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Jagdeo pledges full support to Granger on border issues; PPP unlikely to attend Social Cohesion conference

Venezuela claims the Essequibo region and recently all of the Atlantic sea off that region. In picture was the location of an Exxon-Mobil oil exploration rig that found a significant oil deposit

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday evening assured President David Granger that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) would give its unqualified support to the government in protecting Guyana’s territorial integrity.

“The President presented me with an agenda on issues that they would wish to discuss with us and one of the issues was the border matter and I said to him that I can give him an early position that it’s not partisan and we will support the government fully on border-related issues, the defence of our territorial integrity,”

Jagdeo, however, said his party would most likely not participate in a Social Cohesion roundtable scheduled for September 3 because of the alleged mass dismissal of several persons by the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition-led administration.

The President and the Opposition Leader met on a range of national issues including, according to the Ministry of the Presidency the establishment of several bipartisan committees including one on Border. The others are the Agriculture, Budget, National Unity Committee and Security.

Venezuela has in recent months intensified its claim to the Essequibo Region including the coastal waters off that area ever since an American oil company announced the discovery of a huge reservoir of high quality oil offshore.

The first round of Granger-Jagdeo talks held since the latter was appointed Opposition Leader came even as the government and the international donor community has been preparing for a national conference on Social Cohesion. Jagdeo said when Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally told him that parliamentarians have been invited to the roundtable, he told her that the PPP would  before weekend decide whether it would attend but it was quite unlikely in the face of dismissal of several persons since the new government took office following the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections. “The concern is that we can’t talk about social cohesion without social inclusion and what we have now is the wanton firing of people with very little credible reason and therefore it runs against the core of what we are trying to achieve at the conference so given that I am doubtful that we could participate at this time,”

Jagdeo, at the time of the interview with Demerara Waves Online News prior to the government’s detailed statement, said he promised Granger that he would discuss the other issues with the PPP. “He (the President) said to me that this is just a proposed list of items to discuss so I will find out from the party whether we have items that we wish to discuss and then get back to him,” he said.

Asked whether he believed that the talks with Granger were intended to be genuine or was merely politically grandstanding, the former Guyanese leader said “I don’t want to be premature on anything but I have to, until proven otherwise, take the President seriously when he says that he wants to have discussions on these issues,” he said.

Given the magnitude of these and other matters, the President said, he is pleased that the meeting happened, as it is important to start the process of addressing matters of national interest. On August 17, last, former President Bharrat Jagdeo was sworn in as Opposition Leader.

“Once Mr. Jagdeo was elected Leader of the Opposition, I wrote him inviting him [inviting him] to talks, because as Leader of Opposition he has certain Constitutional obligations,” President Granger said.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the British High Commission here have together offered to fully finance the Ministry of Social Cohesion’s National Roundtable to be held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.

“This ministry has a challenging role, but we believe that with the support of stakeholders, the Guyanese people [and]our international stakeholders, we are going to achieve the answer to this question of bridging the gaps. This Roundtable is fully financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the British High Commission here.