Is dialogue dead?

Stabroek News
March 24, 1998

Mr Hugh Cholmondeley left Guyana yesterday. His efforts as facilitator had played a vital role in helping the mission of the three wise men headed by Sir Henry Forde to achieve the Herdmanston accord. His continuing efforts to mediate on behalf of the Caricom mission and Dr Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Grenada and Chairman of Caricom, have also been of great assistance.

The dialogue between the PPP and the PNC envisaged by the Herdmanston accord has started and has been useful in specific areas like agreeing the audit team legislation. But it has not even begun to blossom into that broader dialogue that so many had hoped would follow on issues like constitutional reform. Indeed the Constitution Reform Commission that was to be established by law with a wide mandate and a broad based membership remains a dead letter. And dialogue between Mrs Jagan and Mr Hoyte is not yet on the agenda.

The departure of Mr Cholmondeley will not help. The parties clearly need an experienced facilitator to help dialogue along. Ideally, one would like an agenda of issues to be prepared for discussion which should clearly include the setting up of the Constitution Reform Commission and the post audit team report situation - who will do what depending on the findings. One regrets that dialogue could not earlier have dealt with issues like the divided Mashramani celebration and the PNC not sitting in parliament. The spirit of serious endeavour urged by the two leaders in their covering statement when the award was signed has not been in evidence.

Initial reports suggest that the audit of the elections results could take several weeks and go beyond the original April l7 deadline. This is in itself no problem and is not surprising as it eventually took nearly two months to get everything in place. All the feedbacks from those who have met the team indicate that they are thoroughly professional in their approach and one is confident that their report will gain the widest acceptance and put an end to the post-election problems one way or the other. There must be no further ifs or buts or qualifications. The team is fully aware of all the relevant issues and the parties have had every opportunity to put their case. The report must be final.

It is nevertheless important that dialogue should continue and that the many outstanding issues should be the subject of discussion.