President doesn't want TUC's Lewis at joint talks By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
September 11, 2002

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Private Sector Commission (PSC) chairman, Peter de Groot was engaged in last ditch efforts yesterday to avoid a boycott by President Bharrat Jagdeo of today's meeting between the social partners and political leaders.

The President is maintaining his objection to the participation in the meeting of Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Lincoln Lewis on the grounds that he cannot be considered impartial. Lewis is asserting that the President cannot dictate who represents the TUC.

De Groot is to meet again today with the TUC to see if it would agree to omitting Lewis from its delegation because of President Jagdeo's objection. A meeting last night was adjourned to today to allow for further consultations.

The President, though he supports the initiative, has made his attendance at the consultations between the Social Partners - PSC, the TUC and the Guyana Bar Association - and the parliamentary political parties conditional on Lewis not being part of the TUC delegation.

Informed sources have also told Stabroek News that the PPP/C is still unclear as to whether it would attend. They say that the party is unhappy about the omission of groups such as the churches and farmers' organisations which they contend have constituencies. They argued that the TUC does not represent the majority of trade union members and is divided and the Bar Association represents only a couple hundred of lawyers.

Stabroek News understands that the Social Partners have indicated that the issue of extending the range of organisations involved could be discussed at the meeting.

However, Lewis told Stabroek News that he would be a member of the TUC delegation as he does not believe that the TUC can say who should represent the government or the PPP/C.

The President contends that Lewis' public, partisan position makes it impossible for him to be part of any honest broker effort by the social partners to get the PNC/R and the PPP/C to restart the now suspended dialogue.

But Lewis contends that he always takes positions on the side of justice, which by definition makes them partisan. He contends that his position is no less partisan than the President's.

Among the statements by Lewis which the government says supports the President's position is one on June 25 made during the course of an interview on the programme "Labour Speaks" in which he said "the issue of dialogue with this Government is a waste of time. They lack the honesty to deal with anyone in the process of dialogue".

In another statement in the same interview Lewis says "Jagdeo is causing economic genocide for the black people of this country".

The government has also contended that Lewis has also called for its overthrow.

PPP insiders defend the President sitting down with PNC/R Leader Desmond Hoyte who has also called for the removal of his government by pointing out that Hoyte is on the other side and that is acceptable as he is not acting as a facilitator.

Save for the Guyana Action Party, Stabroek News has ascertained the other parliamentary parties will be participating. The PNC/R is likely to have the largest delegation and it is to be led by Hoyte. The other delegates are central executive committee members Vincent Alexander, vice-chairman; Oscar Clarke, general secretary; Raphael Trotman; Lurlene Nestor; Clarissa Riehl; Dr Faith Harding; Deryck Bernard; Artie Ricknauth; James McAllister; Lance Carberry, and from the REFORM component, Stanley Ming and Dr George Norton.

Dr Clive Thomas and parliamentarian Sheila Holder will represent the Working People's Alliance while Trade Minister Manzoor Nadir, Aubrey Collins will represent The United Force and there is the possibility that Michael Abrahams will join the delegation.

ROAR's leader Ravi Dev and two other members will be representing the party. Dev told Stabroek News that both he and the party were fully behind the Social Partners' Initiative.

Clarke told Stabroek News that the size of the delegation reflects the importance his party attaches to the initiative by the Social Partners.

In the release announcing the meeting, the Social Partners said that two of the issues for discussion are the implementation of the constitutional reform measures, which all the parties agree should be carried out and the crime situation.

To aid the discussion on the implementation of the constitutional reforms, the Social Partners have circulated a checklist of actions that have to be taken and the persons and institutions responsible for taking them.