Encouraging signs

Stabroek News
July 3, 2001

On the 26th June, 2001 the People's Progressive Party issued a press release following a meeting of the Central Committee of the party on the previous Saturday. It contained the following passage: "Importantly, the PPP recognised that the strength of our nation, the prosperity and the pride of Guyana lie in the unity of our people. All races in our multi-cultural nation deserve full and equal access to the nation's resources; and all are entitled to safety, security and protection.

In this regard, the PPP Central Committee commits the party to continue its mission for racial and national unity. The PPP re-commits itself to multi-party democracy, and to the promotion of a multi-racial, multi-cultural society, where all are free to pursue their aspirations and dreams.

The PPP also sees inclusive politics as a hallmark of the new democracy that is being built in Guyana. The party is prepared to broaden relationships, to develop bipartisanism, and alliances. These policies, however, are premised on respect for the national interest, responsible conduct and patriotism."

On the 29th June, 2001, concluding the debate on the budget, the leader of the People's National Congress, Mr Desmond Hoyte, told the National Assembly that he believed there was an opportunity for a fresh start and that the opportunity should be seized. "At the end of the day" he said "this is our country; at the end of the day I believe that most people have nowhere else to go. They belong here and are going to die here.... The duty to keep it intact devolves on all of us." He went on to say that there was no good reason why "we cannot forge a national consensus on some of the things we need to do." He said that in his talks with President Jagdeo they had almost imperceptibly reached a significant stage in the evolution of the country. "I personally believe that the significance of the start of those talks is going to dawn on people not too far from now." The success of the talks would depend on the results and "I'm satisfied in my own mind that these talks have been good." He said the agenda of the talks can never be closed and could be broadened to involve other players.

Responding for the government Parliamentary Affairs Minister Reepu Daman Persaud welcomed Mr Hoyte's remarks and said that had been a special day for the National Assembly. "I think I can tell (Mr Hoyte) he has an important role to play and I say publicly, not only that he has that role to play, I think that he can play it and play it well." He praised the dialogue and said he felt that a new political environment was being conducted.

Even the most negative and the most cynical will agree that these are encouraging signs. This is the most positive and conciliatory language one has heard on both sides for quite a while. One must hope that in keeping with the sentiments expressed the dialogue will become firmly established and broaden into other fields, that relationships between the two leaders and the two parties will continue to improve, that some effort will be made to temper the extremely hostile rhetoric that has become almost endemic in our politics and that above all possibilities for working together and developing new forms of governance will be creatively explored. We have suffered as a country for too long. There is too much despair. The door of dialogue has been opened. As Mr Hoyte has hinted it can be the beginning of a new era.