CARICOM prime ministers to meet parties today--two `wise men' to accompany them

Stabroek News
February 25, 1998

The CARICOM Prime Ministerial delegation plans to meet with the leaders of the political parties to review the progress made in implementing the Herdmanston Accord and to express their solidarity with the Guyanese people.

The CARICOM chairman, Grenada's prime minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, St Lucia's prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, Trinidad and Tobago prime minister, Basdeo Panday and Barbados' prime minister, Owen Arthur, were due to arrive in Guyana last evening. They are expected to leave today.

Also due to arrive last night were former Barbados attorney general and foreign minister, Sir Henry Forde and former secretary general of the Commonwealth, Sir Shridath Ramphal who, with Sir Alister McIntyre, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, brokered the Accord. Sir Alister was unable to join the CARICOM team for the visit.

Hugh Cholmondeley who headed the local observer mission mounted by the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB,) and assisted in the brokering of the Accord, has been helping the CARICOM mission with the arrangements for the implementation of the audit of the December 15 elections. He has been in Guyana for the past week preparing the ground for the visit by the prime ministers.

During their stay, Dr Mitchell and his colleagues will meet with President Janet Jagan and People's National Congress leader, Desmond Hoyte SC.

The meeting with President Jagan will take place at the Office of the President at 8:30am, and that with Hoyte at his Congress Place, Sophia, party headquarters at 10am.

They are also scheduled to meet with the leadership of the Alliance for Guyana, The United Force, the Justice for All Party, the Guyana Democratic Party and the Good and Green Guyana. This meeting will take the form of a working lunch at Herdmanston House.

They are also due to meet with Michael Shree Chan and Haslyn Parris, the representatives of the PPP/Civic and the PNC respectively, charged with overseeing the implementation of the Accord. In addition they will see the PPP/Civic's Dr Roger Luncheon and the PNC's general secretary, Aubrey Norton, who are charged with establishing the dialogue for the creation of the enabling environment for the implementation of the Accord.

Stabroek News understands that in their meetings with the parties the prime ministers would be reviewing the progress made so far in implementing the audit of the December 15 elections and how the other measures could be tackled, including the establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission.

They will also meet with the press during the afternoon at Herdmanston House.

Sir Henry and Sir Shridath are expected to meet with a number of non-governmental organisations to explore with them how they could facilitate the implementation of the other measures of the Accord.

Also on the prime ministers' schedule is a visit to the Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, site where the CARICOM Secretariat headquarters complex will be constructed, for a turning of the sod ceremony. This will take place after the discussion with the PNC leader.

The headquarters project is to be a joint venture enterprise between the Guyana government, Guysuco and a private developer from Trinidad and Tobago.

The visit by the prime ministerial delegation is the first in the series of solidarity visits by CARICOM Heads that Dr Mitchell said would take place once the arrangements for the audit were settled when he visited Guyana on January 22.

Since then the seven-member audit team, headed by former Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal judge, Ulric Cross, has been agreed to by the PPP/Civic and the PNC. They have also agreed to the draft enabling legislation to facilitate the audit of the elections and the procedures which would be adopted to enact it.

The audit is being carried out in two phases, with the first phase to be completed by April 16.
On Monday Dr Mitchell told CANA's Grenada correspondent that "we felt that by going there we are showing the Guyanese people that we are definitely behind them and that our commitment is very solid."

"So that is why [Barbados] Prime Minister Owen Arthur, [Trinidad and Tobago] Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and [St. Lucia] Prime Minister Kenny Anthony despite their extremely busy scheduled they have decided to make the sacrifice at this time," Dr Mitchell explained.

He added that the visits by the Prime Ministers were also to demonstrate to "the Guyanese people that we are certainly behind them and that we are committed to the process of reconciliation and the settling of the differences at the political and social levels."

The audit is one of the menu of measures being implemented to resolve the political crisis which developed after the December 15, elections to return Guyana to normalcy.

The other menu measures include the discontinuation of the protest marches by the PNC; the revocation of the ban on marches and assembly in public places imposed by the Government; the establishment of a process of dialogue between the two parties; the establishment of a Constitutional Review Commission which would present its report to parliament within eighteen months and the holding of general and national elections eighteen months after the Commission report is presented to the National Assembly.