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Opposition appears cautiously open to some talks with govt

AFC Chairman, Nigel Hughes addressing an APNU rally at the Square of the Revolution Friday night.

A narrow fissure Saturday night appeared to have developed in the opposition’s hard-line position that there would be no talks with government unless President Donald Ramotar revokes the suspension of the Parliament.

Joining with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) at anti parliamentary prorogation rally at the Square of the Revolution, the Alliance For Change (AFC) called on the international community to dispatch a team of mediators to break the political impasse with the government.

For its part, APNU said it was tired of meaningless talks with government that yield agreements and decisions that the administration was unwilling to implement. At the same time, that parliamentary opposition alliance appeared to have left a tiny crevice open for future talks with the government.  APNU/Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive member, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine described as “utter rubbish” talk that Opposition Leader, David Granger has shut the door to future discussions with government.

“We have been entirely willing to sit with them and hold discussions and come to agreements but I ask you what is the point of sitting with them and coming to agreements when they will not implement what they themselves have agreed to do.

So we are not saying that we are unprepared to speak. What we are unprepared to do is to waste time in futile discussions with anybody,” said Roopnaraine.

Attendees, numbering about 2,500, were also told by Roopnaraine that there were plans to engage in active discussions with trade unions, and religious organisations on how to escape the clutches of tyranny. “We intend to mobilize a broad coalition of forces to fight for the restoration of democracy,” he said.

He restated earlier appeals for the Parliament to be reconvened at the earliest opportunity. President Ramotar has, however, stated that if there was no consensus, he would dissolve the Parliament and call fresh elections rather than revoke and re-prorogue the law-making body. The current voters list is valid until Janiuary 31, 2015.

Reacting to House Speaker Raphael Trotman’s formal request to the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma to dispatch a team to help find a peaceful solution, President Donald Ramotar preferred to allow locals to first attempt to find solutions.  “I think we should try ourselves first to try to deal with some of these issues before we jump to see if we need assistance from outside,” he said. The President also announced Friday that he was assembling a team of negotiators before inviting the opposition to talks.

AFC Chairman, Nigel Hughes said he hoped that international partners could join Guyanese in helping to  salvage Guyana from a constitutional crisis and deep unchartered waters. “Fundamentally, the constitution is our real enemy in its current form because it legitimizes the fangs of dictatorship that is sucking the life-blood out of the soul of Guyana,” he said.

“The Alliance For Change is further calling on the international community to come to the assistance of Guyana by engaging all parties and civil society in a formal structured dialogue on the restoration of normality in the governance of this country which means the immediate reconvening of Parliament,”  he said. He identified the need for the international community to facilitate mediation sessions with all stakeholders aimed at finding an acceptable way out of the current crisis.

Hughes reiterated that constitutional reform would be the only lasting solution to Guyana’s decades-old problems.

The three-hour long rally was peppered with rhetoric at the first public meeting since President Donald Ramotar prorogued the Parliament on Monday to stave off a no-confidence motion that would have seen his government fall and elections held in 90 days.

Hughes reiterated the opposition’s position that no talks would be held with government on matters before the National Assembly while the Parliament remains prorogued.

The AFC’s tabling of the no-confidence motion was triggered by the government’s spending of monies on projects and programmes although the opposition had voted against such allocations during consideration of the 2015 Budgetary Estimates of Expenditure.

Other unresolved issues include the opposition’s failure to approve the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFTAF)-compliant amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act as well as the Education and Telecommunications Bills and the establishment of the constitutionally required Public Procurement Commission. 

The Organisation of American States (OAS), sections of the local private sector and the Roman Catholic Church here have called for an early end to the suspension of the Parliament.

The opposition, which enjoys a combined one-seat majority in the 65-seat House, has already threatened to re-table the no-confidence motion if Parliament is reconvened.