Jagan/Hoyte in new deal
- govt to pass laws, PNC to enter parliament by July 15
July 3, 1998
Sealed by a historic handshake, leaders of the PPP/Civic and the PNC Thursday signed a landmark accord in St Lucia aimed at ending the recent spate of political protests that have convulsed the country and at speeding up constitutional reform and dialogue.
It was the second time in just over six months that CARICOM had come to the rescue of Guyana at the brink of deepening political crisis and Thursday's deal also paves the way for the appointment of a facilitator to oil the wheels of the accord implementation and the return of the PNC to Parliament.
President Janet Jagan and People's National Congress (PNC) leader, Desmond Hoyte, underscored their commitment to the terms of the January Herdmanston Accord after signing the St Lucia agreement at the Halycon Sandals resort, on behalf of their respective parties. The agreement was also signed by CARICOM chairman, Dr Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St Lucia, on behalf of the Community.
As part of the agreement, President Jagan and Hoyte have also committed themselves to meeting on a periodic basis to facilitate the achievement of all the processes to which they have committed their parties under the Accord.
They have also agreed to the appointment of a high level facilitator, acceptable to both of their parties, to further assist in the due implementation of the several agreements reached by them. CARICOM has agreed to provide such a facilitator as a matter of urgency and his functions will be developed in consultations with the two parties.
Under the terms of the agreement, President Jagan has committed her party to the implementation of a number of parliamentary reforms, including exploring the idea of the establishment of a parliamentary management committee which would involve the parliamentary opposition in the management of the functioning of the National Assembly.
In turn, Hoyte has committed his party to the cessation "of illegal protest on the streets of Guyana as dialogue and parliamentary processes take their rightful and prominent place in Guyana's governance."
The provision related to this aspect of the agreement reads in part - "we are strengthened in this assurance that the rule of law will be upheld and that as a consequence violence in the political life of the country will cease."
It said too "none of us wish to stifle dissent in any of our countries; but none of us will accept disorder and threats to life and property as a way of political life."
The Jagan/Hoyte agreement also calls for the acceptance of "the findings of the first stage of the December 15 elections Audit - as set out in paragraph 1(i)(a) of the Accord - as binding upon them; but it is recognised that this does not preclude the pursuit of election petitions which have been filed in the courts by both parties."
Further, the agreement calls for the government to amend the Representation of the People Act (RPA) which would allow the PNC to extract the twenty-five names originally provided to sit in parliament. This is to be done in time for the PNC to take its seats in parliament by July 15.
The seats of the parliamentarians, among whom were Hoyte and the party general secretary, Aubrey Norton, were vacated as a result of their absence from six consecutive sessions of the National Assembly without being excused by the Speaker of the National Assembly, during a period of two calendar months.
Under the RPA, the PNC is prevented from extracting the same names it did originally.
The agreement also calls for steps to be taken by the parties ahead of constitutional reform to put in place "measures and arrangements for the improvement of race relations in Guyana, including the contribution which equal opportunities legislation and concepts drawn from the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society can contribute to the cause of justice, equity and progress in Guyana."
The agreement also recognised the feasibility of completing the work of the Constitution Reform Commission and having its report submitted to the National Assembly by July 16, 1999, as originally contemplated. Both President Jagan and Hoyte have committed themselves to achieving it.
And to enable the timetable to be met, they have agreed to "settle as soon as possible, by law in the manner required by the `Herdmanston Accord', the terms of reference and the naming of the Constitution Reform Commission."
CARICOM has resolved to "assist them in every way required, but more specifically by arranging for the provision of constitutional experts and facilitators."
The agreement was reached after two days of discussions between Hoyte and the CARICOM Heads, now meeting in St Lucia, as well as some "shuttle diplomacy" involving St Vincent's prime minister, Sir James Mitchell and Sir Shridath Ramphal QC, Commonwealth Secretary General and now CARICOM's Chief Negotiator, who shuttled between the two leaders, in the effort to broker the agreement.
The CARICOM Heads' first meeting with Hoyte was on Wednesday afternoon and came after he had met earlier in the day with Sir James. As a result of the discussions on Wednesday, Hoyte was requested to delay his departure from St Lucia to facilitate the completion of the discussions. Thursday morning, he met with a small team from the Heads at which time the agreement was hammered out and the agreement was signed during the afternoon. Hoyte was in St Lucia at the invitation of the CARICOM Heads as part of CARICOM's commitment to remain engaged with Guyana. He returns to Guyana Friday.
In a comment to Reuters Thursday on the St Lucia pact, President Jagan said "I am happy Guyana can move forward without any more interference in the normal life of the community.
"I am happy for the people who have been hurt by the violence in the street and that we can have peace once again and progress for the country".
Reached for a comment in St Lucia last night, Hoyte told Stabroek News that he believed that if faithfully implemented the agreement should go a far way towards creating the kind of climate which would enable stability to return to the country.
He said that he had responded to the invitation of the CARICOM Heads out of courtesy and had no expectations as to what would been the outcome of the discussions.
Hoyte said that out of the discussions with the Heads, a document was generated out of which had flowed the agreement signed with President Jagan.
He explained that the agreement reaffirmed the principles of the Herdmanston Accord and had in addition included agreements for parliamentary reform which would ensure the proper functioning of parliament.
He explained too that the agreement also included provisions for the implementation of measures, ahead of constitutional reform, dealing with justice, equity, victimisation and discrimation about which the PNC had been complaining.
Hoyte said that the agreement also provides for the intensification of constitutional reform, also a long-standing complaint of his party.
At the opening session of the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit on Tuesday in Castries, Dr Anthony had said that CARICOM was obligated to be in the forefront of moves to find a solution to resolve the political situation.
He stressed that the region's continued engagement would be guided by the commitment to peace and order, acceptance of the sacred values which underpin the electoral process, dedication to the canons of good governance and the rule of law.
Stabroek News understands, from a source close to the discussions between the two leaders, that Sir James has agreed with the consent of Dr Anthony to be available to the PNC as an additional avenue of channelling its concerns about the pace of the implementation and breaches of the Accord.