House's consideration on the matter.

St Lucian Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony visited Guyana in October and expressed disappointment at the pace of the inter-party talks and the many issues which surfaced and compromised the process moving forward.

Anthony was assigned the responsibility by the CARICOM Heads in July this year, to oversee the implementation of two CARICOM-brokered "peace" deals signed between the two major political parties last year.

The January Herdmanston Accord and July St Lucia Statement envisage political dialogue between the two major parties.

The two parties signed the two documents amid rising tensions and violence sparked by PNC anti-government street protests in Georgetown after the December 15, 1997 general elections.

The documents were signed by Anthony, then CARICOM Chairman, PNC leader Mr Desmond Hoyte and former President, Mrs Janet Jagan.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples