PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform Monday 15th September 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

The PNCR has received a letter, from Dr. Roger Luncheon, dated 11th September 2008, inviting the Parliamentary Opposition Political Parties to “a briefing by President Bharrat Jagdeo on recent developments regarding the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement”, on Monday 15 September 2008 at 3:00 pm.

The Party has given mature consideration to this invitation and has concluded, given previous experience, that no good purpose would be served by attending such a briefing. In any case, the PNCR is at a loss to determine what purpose the briefing would serve, given that President Jagdeo’s many pronouncements, on the EPA, are now in the public domain.

The PNCR wishes to set the record straight on its position as it relates to the EPA. The Party recognizes that the EPA is not a perfect agreement; in fact, it concedes that there are deficiencies in the EPA. However, the PNCR also recognizes the many positive aspects of the EPA, as well as its potential for aiding Guyana’s trade and development.

While the PNCR can see merit in some of the arguments advanced by President Bharrat Jagdeo, it has strong reservations about the timing of those arguments. The Party believes that it would be useful to spend some time ventilating these issues.

The Jagdeo regime inherited a template for negotiations with the EU (European Union). Had President Jagdeo and his Administration chosen to follow this template, he would have mobilized all of the relevant institutions, invited experts and worked out a comprehensive negotiating policy framework, which would have been underpinned by a robust public information programme.

The PNCR must register its dismay that the Jagdeo Administration appears not to have seen the need to have a proper inter-agency and multi-stakeholder approach to the EPA, in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation (MOFTIC) would have played pivotal roles. Equally disturbing, is the absence of any evidence that the Guyana Mission in Brussels was properly briefed and staffed to support this important national exercise, in order to effectively contribute towards the promotion and protection of Guyana’s interest in relation to the EU and the EPA.

What has emerged is that the Jagdeo Administration fragmented its activities, on this important issue, and the upshot is that the President appears to have operated as if he alone is the custodian of the interests of the nation. What is worse is that, the President and his Administration had, since April 2004, when the Caribbean Forum of ACP states (CARIFORUM) launched the EPA negotiations with the EU, to take all necessary steps to organize for the negotiations, in a manner which would effectively promote and protect the interests of the people of Guyana.

In this context, President Jagdeo’s frenzied activities, days before the Special Summit of Caricom Heads of Government on the EPA, and his unwarranted attacks on the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), as well as the CARICOM Heads themselves, must be seen as a reflection of poor planning, inefficiency and a lack of appreciation and understanding of the diplomacy of the negotiating process.

What is most harmful, to the long term interests of this nation, is the undermining, by President Jagdeo, of the solidarity and unity within CARICOM, that had been built up, over time, by the PNCR.

The PNCR considers that it is dangerous politics, and ill considered diplomacy, to mount an attack on the same institution which has been the bedrock of Guyana’s national interests, including its economic interests. In any case, the attacks on the RNM are misguided and disingenuous.

President Jagdeo must know that the mandate for negotiating the EPA was born out of decisions of the Heads of Government Conference. The institutional arrangements of Caricom would have ensured that, at every stage of the negotiations, the RNM briefed, and was guided by, every Heads of Government Conference which was convened, from the start of the negotiation process, in April 2004, to the initialling of the EPA, in December 2007. Additionally, representatives of the Government of Guyana had been, and continue to be, integrally involved at each stage of the negotiating process and had ample opportunity to promote and protect the national interests of Guyana.

In all this, the PNCR must emphasize that, at the very moment when the RNM has been sufficiently successful, and utilised by other Regions as a model, President Jagdeo has chosen to attack the integrity of the RNM.

In addition, rather than consult the people of Guyana, before, and in the early stages of the negotiations, the Jagdeo Administration, in its usual contempt for the Guyanese people, proceeded with the negotiations, without effective and functioning mechanisms for consultation. It is only when President Jagdeo found himself isolated in the Region that he chose to hurriedly hold consultations with hand-picked national Stakeholders and the Parliamentary Opposition Parties.

The PNCR responded to the invitation for consultation because we expected that the process and approach to the consultative process would have been a genuine one. The occasion turned out to be nothing more than a stage-managed forum for President Jagdeo to advocate his views.

The PNCR has always sought, and will continue to promote and protect the interests of the people of Guyana. The Party considers that genuine consultations are an appropriate institutional vehicle for determining, promoting and protecting our national interests.

Unfortunately, the Jagdeo Administration seems to be of the view that the consultative process is simply a vehicle to be used for prosecuting partisan politics.

It is in this context, that the PNCR finds it difficult to attend the briefing to which it has been invited this afternoon.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place
Sophia, Georgetown
Monday 15 September 2008