Two-month impasse ends
Facilitator arrives Monday for PPP, PNC talks
by Michelle Elphage
September 15, 1998
THE facilitator for talks between the two major political parties is expected here next Monday, after CARICOM Chairman Dr Kenny Anthony broke an almost two-month impasse over the terms of reference.
President Janet Jagan and Leader of the main opposition, People's National Congress (PNC), Mr Desmond Hoyte, yesterday signed a modified document outlining the work of the facilitator, former Foreign Minister and Attorney General of Barbados, Mr Maurice King.
"We're very happy that Prime Minister Kenny Anthony would come to Guyana for this matter. He has assisted in making arrangements for the facilitator to come here. The PPP (People's Progressive Party) is happy about all the arrangements," the President said last evening.
Mrs Jagan was the last of the three signatories to the terms of reference.
Earlier yesterday, the CARICOM Chairman was tight-lipped about the contents of the document, but shortly after the Guyanese leader signed, he described it as a "striking compromise".
Under the St Lucia "peace" Statement, President Jagan and Mr Hoyte signed in July, the governing People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/Civic) and the PNC agreed to the appointment of a CARICOM facilitator to advance dialogue between the two parties.
But a PNC objection to the term "President Janet Jagan" in the draft terms of reference delayed the appointment of King.
Hoyte argued that the St Lucia Statement was signed by himself and Mrs Jagan as representatives of their respective parties.
The paragraph in the original eight-clause document stated:
"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..."
However, the revised text states:
"...This Statement arose out of conversations which the Heads of Government held with President Jagan and Mr Hoyte and was signed by Ms Janet Jagan on behalf of the PPP/Civic, Mr Desmond Hoyte on behalf of the PNC and Dr Kenny D. Anthony on behalf of the Caribbean Community."
The PPP/Civic had contended that Hoyte's objection were petty and childish because there were four references to Mrs Jagan as President in the St Lucia Statement.
Anthony also noted that there were references to `President Jagan', but "equally the CARICOM Governments recognise fully the right of Mr Hoyte and the PNC to proceed to the (law) courts to raise issues pertaining to the elections".
At a press conference earlier yesterday, Anthony indicated that King would be meeting with the two parties when he arrives here next week.
"Just before coming to this press conference, I held discussions with him and brought him up-to-date on our progress," the top CARICOM official said.
"Essentially, this a new process for all the parties. I expect that what will happen is that by mutual consent the parties will shape their responsibilities under the terms of agreement."
The St Lucian Prime Minister expressed optimism that the facilitator would carve out a role that would bring mutual respect and satisfaction among all the parties.
He stressed that both parties have embraced the facilitator totally and are "fully committed" to working with him
King, when he takes up his post, is expected to assist in resolving difficulties between the two parties, keep accurate records of meetings, and assist in the implementation of decisions made by them.
He will also be tasked with consulting with the CARICOM Chairman to recommend ideas and initiatives at the consent of the two parties.
Yesterday, Anthony indicated that the situation in Guyana is "very delicate," and CARICOM cannot distance itself from the process.
"We're all in this together," he told reporters at the CARICOM Secretariat.
"Guyana is so very important to the Region and indeed the Caribbean...We want peace and stability to return to Guyana."
Anthony, in conceding that the solution to the problem was reached between the two parties, stressed that his role in the resolution was "not very, very creative".
"I was helped immensely by the goodwill of both political leaders," Anthony emphasised.
The CARICOM Chairman said there is no time frame for the work of the facilitator, but referred to the Herdmanston Accord agreement of the next general elections being in another three years.
"The time frame is within those parameters," Anthony acknowledged.
The facilitator is also expected to aid the Constitutional Reform process, but yesterday Anthony acknowledged there has already been a nine-month lag in the time-table.
The St Lucia agreement provides for a Constitutional Reform Commission to present a report to Parliament on July 16, 1999.