AN UNWILLING PARTICIPANT
February 10, 2007
Desmond Hoyte did not initiate the call for dialogue between the PPP government and his party. In fact, in 1999, he snubbed the hand of friendship offered by President Jagdeo and consistently vacillated when it came to accepting the unconditional invitation from the young President for a meeting.
When Jagdeo first acceded to office following the resignation of Mrs. Janet Jagan, he extended an invitation to Desmond Hoyte to meet with him. However the then leader of the PNCR shied away from this invitation on the grounds that he did not know in what capacity he was meeting Jagdeo.
Obviously, he was then not prepared to accept the legitimacy of the President even though after the decision of the election's petition, he spoke about the PPP being the de-facto government.
Months upon months went by and the leader of the PNCR was not prepared to act in the interest of the nation. More concerned that meeting with Jagdeo would signal his party's acceptance of the legitimacy of the PPP government, Hoyte constantly side-stepped the issue of meeting with the President.
Efforts to have Hoyte meet with the President were greeted with the most childlike of excuses by the leader of the PNCR, who felt that the political protests following the 1997 elections had effectively softened the PPP, and therefore could run roughshod over the PPP and force political concessions that would eventually mean the loss of political power in the next term. He thought that Jagdeo would have been a pushover, but he instead met someone who was prepared to be strong and defiant and not concede ground despite what the PNCR did in the streets.
After it was clear that Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP had won the 2001 elections, former US President Jimmy Carter prepared a draft text for consideration by both Hoyte and Jagdeo. The text called for constructive dialogue between the two but after Carter flew out of Guyana , Hoyte in typical fashion disclaimed that he had ever agreed to anything.
This time, of course, he had lost his third consecutive elections to the PPP and the extremists and hardliners were calling for his removal. One elections commissioner was manhandled outside of Congress Place in an ugly incident that signaled that Hoyte would come under pressure not to readily meet with the PPP.
Sandwiched between those demanding he declare his party's position on dialogue and from extremists, Hoyte backed off from the confrontational approach that his party had adopted since 1997. He was smart enough to know that confrontation was just what the extremists wanted. But they also wanted his throne.
Dialogue then became his saving grace. Just before Jagdeo's swearing in, Hoyte issued a statement outlining fourteen areas that needed to be addressed by the government. He also indicated that his party was not interested in cosmetic exercises.
In his swearing-in ceremony shortly after, the President again extended the olive branch to Hoyte. He said, “I will try hard, I promise you, to win the confidence of my opponents that this will not be so in my governance of Guyana . No doubt, winning trust in this regard will be gradual.”
The President urged that the country move forward, “This is the reason why I am urging that we move on, so that the politicians of this country could never be accused of wasting the dreams of our young people. I can assure Guyana that the hand I reach out with will be friendly and brotherly, and that in accepting it, the PNC Leadership need have no fear that they are doing so as anything other than as equals.”
If the country thought that this would end the stalemate and bring Hoyte to the table it did not happen that easily. Hoyte was prepared to extract his pound of flesh.
The PNCR started protest demonstrations outside of the precincts of the Office of the President, seeking to use those protests to strengthen their hand in negotiations with the PPP.
There was one violent encounter where the PNCR was seeking to dictate who the President should appoint as the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.
Eventually, Hoyte met with Jagdeo by turning his head away when he was greeted by the President. That act caught on camera signified what was established by his public record: that Desmond Hoyte was an unwilling participant in the process of dialogue between the PPP and the PNCR.
The PPP can be faulted terribly for their handling of this and subsequent dialogues with the PNCR. However this deplorable record by the PPP should not be used to present a revised image of Desmond Hoyte as acting in the interest of the nation when it came to the question of dialogue.