President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNCR leader Robert Corbin yesterday signed a comprehensive communiqué which covers a range of issues and sets out definite timeframes for their resolution.
The issues agreed upon during the two leaders' discussions on Friday and Monday, aside from the parliamentary reforms include: a single plan for the revival of Linden; the passage of broadcast legislation and equitable access to the state-owned media; an inquiry into the police force; the allocation of a further $60M to previously identified depressed communities; the PNCR's representation on state boards and committees; an authority to monitor land and house lot distribution and local government reform. (See nine-page communiqué on pages 10 and 14.)
The communiqué was signed in the presence of members of the Cabinet as well as members of the PPP and PNCR central committees. Among them were PPP general secretary Donald Ramotar, former president Janet Jagan, Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran SC, the Deputy Speaker, Clarissa Riehl, PNCR vice-chairman, Vincent Alexander, and Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon who with Education Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey and PNCR Chief Whip Lance Carberry, negotiated the recommendations which informed the agreements.
When they next meet, Jagdeo and Corbin will discuss the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to ensure the timely implementation of the various decisions. They will also discuss issues such as the de-politicisation of the Public Service at a later date and at their next meeting issues of concern, which President Jagdeo had raised including the PPP/C's paper on inclusive governance and the National Development Strategy.
The communique represents the resolution of a fourteen-month impasse between the two main parties during which time the PNCR had withdrawn from the work of the National Assembly. As on Friday, PNCR MPs will be in the National Assembly tomorrow.
Corbin described the agreements as ushering in an era of parliamentary democracy and laying the foundations for the realisation of such a democracy. These were sentiments, which Jagdeo endorsed.
Jagdeo also described the agreements as heralding an era of co-operation, which he hoped would last well into the future, and which he said would lead to the realisation of the full potential of the country's resources the benefits which had been denied to the people of Guyana for far too long.
He added that the agreements would allow the implementation of the recent constitutional amendments, which have made the country's constitution the most inclusive in the Caribbean and among the most inclusive in the Commonwealth.
Apart from the agreements on parliamentary reform reached on Friday, Monday's meeting which lasted from 3 pm to early Tuesday morning, save for an hour's break, saw agreements on a number of key issues and specified timeframes by which these were to be implemented.
One of the key decisions relates to Linden. Jagdeo and Corbin agreed to the compilation of a single comprehensive development programme for Region 10 with the full involvement of all elected bodies and which addresses among other things the creation of new employment opportunities, the rehabilitation and satisfactory functioning of the public utilities, the enhancement of the incentives regimes for the attraction of inward investments to the region and the creation of a fully supportive institutional environment for small and medium-scale business development by the inhabitants of Region 10.
The development programme would include the government plans for the area such as the privatisation programme, the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP), investments in water, electricity and the social services.
Another contentious issue, simmering since 1998, now apparently settled is the representation of the PNCR on state boards, commissions and committees. The leaders agreed that the government would issue a list of all state boards, commissions and committees except those where membership is specified by functional responsibilities; where the entities are responsible for national security or where for strategic reasons the government has objections to membership on a particular board and such objection have been raised with the Leader of the Opposition for resolution. They agreed too that the government would give the parties three months' notice of appointments falling due and such appointments would be made in accordance with the mechanisms agreed to by Luncheon and Carberry in December 1998.
Another key issue is the question of the inquiry into the operations of the Police Force, which they had announced on Friday. Fleshing out the details of the agreement, the communiqué said that the amendment to provide the Disciplined Forces with the authority and power to conduct inquiries would be tabled in the National Assembly tomorrow as well as the motion on the terms and reference of the Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission inquiring into the operations of the Police Force, the communiqué said, would include five persons including the chairman, who would be appointed by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The commission is to begin its work within a month from Friday and will also address the issue of the ethnic composition of the disciplined services.
With regard to the crime situation, the communiqué said that the President and Corbin while agreeing "to support legitimate efforts by the police to fight all forms of criminal activity," have agreed to explore at a subsequent meeting other non-law enforcement approaches to this problem.
In relation to the recommendations that were contained in the bipartisan committees appointed during the Jagdeo/Hoyte dialogue process, they agreed that:
All of the projects in Phase 1 had been completed and based on a list to be provided by the Depressed Communities Committees they would identify projects for Phase 2 for which $60M was immediately available.
In terms of the Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards, they agreed, among other things, to the appointment of boards of directors to state-owned media; and that the National Frequency Management Unit would be implemented within four months; immediate equitable access based on parliamentary representation for all parliamentary parties as distinct from the government and to have ready for consultation the draft of the broadcasting legislation, which would provide for the creation of a National Broadcasting Authority (NBA), within two months which would then be required to be laid in the parliament within four months of May 1.
In relation to this report the communiqué said too that the President and Corbin agreed that the NFMU would issue no more licences for television and radio broadcasting until the new broadcasting legislation comes into effect, under which the NBA would be the licensing authority for all commercial licences for commercial frequencies for radio and television. It said that they agreed that the NBA would give priority to the granting of commercial radio licences using the statutorily enshrined criteria which emphasised high standards of broadcasting and serious penalties for their infringement.
With regard to the report from the Border and National Security Committee which was submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for editing the President and Corbin agreed that it would be laid and debated in parliament and that the government would implement those recommendations accepted by it. The Foreign Relations Sector Committee would be responsible for monitoring their implementation.
With regard to the committee on local government reform the communiqué said that it would be re-established and mandated to complete its outstanding tasks within three months. These tasks include giving priority to the electoral system to be used for future local government elections, developing a suitable system and appropriate procedures for compulsory annual fiscal transfers to the local government organs and determining the terms of reference for an independent constitutional local government commission.
The legislation for implementing the agreed local government reforms, the communiqué said, would be prepared for presentation to the National Assembly within six months of the conclusion of the work of the committee.
And with respect to the National Policy on Land and House Lots distribution, the communiqué said that the Minister of Housing and Water would amend and retable the White Paper he tabled on May 9, 2002. He has to do so by June 5. The amended paper will include measures to meet guidelines that require the government to submit clear transparent and equitable national criteria for the distribution of land and house lot distribution and to establish an independent statutory body that would, among other things, monitor the distribution of land and house lots and provide adequate redress in proven cases of discrimination in the distribution process.