Dialogue decisions have been implemented
A GINA feature
August 13, 2004
THE People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has both in statement and actions demonstrated its commitment to inclusiveness in all areas of governance.
Since 1992, the PPP/Civic Administration has undertaken several initiatives aimed at entrenching a political culture of meaningful consultation and constructive dialogue.
This commitment was given impetus by the Constitutional Reform Process and other measures undertaken by the government. While the primary emphasis has been on engagement with political opponents, the administration has been reaching out and consulting with the private sector, trade unions, the religious community, and other groups which constitute civil society.
President Bharrat Jagdeo has made clear his resolve to involve all Guyanese on issues of national interest so that they can play a part in governance at various levels. The PPP/C has a strong record of embracing the ‘all are involved’ paradigm.
The following provides a brief overview and summary of results of the two most recent initiatives: 2001-2002 Dialogue Process and 2003-2004 Constructive Engagement Process.
The President at his swearing-in ceremony on August 11, 1999, emphasised a commitment to continue the administration’s efforts to involve the Opposition in a call for dialogue. “I extend a hand of friendship,” he said.
On April 6, 2001, President Jagdeo wrote the Opposition Leader, the late Mr Desmond Hoyte, inviting him to commence the dialogue process between them. They met at the Office of the President on April 24 and the agenda for the dialogue was agreed upon. Much progress was recorded.
On April 25, 2001, President Jagdeo and Mr Hoyte met and issued a joint statement in which they announced the establishment of joint committees.
PROGRESS MADE BY JOINT COMMITTEES
Local Government Reform
The Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform Report is at the final stage. Efforts are under way to reach consensus on the system to be used in holding local government elections. Advice was sought from a Denmark electoral expert. There are two outstanding matters that need attention:
1. Local Government electoral system
2. Fiscal transfer of resources from Central Government to Local Government
Mr Keith Massiah, SC, is the legal draftsman, agreed to by the members of the task force to prepare legislation affirming the reform of Guyana's Local Government system.
The report on the Border and National Security Committee
The Joint Committee’s Report was edited and tabled in the National Assembly, on Thursday July 5, 2003. It was agreed that the government will implement those recommendations accepted by the National Assembly and the Foreign Relations Sectoral Committee would oversee the implementation.
National Policy on Distribution of Land and House lots
As agreed, the government tabled a White Paper on land distribution and the criteria for selection.
The Bauxite Industry Resuscitation Committee
Following engagements of a negotiating team comprising representatives from the government and the Opposition, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Guyana and OMAI/Cambior was signed privatising LINMINE.
The report of the Radio Monopoly and Non-partisan boards
No agreement was reached on the issue of the National Frequency Management Unit at the committee level. On November 7, 2001, President Jagdeo and Mr Hoyte signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which cleared the way for the passage of the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations (which was agreed to by the Joint Committee) and the establishment of an interim Advisory Committee on Broadcasting with respect to compliance by television stations licensees. The broadcast legislation is also at draft stage.
The Depressed Communities Needs Committee
The committee has completed electrification and drainage works at Non Pariel/Enterprise, De Kinderen, Meten-Meer-Zorg and Buxton costing $15M in each community. Drainage and road works are ongoing in Fyrish/Gibraltar, Hogstye/Lancaster in Berbice and Blue Berry Hill and Victory Valley Linden.
PNC/R membership on State Boards, Commissions and Committees
There are PNC/R nominees serving on more than 50 State boards, commissions and committees. Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, who is also the government’s High Representative in the engagement process, said the process has achieved much, which was downplayed by the Opposition in their quest to satisfy partisan interests.
“Of course I do not believe that anyone can claim that every single goal/objective that was brought out by these bi-partisan committees were already reached. But the spirit, the commitment of working together was evident and there were more successes than failures. If one were to look at what the bi-partisan committees achieved by making even in the absence of normal politics the two parties sitting together and plan and strategise to achieve the goals, then one would debate whether failure was an appropriate word to use,” he said.
Luncheon noted that it would be more appropriate to say delayed progress or lack of progress in implementing the communiqué, as failure seems to qualify the process as one which achieved nothing. “There are many delays which are yet to be overcome, but understandably, in the context of the pause, there isn’t an opportunity for the leaders to meet and in meaningful ways, move ahead,” he said.
ON MARCH 15, 2002 MR. HOYTE ANNOUNCED A `PAUSE’ IN THE DIALOGUE WHICH LED TO AN END OF THAT PROCESS
“Lots of spurious reasons were offered and I do recall us making the point that in a very holistic way, one has to examine the impact on national life and social cohesion and what the process was achieving at that point in time. As it would seem, the PNCR was more occupied with partisan interest and I think that a lot of their (PNCR) rhetoric in post-2001 elections overruled their common sense, hence the resort to a pause and the reintroduction to political instability,” Dr Luncheon said.
