Monday, September 08, 2008

Freddie exposes Jagdeo's EPA sham

The Guyana Government has issued a press release which states openly that Guyanese stakeholders have supported President Jagdeo’s rejection of the EPA in its present form.

What is missing from the document is an enumeration of these stakeholders. It strengthens the position of the Guyana Government if it can show its regional partners that the entire country does not want its government to sign on to the EPA. There is nothing wrong with the society endorsing the President’s stance. Everything is wrong if stakeholders’ names are cited and their input did not exist.

My understanding is that a two-hour period was set aside for public participation at the one-day consultations held at the Convention Centre last Friday, under the title
“Plenary Discussions.” It lasted under three hours. It was at this stage one saw stakeholders’ participation. But the inclusion was not what one had envisaged when the President spoke about “consulting his people.”

The impression one got was that a select team of government ministers, including President Jagdeo, would ask stakeholders to consider his rejection of the EPA with a view of endorsing his call for not signing.

One would assume that, after his factual presentation, each consulted organization would examine the details and then arrive at judgement.

What happened on Friday afternoon, as I argued in my Saturday piece, was far removed from what one envisaged when the President proclaimed that there would be no signing unless he “consulted his people.”

Surely, two hours of public participation from the floor at the session last Friday at the Convention Centre cannot be interpreted as consensus from Guyanese stakeholders. If the Government of Guyana was to inform the EU and its Caricom partners that there is national agreement on the repudiation of the EPA in its present shape using language that GINA put out, then that would not be a correct picture of what took place at the Convention Centre.

GINA’s press release stated: “Opposition, political parties, trade union movements, private sector, religious bodies and other non-governmental organizations unanimously called on regional leaders not to sign….” The Chronicle, in its Saturday report, stated that there was representation from academia. UG is on recess for asbestos cleaning, and I am not aware that its Academic Board has met in statutory form to ponder on the EPA.

As I wrote above, one cannot quarrel with the presentation. My point is how factual is it.
Prior to the Convention Centre meeting, only two stakeholders were quoted in the press that they were in agreement with President Jagdeo — the Rice Producers Association and the Private Sector Commission.

The PNC holds a weekly press conference, yet it never mentioned anything about the EPA. Is it not strange that there is now a “Guyana Consensus” on the EPA arising from the efforts of President Jagdeo and there are no press statements from the different organizations in Guyana? We have heard nothing from the TUC. In my column yesterday, I left out the WPA and ACDA.

Were they involved in the “plenary discussions” at the Convention Centre? Yesterday’s editorial of the Chronicle observed that a “Guyana Consensus on the EPA has resulted from President Jagdeo’s initiative” Can GINA and the Chronicle list the members of the Guyana Consensus?

If there is national support, one wonders if it will hold after the rest of Caricom signs on to the EPA this week. Sir Shridath Ramphal has introduced an unanticipated equation into the entire episode. Sir Shridath warns Guyanese that they have to factor into the situation the repercussions of Guyana not signing. It would mean that the economy will be damaged.

He asks, if this happens, if the Guyanese people would be willing to stand alongside its Government. He opines that the Guyana Government would not want to take that risk “without the concurrence of the opposition parties and the trade union movement, because when the pressure is on, all would have to bear it collectively.”

The key word here, again, is “consultation.” If the economy will suffer from non-signing, what form would the dialogue take between the opposition parties and trade union on the one hand, and the Government of Guyana on the other, to consider how to cushion the negative effects? Would it take the form of two hours of “plenary discussion,” as we had last Friday at the Convention Centre?

On the controversy with the confirmation of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Corbin spoke of meaningful consultation. If our economy is going to stagnate because we oppose European bullying, should we not at least try inclusive governance in the hard times that lie ahead? Maybe a political miracle is about to dawn on Guyana.

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