King initiates dialogue rounds
-functions to be worked out with party leaders

By Courtney Jones
Stabroek News
September 23, 1998

Caricom facilitator, former Barbadian Attorney General and Foreign Minister, Maurice King, has been speaking of his role in paving the way for meaningful dialogue between the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the People's National Congress (PNC).

King was speaking to reporters yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister after an "introductory meeting" with representatives of the ruling PPP/Civic led by Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, who is now performing the duties of President.

He later met representatives of the PNC, led by party leader, Desmond Hoyte.

The Caricom facilitator who arrived in Guyana on Sunday night, was appointed under the provisions of the St Lucia Statement signed by President Janet Jagan and Hoyte in St Lucia on July 2 during the Caricom Heads of Government Summit.

Subsequently, both the PNC and the PPP/Civic agreed to his terms of reference but it took a visit by Caricom Chairman St Lucia Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, here last week, to secure agreement by both parties.

This led to the signing by Hoyte, President Jagan and Prime Minister Anthony and in effect resolved a difficulty the PNC leader had with an aspect of the wording of the terms of reference.

"I am here as a facilitator to try to accommodate the wishes of the major players in the process and to try to facilitate that process", King told reporters.

In response to a question, King said that it was not his place to be satisfied with the terms of reference. However, he emphasised that he "had no difficulty with the terms, but noted that the details of his function "are to be worked out after fuller consultations with the leadership of the PPP/Civic and the PNC".

The meeting, described by King as "essentially a courtesy call" was also attended by Sports and Culture Minister, Gail Teixeira, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, Trade and Tourism Minister, Michael Shree Chan, Agriculture Minister, Reepu Daman Persaud and PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramotar.

Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington also attended the meeting.

Prime Minister Hinds said the PPP/Civic delegation to the meeting with King, expressed the hope that the process involving the facilitator would be successful and that "all the objectives that have been set will be met".

Hinds said if this is so, King "would have contributed to the process of making one people out of all of us in Guyana and really realising a sense of being Guyanese."

He said apart from welcoming King, the meeting dealt with some initial details about caucuses that will occur in the future between the facilitator and the two sides.

Under the terms of reference, King as facilitator will be required to attend all meetings of the bodies established by the PPP/Civic and the PNC for political dialogue under the Caricom-brokered Herdmanston Accord of January 17 and keep all records of the meetings.

He is also required to assist in the implementation of all decisions made by the two parties and at the request of the parties, consult with the Chairman of Caricom for "the purpose of recommending ideas and/or initiatives for the achievement of the objectives of the Herdmanston Accord and the St Lucia Statement."

General Secretary of the PNC, Aubrey Norton, told Stabroek News the PNC team briefed King on the status of the dialogue between the PPP/Civic and the PNC.

"We discussed with him how we saw his role as facilitator and the contribution he can make to the whole process", Norton said.

The PNC official also said that his party communicated to King its grave concerns about the slow pace of the movement towards constitutional reform.

"We gave Mr King our assurance that we will work closely with him in keeping with the PNC's commitment to adhere fully to the terms of both the Herdmanston Accord and the St Lucia Agreement", Norton said.

The PNC team also comprised Vice Chairman of the PNC, Vincent Alexander, and PNC front-benchers, Dr Faith Harding and Lance Carberry.

The Caricom facilitator is scheduled to hold a press conference today.