Time runs on

Stabroek News
September 1, 1998

The Herdmanston Accord was signed by Mrs Janet Jagan and Mr Desmond Hoyte as leaders of the People's Progressive Party/Civic and the People's National Congress respectively. The subsequent St Lucia Statement was also signed by them in a similar capacity but in this statement there were several references to President Jagan, as distinct from Mrs Jagan, though she was also described as Mrs Jagan in the document. Now, clause l of the draft terms of reference for the proposed facilitator, Mr Maurice King, refers to "the St Lucia Statement signed by President Janet Jagan" and Mr Hoyte has refused to sign this. As a result, the terms of reference are still to be signed and Mr King sits waiting in Barbados to take up his post.

Technically, though this may seem like a mere quibble to many people, it may be incorrect to say that the Statement was signed by President Janet Jagan as she signed in her capacity as party leader and not as president. Can't the problem be corrected by a simple amendment? A great deal of time has been wasted by this issue and it is indicative of the lack of co-operation between the parties that they have not been able to resolve the issue by a simple exchange of views. Both sides have access to experienced lawyers. Surely a simple problem of drafting like this can be cleared up by a process of dialogue. Instead, it has become a major stumbling block.

Mr Hoyte has made the point that despite the fact that the terms of reference have not been signed the other parts of the two existing agreements can be proceeded with. This is certainly the case, even though it may have been more desirable if the facilitator was in place. For example, the parliamentary committee which was set up to name the members of the Constitution Reform Commission and agree its terms of reference has not completed this task, indeed we do not believe the committee has met yet. All of this is leading to a loss of precious time if the deadline of July, l999, set by the Herdmanston Accord for the completion of the work of that commission is to be met. What is responsible for this lack of a sense of urgency on both sides?

Dialogue between Dr Roger Luncheon and Mr Aubrey Norton has restarted and they are to meet tomorrow and thereafter every Wednesday. Here too the schedule has been somewhat relaxed and one fails to detect a sense that important matters are being discussed to which the highest levels of both parties should be giving priority attention.

Given the progress to date since the Herdmanston Accord was signed in January it is hard to escape the conclusion that neither party has accorded it that level of commitment that was expected by the three wise men, the Caricom leaders, and most importantly the people of Guyana. At the present rate there must be real concern that the terms can be honoured in the time prescribed given the work to be done.