Political dialogue to resume
-after Anyaoku breakthroughDiplomatic masterstroke

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
May 10, 1999

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has brokered an agreement between the PPP/Civic and the PNC which will allow the stalled political dialogue to resume next week.

The first meeting is likely to be convened by CARICOM Secretary- General, Edwin Carrington, if the CARICOM facilitator, Maurice King QC, is unavailable.

Carrington's participation, however, is conditional on the endorsement of the agreement by the CARICOM Heads who were informed about it on Saturday evening. He is, however, prepared to step in with the agreement of the Heads if King is unavailable.

The breakthrough was announced yesterday by Anyaoku at an early morning press conference at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel prior to his departure for London after a three-day visit here.

He said that the agreement for the resumption of the dialogue was initialled on Saturday by Dr Roger Luncheon and Lance Carberry on behalf of the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the People's National Congress (PNC) respectively.

The agreement was circulated to the CARICOM Heads by Carrington on Saturday evening.

Chief Anyaoku told reporters that both sides have agreed to resume the dialogue "on the basis of equality and mutual respect". Also that in that context "the remarks that the parties were not equal and the subsequent breakdown of the dialogue were regrettable and ought not to have occurred".

It said too that "they further agreed for the future to avoid behaviour and language that is capable of undermining the constructive nature of the dialogue" and that "the political dialogue which is to proceed on an agreed agenda should not be confused with dialogue between government and opposition".

Anyaoku told the press conference that "he hoped that the inter-party dialogue would resume as early as possible with CARICOM continuing to perform its important task of facilitation and generally helping in the efforts to resolve the problem."

"I am confident that your political parties' leaders, your professional bodies and your civil society as a whole will want to succeed in ensuring that this country remains stable and harmonious."

Anyaoku explained that the agreement was brokered after a series of very intensive discussions with functionaries from both parties in which he "sought to lay before them the stark realities of the situation both now and in its likely future".

The announcement of the agreement was welcomed by PPP/Civic executive member and Information Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, PNC leader Desmond Hoyte SC, and CARICOM Secretary-General, Carrington. King, who had returned to Barbados, was unaware of the agreement until it was read to him over the phone yesterday by Stabroek News. However, though indicating his interest in continuing as facilitator, he said that he was not willing to comment until he had received formal notification from CARICOM. He said too that he was unlikely to be at the first meeting if it was convened next week.

Nagamootoo contacted for the PPP/Civic's reaction said that his party was ready and willing to resume the dialogue. He told Stabroek News yesterday that President Janet Jagan's letter to PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte SC, suggesting options for resuming the dialogue was an early indication of the PPP/Civic's unhappiness with the stalemate.

He noted that the agreement was worthy of the profound interest Anyaoku has shown in the peculiarities of plural societies among which Guyana is numbered.

Hoyte told Stabroek News yesterday that his party was ready to resume the dialogue and would be doing so with the same team engaged in the process before the breakdown. That team is led by Carberry and included Raphael Trotman and Lloyd Joseph.

Carrington also welcomed the breakthrough which he said was a practical indication of Chief Anyaoku's interest in Guyana and his pledge to backstop CARICOM's initiatives under the Herdmanston Accord and St Lucia statement.

He told Stabroek News yesterday that he was personally unhappy with the situation in which the dialogue had broken down and King had departed.

Carrington said too that Anyaoku's intervention was not totally unexpected as he had indicated a willingness to mediate once he was in the region.

The breakthrough came as a surprise as over the past ten weeks or so efforts at getting the dialogue resumed have been singularly unsuccessful. Even the CARICOM Heads seemed mired in the inertia as the wording of a statement on the breakdown of the dialogue, which should have been forthcoming following their mid-April discussions in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic is still to be agreed.

The weekend agreement is the second time that the Commonwealth Secretary-General has intervened directly to bring the two sides together; the first was when the CARICOM-devised Herdmanston Accord process was threatened and which intervention led to the St Lucia Statement.

Anyaoku refused to compare his approach and that of CARICOM which had failed to bring the parties together since the talks broke down in February. However, he did say that in his several discussions with representatives of both parties that he focussed all his attention on the factors which would help to bring about a resumption of the dialogue. "The focus of my discussions has been my concern at the breakdown of the inter-party dialogue with its inevitable consequences of growing tension between the parties and the adverse impact on the harmonious relations between sections of the community."

The frequency and intensity of the discussions with both parties resulted in him having to cancel a trip to the Iwokrama Rainforest Programme. Those discussions, he said, involved Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who is performing the functions of President; Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee; Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Luncheon on one hand, and PNC leader, Hoyte, and a team which at times was as large as six and among whom was Carberry.

Anyaoku said that the composition of the dialogue teams was not raised in the deliberations and that it was a matter for the parties to decide.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General explained too that he has always been following events here but has been working behind the scenes helping CARICOM except for this time and his previous intervention last year to save the Herdmanston Accord from collapsing. On that occasion, he recalled three telephone calls to President Jagan, PNC leader, Hoyte and his predecessor as Commonwealth Secretary- General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, who had helped to broker the Accord.

The dialogue, which collapsed over remarks by Dr Luncheon at a formal session in February that the two parties were not negotiating as equals, had defied efforts by King to resuscitate it.

King's efforts included convening a meeting between President Jagan and Hoyte on April 2, at which they failed to agree on the parameters for resuming the talks. He was also unsuccessful in his efforts to get the parties to agree to a form of words through which the offending remarks would have been withdrawn.

When he left here on March 20, King conditioned his return on the parties not only agreeing to resume the dialogue but also on the parameters of the discussions that would ensue in the process. President Jagan's proposal to have the dialogue resumed with different teams also did not get off the ground as it did not meet the PNC's condition that Dr Luncheon's remarks should be withdrawn.

Nagamootoo said that the proposal for resuming the dialogue even if using new teams was an indication of the PPP's unhappiness with the stalemate, its preparedness to have it restarted and to provide a window of opportunity for resolving the deadlock.

He observed that though the discussions with Anyaoku did not address whether or not the dialogue would resume with new teams, the President's suggestion is not a condition but an option.

Nagamootoo noted that the elements for reaching agreement were always there but that it just needed time and distance to fall into perspective. Anyaoku's intervention, he said, facilitated this.