President's participation in planned joint consultation uncertain
-- objections raised against Lewis' role and exclusion of church groups
Guyana Chronicle
September 11, 2002

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo's participation in today's joint consultation planned by civil society with Opposition Leader Mr. Desmond Hoyte, parliamentary political parties and `social partners' was last night uncertain given the participation of TUC General Secretary, Mr. Lincoln Lewis as a facilitator, and the exclusion of religious bodies.

Yesterday, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon said President Jagdeo has not minced words about Lewis' participation and the negative impact it can have on any meaningful process.

He said the Office of the President has no issue with the TUC (Trades Union Congress) but the problem was with Lewis who has constantly lambasted the Government and President Jagdeo.

Lewis has reportedly said that dialogue between President Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte is a waste of time, that President Jagdeo is "demonic" and that the current administration has charted a course of "economic genocide" against `Black Guyanese'.

Sources said the Government feels this stand by Lewis disqualified him from being an "honest broker" or impartial facilitator at any such consultation.

"We have a problem with individuals who have taken certain positions", one source said, adding that there was no objection to Lewis being a member of any delegation at the session, but not with him playing the role of an "honest broker".

Luncheon stated that the Government remains committed to dialogue and will continue to talk with Guyanese who are equally committed, and who can bring "credibility" to any discussions.

Today's consultation, scheduled for Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, at 18:00 hrs, has been organised by the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Bar Association and the TUC.

Luncheon indicated that President Jagdeo's attendance hinged on the resolution of two matters - that dealing with Lewis' involvement and the non-inclusion of religious bodies in the process, given its "national" nature.

According to a release from the organisers, they have held separate discussions with the President, the Leader of the Opposition and leaders and representatives of parliamentary parties.

The discussions focused on the current national problems in the context of the group's joint paper on `Shared Governance' as envisaged by Article 13 of the amended Constitution of Guyana, the organisers said.

President Jagdeo, Hoyte and representatives of the Parliamentary parties have been invited to participate in the forum.

It is expected also that the issue of crime and security will also be discussed, the release said.

The organisers said they expect that the upsurge of crime and the need to urgently re-establish a secure environment will also be examined and hope that collective examination of the issue would result in a consensus on remedial actions.