Government, Opposition attend joint consultation session by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
September 12, 2002

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THE joint consultation planned by civil society with President Bharrat Jagdeo, Opposition Leader Mr. Desmond Hoyte, parliamentary political parties and `social partners' came off last night but participants were tight-lipped on the outcome.

A statement agreed to by all the parties who participated in the more than 90-minute closed-door discussions is to be issued today.

The joint consultation session organised by the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Bar Association and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) was held last evening at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.

President Jagdeo, in brief comments afterwards, said, "We intend to pursue a specific course of action and that course of action will be outlined in a joint statement which the civil society grouping will issue (today); so we settled on a course of action and I suppose that that course of action could lead to a subsequent meeting between the group that was involved here and which met today (last night)."

The President's participation in the session was uncertain up to yesterday given the planned involvement of TUC General Secretary, Mr. Lincoln Lewis as a facilitator, and the exclusion of religious bodies.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon said Tuesday that President Jagdeo had 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 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.

The way for the President's participation was cleared when Dr. Peter DeGroot, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), met the Guyanese leader earlier yesterday.

A statement from the organisers (the Social Partners) said that meeting "clarified arrangements for the conduct" of last evening's discussions.

MEMBERS of the Social Partners group at yesterday's session.
For the consultation, the 'Social Partners' delegation was made up of the PSC led by Dr. DeGroot; the TUC, led by its President, Mr. Carville Duncan and the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) led by its Vice-President, Ms. Lillian Crawford-Abbensettes.

The statement said the Social Partner organisations mandated DeGroot to serve as the spokesperson of the group as well as Chairman of the Joint Consultation.

Information Liaison to the President, Mr. Robert Persaud, told members of the media immediately after the caucus ended around 20:00 hrs that as a result of the meeting between Mr. Jagdeo and DeGroot, Lewis was removed as the leader of the TUC's delegation and DeGroot was named as the spokesperson or facilitator of the session.

"Those addressed the President's concerns as to the role of Mr. Lewis given his partiality and given his bias and prejudiced statements," Persaud said.

Asked whether the caucus provided the framework for the dialogue between President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader, Mr. Hoyte to resume, Persaud said the "social partners will be issuing a statement on that issue".

Leader of the Rise Organise and Rebuild (ROAR) movement, Mr. Ravi Dev said he did not think last evening's discussion "is heading towards the resumption in dialogue as is" but rather in terms of "new structures coming out which address larger concerns and which go towards the fundamental problems of this country".

Dev also said that the caucus was conducted in a "very open manner" and "it shows that everybody in that room are concerned about how we go forward and how we resolve the present crisis".

Among those present were Mr. Odinga Lumumba, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, Mr. Shaik Baksh, Ms. Bibi Shadick, Ms. Jennifer Westford, Ms. Gail Teixeira, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Mr. Doodnauth Singh, Mr. Donald Ramotar - representing the governing People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C); Mr. Hoyte, Mr. Raphael Trotman, Mr. Vincent Alexander, Dr. Faith Harding, Mr. Lance Carberry, Mr. James McAllister, Mr. Oscar Clarke, Ms. Clarissa Rheil, Mr. Dereck Bernard, Mr. Stanley Ming for the PNC/R; Mr. Dev for the ROAR; Mr. Manzoor Nadir for The United Force (TUF); and Ms. Sheila Holder and Dr. Clive Thomas for the Guyana Action Party/Working People's Alliance (GAP-WPA).

In an earlier statement, the organisers said they had held separate discussions with the President, the Leader of the Opposition and leaders and representatives of parliamentary parties on the consultation.

The discussions focussed 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.

They expected that the issue of crime and security would have also been discussed, the release said.

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