Audit laws agreed on

Stabroek News
February 25, 1998

Agreement on the proposed laws for the audit of the December 15 elections was clinched last night by the PPP/Civic and the PNC and several CARICOM prime ministers are due next week to lend a helping hand to the post-election healing process.

Agreement was also reached between the two parties on Monday on the procedures that will be adopted to ensure the legislation is enacted into law as expeditiously as possible.

Stabroek News understands that the bill is likely to be placed on the Order Paper for the first business session of Parliament. With agreement on the legislation, the way is now clear for the leaders of CARICOM member states to come to Guyana to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Guyana. Four CARICOM Heads are likely to visit Guyana on February 25, and will hold talks with the political parties which contested the elections, sources tell Stabroek News. They are likely to be here for two days.

The four likely to come are CARICOM chairman, Grenada's Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, Barbados' Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, and St Lucia's Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony.

A joint statement issued by the People's Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic and the People's National Congress (PNC) yesterday following a two-hour meeting on Monday at Freedom House, said that further conclusive consultations were to be held within the next twenty-four hours (yesterday) of the meeting on two small matters arising from one of the eleven clauses of the bill.

The "small matters" Stabroek News understands related to questions about the implementation of the audit findings. Agreement was reached on these issues, sources last night said.

The release also said that "the parties exchanged views on the means to ensure the early commencement of the Audit and on the institutions which could facilitate the work."

It said too that the two sides "expressed their commitment to the terms and sentiments contained in the Accord and their determination to ensure that it informs their activities."

Stabroek News was told that the two sides had agreed to move away from the formal meetings and to work more intensively on a one-to -one basis as circumstances warrant.

The sources say that this agreement was influenced by the frank, business-like but cordial atmosphere in which the two meetings on the legislation took place. The two meetings, the first at Congress Place on February 2, and the second at Freedom House on February 16, were the first formal discussions between the two parties to be held at their respective headquarters.

Those present at the Monday evening talks were Michael Shree Chan, Dr Roger Luncheon, Ralph Ramkarran SC and Khemraj Ramjattan for the PPP/Civic. The PNC was represented by Haslyn Parris, Malcolm Parris and Ian Skeffers. Shree Chan and Haslyn Parris are vested with plenipotentiary powers by their respective parties and charged with overseeing the smooth implementation of the seven-item menu of measures of the CARICOM-brokered Herdmanston Accord.

Besides the legislation Stabroek News understands that the question of the planned activities by the PNC to celebrate Mashramani was raised and that the PNC reiterated its position that it had no intention of disrupting the activities planned by the government. It however pointed out, that their view, that the government was not legitimately elected, prevented them from being at activities where President Janet Jagan was performing functions as President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief.

This view is expected to hold for the PNC's response to the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament when President Jagan will address the National Assembly on February 26.

Meanwhile, Hugh Cholmondeley, who assisted the CARICOM goodwill mission in brokering the Herdmanston Accord, returned to Guyana on Monday to continue his consultations with the parties on the conduct of the audit to be carried out on the December 15 elections.

Last week, agreement was reached on the composition of the seven-man audit team which will be headed by a former Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal judge, Ulric Cross.

The team is expected to arrive here early March and would be supported by a technical team of accountants and computer experts.