Aborted monitoring group meeting
High reps disagree
Stabroek News
September 21, 2003

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There seems to be a marked difference between the high representatives of the President and the Leader of the Opposition in the understanding of what was agreed between them about their presence at Friday’s meeting of the Monitoring Group at the offices of the United Nations Development Pro-gramme.

The difference in understanding led to the high representatives of the President being absent from the meeting with the monitoring group. A statement from the Office of the President issued yesterday said that the absence of the President’s team, contrary to the Stabroek News report on Saturday, was “no way reflective of an effort to undermine their commitment to the monitoring process or to be disrespectful of the members of the Monitoring Group.” The Office of the President’s statement said that the two teams during a meeting on Wednes-day did discuss their non-attendance at the Friday meeting, “in the context of the non-availability of the joint briefing document.”

The Monitoring Group is comprised of the representatives of the international donor community, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and civil society organisations among which are the Guyana Bar Association, the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana, and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha and the smaller political parties in the National Assembly.

The Stabroek News’ report said that Dr Luncheon’s absence forced the briefing session to be aborted. It said that when called, the Office of the President said that Dr Luncheon, a member of the President’s team, was aware of the meeting. The UNDP was later informed that Dr Luncheon would not be attending the briefing. Lance Carberry who leads the team of the Leader of the Opposition and was present at the meeting on Wednesday was at the Friday meeting.

The Stabroek News report recalled that an earlier briefing session had been cancelled because of Dr Luncheon’s absence. His absence was explained by the fact that there was a disagreement about whether or not the two sides would submit a joint statement as had been agreed or a separate statement as Carberry was insisting, since he said that they had no access to the unit monitoring the decisions set up in the Office of the President. It was later agreed that the Office of the President would prepare a draft of the joint statement to the monitoring group, which would be discussed with Carberry’s team to get its agreement before it was submitted.

At the time of the meeting of the two teams on Wednesday, the joint statement from the meeting on Monday between the President and the Leader of the opposition had not been agreed. That statement was issued on Wednesday evening.

However, according to the members of the Leader of the Opposition’s team, they would not have agreed to not attend Friday’s meeting. Deryck Bernard, a member of the team told Stabroek News that they agreed that at the meeting they would make clear the role of the two parties in the process which included their submission of a joint statement, and to provide any answers and clarification required. Having done that the high representatives would leave the stakeholder group to continue its discussion.”

Stabroek News understands from checking with Carberry, Bernard and James McAllister, the other member of the team, that the matter was raised in the context of a sense by the government’s representatives that the joint statement would not have been issued in time to allow for the stakeholder group to properly consider it before their meeting on Friday. Based on the discussions it was apparently agreed that Dr Luncheon would explore with the UNDP Representative whether the joint statement issued after Monday’s meeting would suffice, and if it wouldn’t to have the meeting rescheduled.

Carberry expected Dr Luncheon to have done so on Wednesday, and to inform him of the result of his discussion with the UNDP. He said Dr Luncheon did not contact him about the results of the meeting.

On Thursday Carberry said the UNDP contacted him by fax to confirm his attendance at the meeting on Friday.

Bernard explained his non-attendance as being due to his having to attend a ceremony at Queen’s College at which Education Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey was present. He explained too that it was the understanding that representatives from both sides who had no previous engagement would attend the briefing session.

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