Row over 'President' continues

By Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 1998

THE row continues over the proposed terms of reference for the appointment of a CARICOM facilitator to advance talks between the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main Minority People's National Congress (PNC).

The PPP/Civic is maintaining its acceptance of the first draft submitted by the CARICOM Secretariat which refers to President Janet Jagan, a term which PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte and his party find objectionable.

A PPP/Civic source last night told the Chronicle the party last week received a letter from the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Secretariat requesting that the first paragraph be deleted from the draft terms of reference.

"We're not negotiating a surrender of Mrs. Jagan's status as President", the official contended.

"If we were to accept the logic of Mr. Hoyte, then it would be taking the situation from the sublime to the ridiculous. It might even therefore require a reformulation of the prayer for the National Assembly which refers to the safety, health and happiness of the President", he argued.

The official said the party stands by its original acceptance of the first document submitted by the Secretariat for its consideration.

Hoyte recently wrote CARICOM objecting to the reference to the President as "President" in the introductory paragraph to the eight-clause terms of reference.

Sources yesterday told the Chronicle Hoyte has submitted a suggested change of the first paragraph.

A source said the PNC leader, in his letter suggesting the change, accepts the rest of the document.

But a PNC source told the Chronicle he was not aware that a reformulation suggestion was submitted to CARICOM concerning the first paragraph of the terms of reference.

However, the Chronicle understands Hoyte has suggested that the first paragraph should instead say the St. Lucia Statement was signed by "the Guyanese leaders, signatories to the Herdmanston Accord."

The PNC source maintained the party's objection to the reference to "President", stressing that the President and Hoyte signed the St. Lucia Statement as representatives of their parties.

He argued that the four references to "President Jagan" in the St. Lucia Statement she and Hoyte signed in St. Lucia in July, were "comments" by the CARICOM leaders who recognise the President, but the signing was not done by a "President Jagan".

"No agreement has been entered into by a President Jagan and Mr. Hoyte", the PNC source contended.

The St. Lucia Agreement was the second CARICOM-brokered `peace' deal amid rising tensions and violence sparked by PNC anti-Government street protests in Georgetown.

The St. Lucia Statement provides for the appointment of a CARICOM facilitator to advance the political dialogue process between the two major parties.

Both parties have agreed to accept former Barbados Foreign Minister and Attorney General, Mr. Maurice King.

A CARICOM spokesman yesterday acknowledged there was a recent correspondence from the PNC but declined giving details of the letter.

According to the CARICOM official, the Secretariat preferred to withhold comment on the document since it was not certain whether the relevant parties had received it.

The first paragraph which the PNC leader is objecting to states:

"These terms of reference are established for the facilitator appointed by CARICOM under the provisions of the Saint Lucia Statement signed by President Janet Jagan, Mr. Desmond Hoyte and the Honourable Dr Kenny Anthony (CARICOM Chairman) on the 2nd day of July 1998."