Parties must be seen as equals in dialogue
- Hoyte restates

By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
April 9, 1999

The PNC is willing to restart the dialogue process if the PPP/Civic accepts that the two parties can only negotiate as equals and Dr Roger Luncheon is removed from the dialogue process or apologises for his remarks which caused the present impasse.

President Janet Jagan in a letter to PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte, on Tuesday suggested that the dialogue process be restarted with new teams from both parties. She also suggested new areas to be covered.

But Hoyte yesterday described Mrs Jagan's letter as a major exercise in propaganda public relations and maintained that the PPP/Civic cannot say who should be on the PNC's team, but is free to name a new team for itself without Dr Luncheon. If the party clarifies that the PPP/Civic and PNC are talking as equals, the dialogue can resume without the apology from Dr Luncheon for his remark that the PNC and PPP/Civic were not negotiating as equals, Hoyte said at a media briefing. Hoyte dismissed Dr Luncheon's position that it was the government and not the PPP/Civic who could make concessions to the PNC on appointments to state boards, thus the unequal status of the negotiations.

The PNC leader that said Mrs Jagan, in signing the Herdmanston Accord and St Lucia Statement, gave her party's commitment to ensuring that the burning issues are resolved. He stressed that the understanding here was that the ruling party could give a commitment for government action. Hoyte also said the PNC has no problem in recognising the PPP/Civic as the de facto government and that it is negotiating with the party that forms that de facto government.

He said that while the issues raised in Mrs Jagan's letter such as tax reform, a social safety net and race relations among others are all "wonderful topics", the dialogue was to address a number of "irritants" causing anger and distress in society. These included victimisation, corruption and unfair distribution of land among others.

Hoyte said the PNC wants a principle adopted in the composition of land selection committees, for example, which will lend itself to the perception of fairness. He said even if the land selection committees in Region Four and Seven operate in a fair manner, their composition (dominated by PPP/Civic activists and of a particular race) lends to allegations of unfairness. He said the PPP rejected a principle that the regional land selection committees' composition be based on the results of the December 1997 regional elections.

Hoyte is not averse to the removal of Dr Luncheon from the dialogue process contending that Dr Luncheon "certainly seems erratic".

And he is not also averse to a media presence during the dialogue process or the release of minutes of the meetings and promised to discuss it with the PNC dialogue team.

Asked about civil society's attempt to broker talks between the PPP/Civic and the PNC, Hoyte said the problem is one of civil society's "credibility". He said while he does not mean this in a derogatory sense, civil society in Guyana only comes to life when there is a political problem. He contends that the people who are affected by the issues to be discussed in the dialogue do not regard civil society to be good brokers.

"There isn't that kind of confidence that they are good brokers," said Hoyte, adding that civil society is not able to promote its own cause either.

Hoyte feels that there ought to be national dialogue on issues facing the society and spoke of the long and vigorous abortion debate in Guyana. He said that was a unique example because a lot of emotions were stirred and contends that the Guyanese society has not reached the stage where it becomes concerned about issues.