PNC/R wants talks on `fundamental issues'

Stabroek News
March 26, 2001

The PNC REFORM (PNC/R) is seeking dialogue with the ruling PPP/Civic "on the fundamental issues" of deep concern to a major section of the society.

Among those issues, according to Oscar Clarke, general secretary of the PNC REFORM, are governance, the rule of law and the continuation of the constitution reform process.

In a statement issued on Saturday night in the wake of the PPP/Civic's victory at the March 19 polls, the PNC/R pledged to continue to put Guyana first and to work assiduously for the development of all Guyanese. It did not say that it accepted the result of last Monday's elections but listed a litany of problems with the process and also suggested that the voters list was padded. (See other story on page 11.)

The PNC REFORM added that as a "responsible political party that is committed to the proper representation of its supporters" it was calling for immediate dialogue on the fundamental issues. The release did not say with whom this dialogue should be held but Stabroek News has clarified that it is intended to be the PPP/Civic.

President Bharrat Jagdeo has already stated that a meeting with PNC REFORM leader, Desmond Hoyte, is a priority for him in the immediate post-election period.

Expanding on the press release, Clarke told Stabroek News yesterday that the reality experienced by PNC REFORM supporters and a significant section of the society is that governance under the PPP/Civic administration has been unfair.

The PNC/R statement noted that its supporters "have signalled clearly that they are no longer prepared to be subjected to the injustices of a discriminatory system of government perpetuated by the PPP/Civic"

Clarke stressed that the reality of the racial pattern of voting which remained unchanged at the last elections underlines the importance that governance should be fair and be perceived as such. On this issue the PNC/R statement said "a review of the results of the poll indicate that, while there have been cross-over votes which benefited both major parties and the new entrants to the national political scene, the traditional voting patterns have not changed significantly. This reality has serious implications for the future governance of Guyana". Observers say this is one of the strongest acknowledgements by the PNC/R in recent times that the entrenched voting patterns would always be to its disadvantage.

Clarke said that as late as yesterday he had received grievances about people, who are not public servants, being brought into ministries and being paid more than the bona fide public servants.

Clarke noted that the public servants abided with the practice in the hope that there would have been a change of government and that now that this was not realised there was a certain despondency about enduring the "unfairness" of another five years.

Clarke contended that another area where government action is perceived to be unfair is the issue of the composition of the land selection committees. He accused the government of behaving as if the will of the electorate was of no concern to it in regions it did not control. The PNC REFORM has been complaining that the composition of the land selection committees of Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) and Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice) do not reflect the political reality of those regions and are packed with PPP/Civic supporters.

It was also pointed out that the government did not agree to the December 31, 2000 time-limit for tabling a land policy paper when the issue was agreed in the Oversight Committee (OSC) on constitutional reform. One of the constitutional amendments that was not enacted was the establishment of a land commission that would oversee the implementation of its land policy as set out in the paper it is to table in the National Assembly.

Clarke has declined to say how the dialogue with the PPP/Civic should be structured but stressed that it was important that the persons engaged in such talks should be those with the authority to do so.

He complained that the experience has been that PPP/Civic negotiators are not given space to negotiate with "Freedom House" - the headquarters of the ruling party - looking over their shoulders all the time.

However, the PPP/Civic has made the same complaint about the PNC REFORM, pointing out that agreements reached with PPP/Civic representatives at the level of OSC were reneged on if the PNC leadership did not agree with it. The last time the two parties had dialogue was under the aegis of the Herdmanston Accord with Barbadian Dr Maurice King as the facilitator. Despite several months of talks few areas of agreement were reached.

The PPP/Civic government in the past has also said that those who accuse it of discrimination should take their cases to the various bodies that exist to deal with them.

Noting President Jagdeo's statement on Friday at a press conference at the GTV 11 studio Homestretch Avenue, that he would be including in his Cabinet persons from outside the PPP/Civic, Clarke said that the reaction of the people would be an indication of their perception of the government's efforts at inclusivity.