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PPP’s absence from Social Cohesion round-table: Granger discards witch-hunt claim; UN official urges broad-based involvement

The opening of the Social Cohesion Round-table at the Arthur Chung International Conference Centre.

Amid a call by the United Nations (UN) for greater political participation in mapping out Guyana’s social cohesion strategy, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP) refused to participate in a national roundtable citing the firing of several persons by the four-month old administration.

President David Granger is, however, relying on patience in the hope that Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would be able to eventually convince his party to become involved in the five-year strategy that is expected to be the outcome of the roundtable.

“I met the Leader of the Opposition on Monday and we have to take it one step at a time. He did come to the meeting and we did discuss some aspects of the agenda and he indicate that he would like to ensure that the process goes forward but at his own time, in his own way , at his own rate so I am confident that we’ll move forward but we must give him time to brief his other party members so that all of them are on board,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Granger rubbished one of the PPP’s major reasons for not participating in the roundtable- that is the dismissal of numerous persons since the APNU+AFC coalition came to power following the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections. The President said all contracts have been terminated justifiably and rejected claims that his administration was on a witch-hunt.  “In every single case in which contracts have been terminated, there are very good explanations. It has not been a purge, there has been no witch-hunting,” he said.

Among the reasons, the President cited for the termination of contracts, are the disappearance of funds and other malpractices. “There has been no witch-hunting and we intend to pursue a transparent and efficient economy,” he said, adding that that includes the training of all public servants at the soon-to-be-launched Public Service Staff College. “Public servants must be unbribeable. We want an honest and efficient public service, they will be better paid, better educated and they will be respected,” he said.

In his feature address, the President sought to reassure Guyanese that the opposotion,which clinched 49 percent of the votes at the last general elections, would not be sidelined from the decision-making process. “I said at my inauguration that I intend to be President of all Guyana. This, without question, includes those who did not vote for the coalition. I cannot govern only in the interest of 51 percent and exclude the elected representatives of 49 percent. Political inclusivity will allow us to combine our efforts with those of others and to accelerate the process of national development. It will help us to reduce and possibly avoid violent conflict,” he said, adding that his recent meeting with the Opposition Leader was “a step in this direction.”

In her remarks at the opening of the Social Cohesion Roundtable, United Nations Resident Coordinator Khadija Musa did not refer to the PPP’s absence but hoped that Guyanese regardless of their political persuasion would rally around the sitting government’s initiative to build national dialogue through local initiatives. “After election, whoever wins you have to participate  in the policies they are creating and the decisions they are marking because I would say that a five-year term is too long to stay quiet. Therefore, you will miss the boat if you sit back and say that ‘I don’t support this government and I will not participate because my party didn’t win’,” she said.

Musa said supporters of the defeated party should expect their leaders to represent them in Parliament and the relevant committees while the society as a whole challenges the government to deliver on their behalf. “I really encourage begin nation-building after election and ensure your vision and is incorporated by whichever government wins an election,” he said.

She highlighted that the first Social Cohesion Forum was being held just days after President Granger and Opposition Leader Jagdeo held their first consultations on developing a more inclusive society.

The UN Resident Coordinator identified health care, education, social protection and socio-economic policies that could foster civil society participation and strengthen democratic institutions.