June 15, 1999
The resumption of dialogue under facilitator Maurice King is encouraging. A meeting was scheduled for yesterday afternoon. There have been hiccups, of course, but we have learnt to expect them.
In the first place, the PPP had suggested that his terms of reference be reviewed. This is an eminently sensible proposal. We had said at the outset that the original terms of reference virtually reduced the facilitator to the role of a notetaker and were unacceptable. The idea is therefore in principle a good one but only if it can be accomplished expeditiously with the full agreement of the PNC. There is no reason to believe that the PNC will not agree with the basic idea but if the redrafting of the terms of reference threatens to become long drawn out and a sticking point, as so many things have done in this dialogue process, it could be counterproductive and should not be pursued.
The PPP had also suggested a new agenda and the PNC pointed out that there was an existing one which is incomplete. What most people would like added to the agenda is a discussion of the constitutional reform process in which both parties are represented at very senior levels, despite the resignation of Mr Moses Nagamootoo who has been replaced by Mrs Philomena Sahoye-Shury. Mr Nagamootoo said they were working under duress and there is indeed a feeling in the Commission that the time is very short within which to complete the report. Should it be extended, without prejudice to the election date? That is certainly something the parties could discuss.
And what about the concept of a national front government for two years from January 2000 as raised in discussion by a member of the Commission?
There is also the issue raised by Dr Luncheon of the need to involve government ministers if issues are raised requiring governmental action. Has that been resolved? Can it be avoided by the PPP side consulting the ministers after a meeting and reporting back?
With a genuine desire to have dialogue and communicate so much can be achieved, without it discussions tend to be perfunctory and to achieve little. There are already issues on the agenda which can be solved with a bit of energy and imagination.
As has been said many times, most recently by Professor Hanf, ethnic conflict and the need for compromise are not unique to Guyana. Many countries have already faced up to it and devised various solutions. Neither party has accepted the need for fundamental changes in the system of government. They feel that they can win a fair election and govern the country successfully. Others are less confident of this. But even if they are right there is still much else to be discussed and changed, ranging from parliamentary procedures to land selection committees, that can reduce ethnic tension and make the country more easily governable, whoever is in power.
We welcome the resumption of dialogue and look forward to a commitment by both parties to making it more effective than before.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples