PNC declines PPP/Civic's dialogue invite

Stabroek News
June 3, 1999

An attempt by the People's Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic to meet the People's National Congress (PNC) was yesterday frustrated by the latter's insistence that their discussions should remain within the CARICOM framework.

Oscar Clarke, the PNC's General Secretary, in refusing the invitation, reminded his PPP/Civic counterpart, Donald Ramotar, "that since the departure of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku, on May 9, 1999, the PNC and, presumably the PPP/C, have been awaiting notification from the CARICOM Secretary General about the day, date and time for the resumed Inter-Party dialogue and the likely date for the return of the CARICOM Facilitator, Mr Maurice King (QC)."

He also reminded Ramotar that "the Agenda for the suspended Inter- Party Dialogue had already been agreed between the PNC, the PPP/C and the CARICOM Facilitator."

"Therefore, all that is now necessary is for the Parties to agree on modalities which will ensure the expeditious resolution of the issues on the Agenda. We expect that will be the first matter to be dealt with by the resumed Inter-Party Dialogue."

He therefore urged Ramotar "to join with us to have the CARICOM Secretary General ensure the early return of the CARICOM Facilitator".

The move by the PPP/Civic was intended to discuss with the PNC the role of the facilitator which it had informed the CARICOM Secretariat it wanted to revisit within the context of the resumed dialogue. The PNC's position is that in the negotiations leading to the agreement brokered by Anyaoku, it was always understood that the Facilitator would have continued in the process. It noted the undertaking by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to inform King about the agreement and his statement at the press conference announcing the agreement that the first meeting would be convened by CARICOM Secretary General, Edwin Carrington, if King was unavailable.

Carrington was informed of the PPP/Civic's move by a copy of Ramotar's letter to Clarke. However, the CARICOM Secretariat, is still to receive clarification from the PPP/Civic as to what is meant by "revisiting the role of the facilitator in the context of the resumed dialogue".

Sources close to the Secretariat have told Stabroek News that it was still to hear from the leader of the PPP/Civic dialogue team, Dr Roger Luncheon, whom it has been trying to contact for some time now.

Carrington, who returns to Guyana today and has been kept informed of developments in his absence, is expected to continue his efforts to convene the first meeting of the resumed dialogue. This will be among the things which he will give priority attention.

Yesterday afternoon, the PPP issued a statement in the wake of the PNC rejection of the dialogue invitation saying that an urgent inter-party meeting is needed to clarify and settle issues relating to the talks.

PPP General Secretary Ramotar said in the release that claims of an agreed agenda for the to-be-resumed dialogue was not only "inconsistent with that agreement but offends the state of affairs regarding correspondence on this subject between both parties". The release said that Ramotar had replied to Clarke pointing out that President Janet Jagan had proposed to PNC leader Desmond Hoyte at their meeting with King some items for a new agenda. The President had also subsequently written Hoyte on April 6 documenting the new proposed agenda items.

Hoyte recently responded to the letter from President Jagan which had also suggested a change of dialogue teams as a means of resolving the impasse which occurred in the process since February 15.

His response which appeared in the latest issue of the New Nation, regretted his delay in replying and pointed out to President Jagan that matters relating to the CARICOM-brokered Herdmanston Accord and St Lucia Statement provide for dialogue between political parties "and not between a `President' Jagan and any other person".

"If you wish to write me in connection with any matter falling within the ambit of the Accord or the Statement, I should be grateful if you would do so in the appropriate capacity as representative of the People's Progressive Party/Civic.

The PNC has also declined a suggestion of the PPP/Civic to meet on the issue of a "Permanent Elections Commission".

In responding to this invitation, PNC general secretary, Oscar Clarke, said that his party "acknowledges that the establishment of a permanent Elections Commission is a matter now engaging the attention of the Constitution Reform Commission in which the Parliamentary Parties as well as civil society representatives are actively examining and debating the many proposals with a view to framing suitable recommendations to the National Assembly". However, he said, "It is our view that nothing should be done which could be interpreted as undermining this Constitution Reform Commission process."

The government plans to hold local government elections this year and has already indicated its preparedness to do so under a three-man Elections Commission on which the PNC is not represented. Hoyte has refused to take up the position of Minority Leader and as a result no consultations could be held with him in that capacity on matters of this nature.

Also, the PNC has already indicated its intention not to participate in any elections supervised by an Elections Commission chaired by Doodnauth Singh SC. Singh chaired the Elections Commission which supervised the December 1997 general and regional elections, the results of which are now the subject of a High Court challenge.

The PPP release yesterday said that Ramotar had written a second letter to Clarke reiterating that the call for the early establishment of the Permanent Elections Commission was in reply to the PNC's position on the composition of the current commission and its management of the planned local government elections this year.

"The party reminds the PNC that the constitution reform process is intended to conclude with an adopted constitution which would be the framework for the holding of the 2001 general and regional elections. It is not intended to provide a framework for the 1999 local government elections", the PPP said. As such, the party said that it felt that the constitution should be amended to restore the Carter Center model utilised in 1992, 1994 and 1997.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples