Commonwealth plans democracy support up to elections
-Sir Paul Reeves
Stabroek News
June 6, 2004

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The Commonwealth Secre-tary-General's envoy, Sir Paul Reeves has spent the past week putting together the platform for the Common-wealth's continued involvement with Guyana up to the 2006 general elections.

Sir Paul arrived here this week together with Matthew Neuhaus, Director of Political Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat and Special Adviser (Caribbean and Pacific) in the Political Affairs Division, Juliet Solomon.

Sir Paul's original mandate at the request of President Bharrat Jagdeo and then Leader of the Opposition, the late PNCR leader Desmond Hoyte SC was to assist in the resuscitation of the Jagdeo/ Hoyte dialogue process. But he told Stabroek News on Thursday there is no discrepancy between what he is doing now and his original mandate since in the way matters have evolved his terms of reference had to be flexible.

As part of his expanded mandate Sir Paul said the Commonwealth Secretariat would act as a resource to Guyana as a member of the family of Commonwealth nations, for building of democratic institutions. This would include supporting the growth and development of the parliament, supporting the parliamentary sector committees and commissions which are undergoing a rather difficult birth process and providing assistance to the Speaker of the National Assembly in the running and administration of the parliament.

Other areas for assistance include conducting a needs assessment survey that would inform its specific and particular contribution to the Guyana Elections Commis-sion (GECOM) as it undertakes the tasks of continuous registration, compiling the databases and delineating the various constituency boundaries.

Sir Paul said the impression he has gained from speaking with various stakeholders is that the local government elections would not now be possible until after the national elections. But he stressed that his observation was not a recommendation but an articulation of the impression he has gained from his discussions with the various stakeholders. He added that he discerned tremendous disappointment on this development.

With relation to his original mandate, Sir Paul said the Commonwealth had played a part in resuscitating the dialogue in the form of the constructive engagement process between Jagdeo and PNCR leader Robert Corbin.

He said his discussions with both men were useful and that they continue to see the Commonwealth Secreta-riat as an objective source of advice.

Sir Paul said it was disappointing that the constructive engagement process had been halted and his efforts now would be to try to locate the dialogue within the parliament. He explained that while the history and tradition of government has not afforded the parliament the pride of place it should have as the highest forum of the land, it is normal and appropriate that it should take place there. Sir Paul said the action of the PNC supports the view that the parliament is the basic arena for the dialogue.

Commenting on the absence of his point of contact Chuks Ihekabeya, Sir Paul explained that he was appointed for a specific period to conduct a particular task. He said he had completed that task and he understood that he was only to be here for a particular period.

In the expanded mandate, Sir Paul said, Solomon, the special adviser in the Political Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, would be coming to Guyana from time to time to explore with the various bodies the support required and to arrange for expertise to be made available. He would continue to visit at least twice a year to talk with the principal players and to assist in any way he could to foster the democratic process.