Facilitator King meets
PPP/Civic, PNC officials

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
September 22, 1998

CARICOM Facilitator Mr Maurice King yesterday held a round of preparatory talks with the two major political parties as a start to his first scheduled dialogue meeting tomorrow.

The former Barbados Foreign Minister and Attorney General, who arrived in Guyana Sunday evening, said he is ready to undertake the "challenging experience" ahead.

"This was essentially a courtesy call in which I needed to get to meet the major players...and they could get to meet me," King explained yesterday following a meeting shortly after midday with Acting President Mr Sam Hinds and a six-man PPP/Civic delegation at the Presidential Secretariat.

Hinds was very optimistic about the road ahead for dialogue between the two parties with King now on board.

"We do hope that this process would be successful with all the objectives that have been set...and I think Mr King would have contributed to the process of making one people of all of us in Guyana...we're all very hopeful about the success of this process," the Acting President stressed shortly after meeting the CARICOM-appointed Barbadian official.

King later met with PNC leader Mr Desmond Hoyte and other party officials at their Congress Place, Sophia Headquarters.

General Secretary of the PNC, Mr Aubrey Norton told reporters following the meeting that with King's arrival, he is confident things are likely to be on track now with the dialogue between himself and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon.

"We identified some of the problems in the dialogue...we felt that if there is a Facilitator there, then you wouldn't have problems once the notes are authenticated," Norton said.

"We also pointed out the areas to which the Facilitator can contribute in terms of keeping the discussion on target."

Norton said the meeting billed for tomorrow with himself, Luncheon and King would be to bring the Facilitator up to date as to what has been going on so that they can "take it from there".

"The agenda I think will continue to be the same agenda. Don't forget that it is we who are discussing the issues and the Facilitator's presence is only to help in furthering the process," Norton stated.

As Facilitator, King 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 is also tasked with consulting with the CARICOM Chairman to recommend ideas and initiatives at the consent of the two parties.

CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister of St Lucia Dr Kenny Anthony last week broke an almost two-month stand-off between the two major parties following a disagreement over King's terms of reference.

A PNC (People's National Congress) objection to the term "President Janet Jagan" in the draft terms of reference delayed the appointment of King by almost two months.

Hoyte argued that the St Lucia Statement was signed in July by himself and Mrs Jagan as representatives of their respective parties.

The PPP/Civic (People's Progressive Party/Civic) had contended that Hoyte's objection was "petty and childish" because there were four references to Mrs Jagan as President in the St Lucia Statement.

The two leaders last Monday signed a modified document of King's terms of reference.

The St Lucia Statement was the second "peace" deal brokered this year by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) following rising tensions and violence sparked by PNC anti-government street protests.

The follow-up agreement to the January Herdmanston Accord signed by President Jagan and Mr Hoyte, provided for a Facilitator to advance the dialogue process between the two major parties, especially aiding the Constitutional Reform process as provided for in the Accord.

The time frame for King's functioning is within the parameters of the agreement for general elections to be held within the next three years.

A Constitutional Reform Commission is to present a report to Parliament by July 16, 1999.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional reform, Minister Reepu Daman Persaud told the Chronicle that the committee held a meeting yesterday at which all four parties represented, virtually agreed to the terms of reference for the Constitutional Reform Commission.

He said the Select Committee is to meet again on Friday and are likely to adopt the Terms of Reference.

"We are hastening the process," the Parliamentary Affairs Minister stressed.

"The PPP/Civic intends to give the Facilitator every cooperation and support. We've always demonstrated reasonableness in the process," he pointed out.

"The PPP/Civic was always willing to meet...we have been advancing the process even before the Facilitator arrived."

Members of the PPP/Civic delegation to meet Mr King yesterday were: Ms Gail Teixeira, Mr Donald Ramotar, Dr Luncheon, Mr Michael Shree Chan, Mr Ralph Ramkarran, and Mr Reepu Daman Persaud.

Meanwhile the PNC team comprised Mr Hoyte, Mr Aubrey Norton, Dr Faith Harding, Mr Vincent Alexander, Mr Haslyn Parris and Mr Lance Carberry.

Sixty-two year old King has experience in the fields of politics, law, diplomacy and Government.

In 1993, according to a report from the Caribbean News Agency's Rickey Singh, King served as a member on an Organisation of American (OAS) Special Mission on the restoration of democracy in Guatemala.

He was also a member of the Constitutional Review Commission that worked for two years preparing a new constitution for Barbados.

King is scheduled to hold a press conference this morning at the CARICOM Secretariat.