Facilitator crucial for talks- PNC
-cites conflicting statements

By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
September 8, 1998

The conflicting statements coming from the ruling party highlights the need for a facilitator for the PNC/PPP dialogue.

Aubrey Norton, General Secretary of the People's National Congress (PNC), told reporters yesterday that he had "serious concerns" about the dialogue process but at the talks last Wednesday, for the first time, progress was made.

"And even when I saw Dr (Roger) Luncheon's statement (last weekend), of putting the facilitator on the back burner, I did not make an issue about it because we had progressed," Norton said.

However, Norton said when he was informed about a statement by PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramotar, in the PPP aligned newspaper, the Mirror, contradicting a statement by him on the agreement on the land selection committee composition, he saw the need for a facilitator "more and more".

Norton said Ramotar was at the meeting with Luncheon at the CARICOM Secretariat, while Joe Hamilton was also there for the PNC.

He said a long discussion was had on the PNC position that the land distribution and other committees in the region should reflect the political strength of the political parties in the regions. He said the PPP delegation had no problem save for one objection by Ramotar that it would be a usurpation of the minister's powers.

"I pointed out in the dialogue that the constitution and the laws governing the regional system permits that if there is any conflict between the central government and the regional government, the minister prevails. The explanation was accepted and Dr Roger Luncheon in the presence of Ramotar, agreed that they will proceed to the Minister of Agriculture, to inform him of the decision..." Norton noted.

He said Ramotar's statement that he did not agree to the composition of the land selection committees is unfortunate.

Norton contends that a facilitator will be needed who will ensure agreed minutes at the end of the meetings.

"The PNC's position always has been that a facilitator will be useful. I notice Dr Luncheon has put it on the back burner. For the PNC it is not on the back burner. For the PNC the St Lucia statement is clear that there is need for a facilitator and we will pursue that," Norton stated.

The appointment of the facilitator, Barbadian Maurice King, has been held up because of a PNC objection to the description of Mrs Janet Jagan as President in the terms of reference. The PPP has labelled the PNC's objection as petty and rejected a proposed amendment to the terms.

As to the other decisions taken at the inter-party dialogue, these included for the PNC representation on state boards to be filled by persons identified by the PNC.

Norton also said that it was only for the race relations commission that the PNC agreed to set up a party sub-committee and not for the National Development Strategy (NDS).

He said Dr Luncheon through the back door, is attempting to include the NDS.

"When the idea of the NDS was raised I made it clear that the PNC position is that we were not consulted on the NDS. We didn't think it was something for the Carter Center..and I outlined the PNC's position. And our position essentially at the last meeting is that the PNC is not disposed to placing discussions on the NDS to a sub committee. Those were the positions at the last meeting," Norton said.

Asked what needs to be done for the PNC to endorse the strategy as a national one, Norton reminded that the document was developed without the PNC even though an agreement was reached in Atlanta, USA, for the party to be involved and consulted.

And having been spearheaded by the Carter Center, Norton said he is not sure that is the appropriate institution to deal with a national strategy for Guyana.

"I believe there are a lot of difficulties in terms of sanitising the development strategy," he contended. His personal views are that a way will have to be devised for all Guyanese to be involved.

The PNC central committee recently affirmed that it will not endorse the document.