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Granger dumps Ramotar’s invitation for talks

Opposition Leader, David Granger has rejected President Donald Ramotar’s invitation to high-level talks, a move that appears to inch Guyanese closer to the polls very early New Year to elect a new government of their choice.

A spokesman for Granger’s A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) told Caribbean News Desk following an executive meeting of the parliamentary alliance that a decision was made not to accept the invitation. Granger has previously insisted that Parliament must be reconvened because that is the highest decision-making forum.

Meanwhile, the Central Executive of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) was up to late Wednesday night meeting. Among the items down for discussion was Ramotar’s letter to Granger dated November 18, 2014.

The President and the Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon have been repeatedly stressing that if there are no talks or fruitless discussions about lifting the suspension of the Parliament after an agenda has been agreed to, the President’s next step would be to dissolve the Parliament and call elections ahead of the 2016 deadline. “Let’s assume that those invitations are rejected comprehensively, totally, irreversibly and all possible contexts the President’s invitations are rejected, I think the President is quite clear that there will be no return to a second prorogation or a re-prorogation, that the only option will be for another proclamation and this one to deal with the dissolution of the tenth Parliament,” said Luncheon.

If the talks had been held, high on the opposition’s agenda would have been the re-tabling of a Local Government Bill that the President has refused to assent to on grounds that giving the intended Local Government Commission to right to hire and fire will erode executive authority. The government’s agenda would have included the passage of amendments to the 2009 Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act. The opposition, which controls the National Assembly by one seat, remains determined that the amendments need to be further tightened to ensure there is minimal governmental interference, but the government has maintained that the proposed amendments are in accordance with recommendations by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the global financial crimes watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Granger has already blamed the President for scuttling talks on holding long-overdue Local Government Elections by stating that it would have made no sense holding those polls at a time when there was a likelihood of a general election due to the no-confidence motion. After that public pronouncement by the President, the Opposition Leader then called off future talks.

The Alliance For Change (AFC), which had engineered the no-confidence motion against the Ramotar administration, appeared peeved that it was left out of the President’s formal overtures to the opposition and instead only the Opposition Leader was invited. “Dialog Letter from President Ramotar excludes the AFC. Once again, the President tries divide and rule,” said the party in one line that accompanied a release of Ramotar’s letter to the Opposition Leader.

The Guyanese Leader had hoped to lead a team into talks with Granger and his counterparts to set the agenda for the Parliament after the suspension would have been lifted. “I propose that we quickly commence a high level engagement of two teams led by myself and yourself respectively to agree to a post-prorogation parliamentary agenda in which an order paper can be based.

I stand prepared to meet at the shortest possible notice, to initiate steps. Alternatively, I am also prepared to have exploratory engagement on this subject delegated to identified persons nominated by both sides,” said Ramotar.

The opposition has, however, accused Ramotar of misusing the constitution by proroguing the Parliament on November to avoid the inevitable passage of the no confidence motion and calling of fresh elections in 90 days.  His detractors say that he has instead suspended the Parliament to buy time for campaigning on the public purse.