2003-2004 CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT PROCESS BETWEEN PRESIDENT BHARRAT JAGDEO & OPPOSITION LEADER ROBERT CORBIN
President Jagdeo’s invitation to new Leader of the PNCR
President Jagdeo, immediately after Mr. Corbin's election as Leader of the PNCR, expressed his sincerest congratulations to the new leader and restated his openness to engagements, which could improve relations between the government and the main Opposition party in the interest of Guyana. He invited Mr. Corbin to a meeting. The two leaders met for their first "constructive engagement" on May 2 at the Office of the President.
This meeting was premised on consensus by the two parties on several national issues and the conclusion saw several agreements. A Joint Communiqué was issued at the end of the first meeting. This was supplemented by the follow-up agreement of June 18, 2003.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMUNIQUÉ MAY 6, 2003 TO MARCH 12, 2004
> All new Standing Committees have been appointed. They are the Parliamentary Management, Appointive and Constitutional Reform Committee as well as the Sectoral Committees on Natural Resources, Economic Services, Foreign Relations and Social Services
> Appointment of the Members of the Constitutional Service Commissions: The Public, Judicial, Teaching and Police Service Commissions have all been appointed and are functioning.
> The Ethnic Relations Commission was appointed and is working.
> Agreements for the electricity sector: The Government of Guyana has tabled agreements in the National Assembly.
> The Procurement Bill No. 7 of 2003 was enacted. The nominees for the Commission are with the appointive Committee of the National Assembly
> Linden Town Council was dissolved and an Interim Management Committee was appointed
Progress as recorded from the follow-up agreement of June 18, 2003 between President Jagdeo and Mr Corbin
1. Appointment of the Disciplined Forces Commission was established and is functioning since hearings began August 18, 2003.
2. The National Development Strategy:
The President and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that the National Development Strategy paper should be re-laid in the National Assembly and subjected to debate therein.
3 Establishment of the Committee to Prepare a Comprehensive Development Programme for Region #10: the committee did its work. The leaders have to meet to further decide.
4. Review of Arrangements for the Effective Functioning of the Parliamentary Committees:
The President and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that:
> The Public Utilities Commission would be relocated from the Public Building within two months (by 2003 July 31).
> The Parliamentary Management Committee will prepare plans and cost estimates for the physical modification of the Public Building to accommodate additional staff and facilities for the work of the Committees and the National Assembly as a whole.
> An IT Expert will be recruited shortly to determine and specify the short, medium and long-term IT needs of the National Assembly Office.
> As an interim measure, two computers with full Internet access will be immediately installed in the National Assembly library for use by MPs.
> Once approved by the National Assembly, the plans and cost estimates will be submitted to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat for funding.
> The recruitment of the Research Coordinator and other professional researchers that was agreed to in the communiqué should be expedited by the Parliamentary Management Committee.
2. Establishment of mechanism for supervising implementation and monitoring the matters agreed in the communiqué:
The President and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that the following arrangements would be implemented immediately:
* They will meet periodically to review progress and make any adjustments they deem necessary. The monitoring mechanism includes representatives of the donor community, the Trades Union Congress, the Bar Association, the Human Rights Association, the private sector and parliamentary parties.
* Their High Representatives will prepare an agreed project schedule of matters to be implemented. On the basis of the agreed schedule, they will meet fortnightly to:
> Review the progress of implementation.
> Agree on follow-up action which they deem necessary to ensure the smooth implementation of the matters agreed.
> Dismantle bottlenecks in a timely fashion.
> Brief the President and the Leader of the Opposition on the current state and progress of implementation.
Mr Corbin, in a televised address on March 31st, 2004 declared that his party “will NOT engage President (Bharrat) Jagdeo in any further bilateral discussions save and except those required under the Constitution,” thus bringing to an end this important element of the constructive engagement process.
“In the absence of normal politics, the engagement process was contributing positively to national cohesion and stability. The results were favourably commented on by the international community, and this has led to doubts in the minds of the PNCR and unfortunately, the habitual resort to pause,” Dr Luncheon said, adding that this time the impact is more vivid, leading to the PNCR’s boycott of the National Assembly and refusal to discharge its Parliamentary responsibility.
THE WAY FORWARD
After several appeals to restart the dialogue, President Jagdeo on July 9, 2004 announced a new format for dialogue.
The government will not be held hostage or let its decisions be treated to a similar fate because of the Opposition’s behaviour. The new approach to dialogue is one which will not give the PNCR any room to continue its politicking every day, but rather will allow the government to continue working for all Guyanese.
“I am not too interested in dialogue with myself and the Leader of the Opposition anymore. That should take place at the level of Parliament because too often that is held hostage and what happens is that a lot of distortion takes place about what goes on in those meetings that we have. So let that take place in the full purview of the public in the Parliament, where all the parties are involved.
“So I am in favour of dialogue but let it be shifted over there,” the President said. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY)