July 3 put Guyana on dangerous road
Hoyte’s statement on inclusive governance offers way forward
- prominent citizens
Stabroek News
July 14, 2002

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The events of July 3 have moved a number of prominent citizens and organisations to challenge the major political parties to transform the principle of shared governance into practical and concrete outcomes and results.

They have noted recent statements by senior members of both political parties but contended that these were not enough to chart a safe and productive future for the country.

The most recent statement was that issued by PNC/R leader, Desmond Hoyte, indicating his party’s openness to inclusive governance. Before that President Bharrat Jagdeo reiterated his willingness to meet and speak with Hoyte about issues of national concern, which while unresolved hinder national development.

At a Congress Place press conference last week, Hoyte told reporters: “I think it is clear that that the system we have is not working, that serious thought has to be given to a better system, one which commands the confidence and support of the majority of people in this country. This calls for us to put our heads together and come up with something that is workable.”

Bernard DeSantos SC, former attorney general in the PPP/Civic administration, feels the PPP/C should investigate Hoyte’s statement to see whether it could open a “window” of opportunity for resolving the impasse.

However, he does not believe that the system isn’t working, explaining that no system would work if the players do not abide by the rules.

DeSantos concedes that there is discontent, either real or perceived, that has to be addressed within an agreed framework of governance. He said that as a society we need to stop, sit down and ask ourselves who we are, where we want to go and to work together towards reaching that objective.

Stabroek News was un-able to reach PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramotar, who was engaged in a number of meetings. But Robert Persaud, press liaison to the President, said that he could only refer to President Jagdeo’s speech at the US Embassy July 4, reception which repeated his willingness to discuss with Hoyte any issue of national concern Dr Peter De Groot, chairman of the Private Sector Commission, sees Hoyte’s statement as a step in the right direction. He told Stabroek News that the July 3, events opened the eyes of civil society to the road that the country is going down.

He called it “a significant moment” as the people are now alive to the fact that where the country is heading is not a nice place and it now gives impetus towards a resumption of the dialogue, which should now include civil society.

DeGroot blames the PNC/R for allowing criminal elements to take over a legitimate protest action and use it for their own purposes. He does not think that the events at the Office of the President could be interpreted as an attempt to overthrow the government or assassinate the President as the PPP/C claims. He asserts that there will be movement from civil society to get a dialogue going based on his knowledge of what is happening behind the scenes. He says it is going to take a concerted effort by all of civil society to move the process forward, explaining that there is now that awareness as they have seen the future as it could be and it is not what they want.

ROAR’s leader, Ravi Dev hailed Hoyte’s comment as historic, saying this is the first time that such a clear statement has come from the PNC. Dev is one of the PNC/R’s harshest critics on the part it played in the organisation of and mobilization for the July 3 protest, during which a number of innocent citizens were beaten and the Office of the President compound invaded with tragic consequences for two of the protesters.

Hoyte does not see it as historic, pointing out that it was first made in the party’s submission to the Constitu-tion Reform Commission (CRC) in 1999 and in subsequent statements since then. He explained that the party preferred the term “inclusive governance” to power sharing, which to some had negative connotations. The PNC/R leader does not see agreement on inclusive governance necessitating another lengthy process of constitutional reform as the parliamentary committee created by recent amendments to the constitution could undertake the process. The committee is one of seven, which cannot be constituted because of the impasse between the PNC/R and the government.

Dev believes that Hoyte’s statement should be seized upon by all who have been clamouring for the resumption of the dialogue. But he cautioned that the dialogue should have an end product and the topic should be what is going to be the modalities for achieving a system of governance, which has the confidence of all the people.

GAP-WPA parliamentarian and consumer activist, Sheila Holder, is another who believes the statement is an opening. But she feels that it is the individual citizen who would have to force the political organisations to which they belong to act.

In a recent statement in the National Assembly, Holder said that shocking and horrible as the July 3 events were, they must be seen “as indicative of the contempt large masses of the people have for the current undemocratic political system that entrenches incompetence, indifference and injustices.”

Like Hoyte, two of his leading lieutenants, Robert Corbin and Raphael Trotman, see the statement as consistent with their party’s position before constitutional reform.

Trotman who was not present at the press conference at which Hoyte made his statement, said that Hoyte should be congratulated for his statesman-like approach to an issue. He observed that many people, years ago, recognised that the form of government inherited from our former colonial masters was mot working.

Like Hoyte, Trotman believes that the talks about governance should be separate from the dialogue process. He observed that the core issues, which hamper good governance and development, have to be addressed as they transcend the issues of the dialogue, which, important though they are, obviously take second place.

However, he said that the party has never been formally invited by the PPP or any other group to talk about governance. PNC/R Chairman, Corbin agrees with the statement but cautions that there is need to establish the credibility of the leaders lest the country embark on an excursion into uncertainty.

He says that if the danger of doing so without a demonstration of good faith is that his party’s followers will be even more alienated resulting in anarchy holding sway. Before this process is initiated, he says, the dialogue decisions must be implemented as one demonstration of good faith.