Other moves on to end political impasse By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
February 18, 2003

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Tomorrow’s sitting of the National Assembly to consider a PNCR motion is likely to be the catalyst for a series of engagements aimed at resolving a year-long impasse between the government and opposition parties.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran SC yesterday confirmed that the Assembly is being convened but that the parties would have to agree to a suspension of Standing Order 23(3) to allow the discussion of a motion in the name of PNCR Leader Robert Corbin to proceed. Standing Order 23(3) provides for a 14-day period to elapse before a Private Member’s motion could be placed on the Order Paper.

The Clerk of the National Assembly has begun notifying the members of tomorrow’s sitting and the parties have been alerted to the need for their prior agreement on the suspension of Standing Order 23(3).

Among other initiatives is the imminent meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and the newly elected PNCR leader, Robert Corbin as well as the soon-to-be resuscitated efforts of the Social Partners to have agreement by the parliamentary parties on the necessity to activate Article 13 of the Constitution. Article 13 provides for individuals and their organisations to participate in the country’s decision making process.

In addition, Sir Paul Reeves, the envoy of the Commonwealth Secretary-General

arrived over the weekend to add the weight of the Commonwealth Secretariat to efforts to resolve the political impasse and facilitate the PNCR’s resumption of involvement in the work of the parliament. The involvement of the Commonwealth was requested of the Secretary-General Don McKinnon when he attended the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit held here in July.

Tomorrow’s sitting of the National Assembly is being convened at the request of Corbin to debate a motion in his name calling on the government to take a number of measures to address the crisis situation in the electricity sector as well as problems in the economic, political and social spheres and the crime scourge.

It is the first time since it withdrew from parliament in March last year that the PNCR will be taking part in a parliamentary debate. But Corbin told reporters on Friday that the party’s participation in Wednesday’s debate is not an end of his party’s boycott as that would be determined by the government demonstrating the trust and good faith about which it has been preaching in recent days.

Corbin’s motion calls on the government to freeze electricity rates at the present levels until all the agreements entered into or about to be entered into are tabled and approved by a 2/3 majority of parliament, to present for the consideration and approval of the parties in parliament an emergency plan to lift the country out of its current economic crisis and to establish a Select Committee to publicly enquire into the functioning of the Police Force.

The motion also calls for the establishment of an emergency fund and rescue programme in which parliamentary parties are fully involved and which addresses the plight of the unemployed especially those of young people in the villages across the country.

It calls too for the implementation of those measures necessary for the efficient functioning of parliament as well as the agreed constitutional reforms and the decisions taken during the Jagdeo-Hoyte dialogue process. These measures, necessary to allow the parliament to function efficiently and effectively, include the establishment of the parliamentary management committee. The constitutional reforms, which were approved by consensus in the National Assembly, include the establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission and the parliamentary sector committees. The PNCR and the PPP/C have been deadlocked for more than a year over the composition of the parliamentary management committee and the four sector committees. In the case of the latter the deadlock is over the size of the committees if it is agreed that ministers are to be excluded.

PNCR sources have told Stabroek News that suspension of the relevant Standing Order would not only allow the debate to proceed but also allow the lifting of the time limit on the debate to allow adequate ventilation of the issues.

While there are a large number of issues covered in the motion a number of them are linked and though the sitting would be long, if the presentations are focused there would be no need for a second sitting, the sources said.

Many of the issues covered by the motion are among those Corbin has informed President Jagdeo he would like to see on the agenda for their meeting expected to take place shortly.

Sources have indicated to Stabroek News that the debate could help to clarify the positions of their parties and the issues on which the President and Corbin would have to make decisions.

Meanwhile, Sir Paul has already had a meeting with President Jagdeo and is to meet with Corbin shortly as well as with the representatives of other parliamentary parties and the local donor community.

Also in the works, Stabroek News understands, is the possible resumption of the Social Partners’ consultations involving all the parties. In December, the Social Partners adjourned their consultations on the crime communiqué, which the September 11 meeting with the parties defined as an issue for priority attention. Since then the Social Partners, which consists of representatives of the Private Sector, the Bar Association and the Trades Union Movement, has been meeting with knowledgeable individuals in various fields to deliberate on the way forward for the country and what role the Social Partners must play in getting Article 13 operationalised.

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