Granger rejects dialogue for Guyana
There have been fresh calls for some form of dialogue between the Government and the Opposition to break the political impasse, which has dogged development here for years and caused the President to prorogue Parliament last month.
Since proroguing Parliament, President Donald Ramotar has invited Opposition Leader David Granger for talks, but the former army commander has refused, saying that any talks will happen after the reconvening of Parliament. Granger has also insisted that his coalition will continue to mobilise citizens in daily protest actions calling on the President to reconvene Parliament and also hold Local Government Elections. Increasingly, Granger and his coalition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – are being isolated with their stance as commentators across the political divide continue to call for dialogue.
President Ramotar on Sunday disclosed that he has no intention of reconvening Parliament to prorogue it again, and will be making an announcement very soon on the way forward. The Head of State, who was at the time addressing scores at the annual Kala Utsav organised by the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, also called for the support of all as his Government moved the country forward. Ramotar noted that there have been inaccurate media reports on the prorogation of Parliament and what it really means, but reiterated that he made a constitutional decision.
Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) President Clinton Williams, during an address to business executives, on Friday said his association “fully supports the call for continued dialogue among parliamentary parties during and after the current prorogation of the 10th Parliament“. “We renew advocacy for compromise that would allow for the passing of several pieces of critical legislation, namely the Public Procurement Bill, the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, and most importantly, the instruments to facilitate the early conduct of Local Government Elections,” Williams said.
One-time candidate for the People’s National Congress Reform and now Executive Director of the African Cultural and Development Association, Eric Phillips said that “unformatted dialogue should have already taken place”. However, he opined that when Government prorogued Parliament, it closed the doors to all discussions the Opposition was willing to have. “Government has closed the door on dialogue, because they don’t want to discuss the no-confidence motion. However, at some point, they have to talk; both the Government and the Opposition have trapped the country in a no-win situation, resulting in the country being caught in a standstill. Both sides need to speak, but no one wants to speak first,” Phillips said.
He contended that even though the Opposition has written Caricom and other organisations. “They won’t listen to a third party; unless Parliament is reconvened, there will be no speaking,” he said.
Former Government Minister and Commentator, Dr Henry Jeffrey, in an invited comment, said: “At the end of the day, discussions will have to take us forward so the Government, in order to show good faith, may unilaterally now wish to state its intention to allow the establishment of the Procurement Commission on the terms required by the Opposition and to assent to the Local Government Bills that were passed in the National Assembly.”
Jeffrey said such independent action by the administration may then provide a sensible framework for negotiating some kind of political contact with the Opposition before Parliament is recalled.
Jeffrey, however, was sceptical as to what the Government and Opposition can agree upon outside of Parliament that they could not have agreed upon before the Parliament was prorogued. He said the Opposition has rightly made it quite clear that the administration should recall Parliament, to compromise and thus move the country’s agenda forward. He said there were many worthwhile issues on the agenda, including: the money laundering bill, procurement commission, local government bills, no-confidence motion, budgeting issues.
Adding his voice to the debate, Commentator Ramon Gaskin, in a letter to the editor, said he has had an opportunity to carefully study the President’s 104-word letter to the Opposition Leader in which he states that he stands “prepared to meet”, to “initiate steps” since there was still an “opportunity” provided by the prorogation to still have the 10th Parliament “discuss” and “conclude” those issues. Gaskin said the basic thrust of the President’s letter is a preparedness to meet to “conclude” the issues which the Government wants concluded. Gaskin said any solution to the present crisis must include a willingness to put all issues from both sides on the table, to fix a firm date for reconvening Parliament, say January 5, 2015 and to use this period to attempt to resolve all issues preferably facilitated by a group of independent, skilled Guyanese mediators. “All of this is still possible. I am sure that there are other ideas around to end the deadlock.”
On November 10, President Ramotar issued a proclamation proroguing Parliament, hoping that the Government and the Opposition would engage in meaningful talks on Guyana’s development. The prorogation came on the day the combined Opposition, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) intended to pass a No-Confidence Motion against the Ramotar-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
The move threw the Opposition parties into confusion as President Ramotar insisted that the proclamation was made so that the Opposition would not stall development through their No-Confidence Motion. The President said though the decision was taken to prorogue Parliament, it was not the original plan.