PNCR holding talks hostage for back-door power
Stabroek News
April 2, 2004

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The government says the PNCR is up to its old tricks: holding political dialogue hostage in order to extract more concessions out of the government, ultimately as a route to get back in power without facing the electorate.

This was the government's response yesterday to the announcement by PNCR leader Robert Corbin that he was disengaging from the constructive dialogue process he had entered into with President Bharrat Jagdeo some ten months ago. Corbin made the announcement in a broadcast to the nation on Wednesday evening.

Corbin blamed the government's intransigence for the breaking off the talks with Jagdeo and said that future discussions of issues that are of critical importance to the nation would have to include the political parties in the National Assembly as well as civil society organisations.

According to a GINA release, the government said that the PNCR under the leadership of the late Desmond Hoyte had used the same ploy in 2002, suspending the Jagdeo/Hoyte dialogue process the day after his party boycotted the presentation of the National Budget. It said that the months that followed saw politically inspired criminal violence and disruption including the storming of the Office of the President complex on July 3, 2002.

The government said Corbin's latest statement "seeks to portray the PNCR as reasonable and the PPP/C administration as unreasonable in dealing with various national issues and in its conduct in the earlier `Dialogue Process' and the more recent `Constructive Engagement' process."

The release asserts that the administration's record is available for all Guyanese to seek and make their own judgement.

Also it asserts that the independent monitoring group comprising all stakeholders including the donor community can testify to the `significant' progress made in implementing the agreements made under the Constructive Engagement process.

In the release, the government says the PPP/C made "tremendous accommodation regarding the concerns of the PNCR including the shortening of the government's term, the constitutional reform process and the implementation of a raft of provisions to enhance governance in Guyana."

Dealing with Corbin's call for discussions on important national issues to include the parliamentary parties and civil society organisations, the release said that the government "recognises and appreciates the importance of the private sector, religious community, trades unions and the entire civil society in nation building."

It pointed out that this is reflected in the numerous on-going consultations and interactions which have been taking place at the highest level.

"The Government urges these groups not to be misled into participating in another sham of the PNCR to catapult itself into power outside of the ballot box under the guise of concerns about the system of Governance."

The release said that the government at a future date, would issue a comprehensive response to those and other issues raised by Corbin as well as its own position on moving forward with its commitment to engage the political opposition, civil society, religious organisations and all strata of the Guyanese society.

PPP/C general secretary, Donald Ramotar, in an invited comment yesterday to Stabroek News expressed his disappointment that Corbin had ended the constructive engagement.

Ramotar argued that the PNCR had long been looking for an out since the political situation was stable, the economy was beginning to pick up and the government would have been able to pursue its programmes.

He said the PNCR takes the view that "worse is better" for them and had been looking for an excuse to stir things up.

He said too that Corbin's speech has answered the question he asked about whether the PNCR's participation in the constructive engagement process was strategic or tactical.

Ramotar recalled that he had asked the question following a speech by Corbin to his supporters which said that the PNCR had to engage in the talks with the government as "it had suffered casualties". Ramotar said that Corbin's speech on Wednesday evening confirmed that his party's participation in the talks was tactical.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Guyana Council of Churches, Bishop Juan Edghill welcomed Corbin's call for a widening of the dialogue and says that he has already been mandated by his organisation to explore ways of working with other organisations to bring about national stability.

Edghill recalls that the religious organisations had been involved with the Social Partners Initiative which he says failed when some organisations decided that the religious bodies should not be involved.