PNC will proceed with cautious optimism--Hoyte

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
May 11, 1999

PNC Leader, Desmond Hoyte, says that his party is not so naive as to believe that some magic is going to occur with the restart of dialogue, but will proceed with cautious optimism.

He said the party is hoping there would be some possibility for a better, honest approach to dealing with agenda items in a more constructive way. This is with a view to arriving at finality and telling the Guyanese community that there is an agreement on issues.

Hoyte was responding to questions at a PNC press briefing, held at Sophia yesterday at which members of the party's dialogue team, leader Lance Carberry, Raphael Trotman and Lloyd Joseph were present. Also present was the party's executive committee member, Kadim Khan, who chaired the press conference.

In a prepared statement, Carberry said that the success of the resumed dialogue between the PPP/Civic and the PNC is dependent on the commitment without ambivalence by the PPP/Civic to urgently resolve those matters which result from the absence of good governance. The talks, he said, also depend on the PPP/Civic's commitment to urgently resolve matters which result from the poisonous influence of blatant victimisation, discrimination and endemic corruption.

The talks broke down because of a remark made by PPP/Civic team leader, Dr Roger Luncheon, that the PPP and the PNC were not equals. Carberry said that the inter-party dialogue is being reinstated on the basis of the unequivocal acceptance of the equality of the PPP/Civic and the PNC in the dialogue, which is between the parties and not between government and the PNC.

He said too that the PPP/Civic acknowledges and regrets the inappropriateness of the inequality remarks which led to the breakdown of the dialogue.

Reiterating the party's commitment to honour the letter and spirit of the Herdmanston Accord and the St Lucia Statement, Carberry expressed the PNC's thanks to Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, for his strenuous and skilful efforts to resolve the issues that caused the breakdown of the inter-party dialogue.

The 16-item agenda, which has already been agreed to, Carberry said, identifies critical issues that must be resolved. The party, he said, is committed to that agenda and expects that there will be immediate agreement on modalities to ensure the timely resolution of the issues and the speedy implementation of agreed solutions.

He added that it is only by the exercise of good faith and the timely achievement of solutions agreed between the parties "that we can demonstrate our commitment to inclusive governance."

Noting that the party looks forward to the early return of CARICOM Facilitator, Maurice King, Carberry said he understood that King had agreed to return in principle but immediate problems may prevent him from coming within the next two weeks. It is possible, however, that the CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington, may convene the first sitting of the dialogue teams, he said.

Hoyte said that one of the problems the PNC has encountered during previous dialogues is that its team has plenipotentiary power which binds the party to agreements it makes but this does not appear to be the same with the PPP/Civic's team. When the PNC believes that an agreement has been made it then discovers otherwise because some PPP/Civic party officials do not agree with the agreement.

Asked whether CARICOM leaders failed to find a solution to the impasse, Hoyte said that he would not say that the CARICOM leaders had failed, but that Anyaoku came at an opportune time, bearing in mind that previously tensions were high, emotions were raw and rhetoric was at a pretty high level. "The efforts of the facilitator to broker some kind of arrangement for the restart of the dialogue were unsuccessful having regard to how very charged the atmosphere was at the time. Anyaoku came at the time when there was opportunity for passions to cool, when both parties saw that the absence of dialogue was not helping this country and [was] providing fertile ground for extremists to emerge in our country."

Anyaoku had pointed out to both the PNC and the PPP/Civic that in every country where there is political trouble, the reason for the conflict and bloodshed was ethnic tension. This, he said, was evident in Europe, Asia and Africa "and wherever you went." Undoubtedly, he said there was the emergence in Guyana of evidence that the situation of conflict was going beyond mere words to perhaps physical encounters. Both sides listened and were impressed by Anyaoku's argument, Hoyte said, adding, "we know what is happening here. We know about the flow of guns, we know about the wild talks... people who are talking about ethnic dominance of one group or the other."

In terms of civil society trying to break the impasse, Hoyte said that "nobody [really] tried. Nobody made a credible effort to try to arrive at a solution in this country. That tells us something about the nature of civil society; that we could not find an individual or group with sufficient credibility to act as honest brokers. If you draw up a list of prominent persons, you would have to strike them off as not suitable for one reason or the other. They are either compromised or too low-keyed and have no credibility with the wider society."

Because the party has not been able to reach any agreement and report back to its constituency or the Guyanese people, Hoyte said that some time-frame for the resolution of agenda items should be set. He also said that he would also like the facilitator to use his authority to say publicly to parties that it is time to get on with finalising some agreement and that either one side or the other was dragging it out.

Asked about resuming dialogue with President Janet Jagan in her capacity as a representative of the PPP/Civic and based on her last request, Hoyte said that Mrs Jagan signed as President and the letter was written on an Office of the President letterhead and "there is no dialogue between President Jagan and Mr Hoyte." The proposed dialogue, he said, should be between Mrs Jagan representing the PPP and Mr Hoyte, the PNC.

He added, however, that the only difficulty he had with that was that it was in the hands of the journalists before he received the letter and that was not only inappropriate but offensive. He said that when he was reading the letter in parliament where he received it, journalists were outside Parliament Chambers waiting for him to comment on it.

Hoyte dismissed the idea that the PNC was raising matters pertaining to government policy. He noted, however, that while this was not so, Mrs Jagan's letter raised a number of issues which dealt with government policy such as the National Development Strategy, Poverty Eradication Programme, National Safety Net among others areas.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples