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Joint parliamentary opposition in Guyana speaks
The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties view with deep concern the reported decision of the Cabinet to reject, in their entirety, the measures put forward by our representatives to resolve the impasse in the Guyana Elections Commission and avert a looming parliamentary and constitutional imbroglio when parliament "stands dissolved" on 4 May 2006.

Our parties had been encouraged by the agreement, between the President and the Leader of the Opposition, to establish a negotiating mechanism consisting of two representatives from each side who would work, in good faith and in a rational manner, to resolve the outstanding electoral and governmental issues and come to an agreement on the way forward after the 4 May dissolution of parliament. Because we were taking a serious situation seriously, our parties assembled a team of veteran lawyers to study the legal issues and advise us accordingly.

Our parties named Mr. Winston Murray and Mr. Rex McKay while the government was represented by the Attorney General, Mr. Doodnauth Singh, and Mr. Ralph Ramkarran.

After a single meeting, our representatives were informed of the Cabinet's decision to reject all of the proposals they had floated, at what was a preliminary and exploratory meeting. The negotiating mechanism has, therefore, been collapsed by the Government even before negotiations could get underway.

Our parties regret this decision by the Cabinet which flies in the face of the President's exhortations for a united stand, if only against the assaults on the rule of law.

It is our considered view that the PPP/C administration, in abandoning the path of discussion, negotiation and compromise, is burdening an already over-burdened population with a season of wrangling and confrontation.

We, the Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties, continue to express our preference for a negotiated resolution of the outstanding electoral and constitutional issues. In this regard, we note with interest the deafening silence from those who solemnly put their signatures to the Memorandum of Understanding with its lofty commitments to the building of public confidence and the delivery of elections of international standards.

Our parties could not have made it clearer that we regard a verified Voters' List, acceptable to all, as the most elementary, if not elemental, requirement of any democratic election.

Will the necessary public confidence be built when the Guyana Elections Commission has seen it fit not to grapple with the vexed issues that led to the withdrawal of the three opposition nominated Commissioners, but, instead, to invoke some arguable legal authority and proceed unilaterally to make critical decisions that will affect the acceptability of the Voters' List?

The GECOM, by its unilateral actions, even if allowable in law, is not building anything that resembles public confidence. It can only undermine public confidence when GECOM decides to print an uncertified and unverified List, based on a qualifying date chosen for no better reason than to ensure that the Chairman can deliver his promised "by-end-of-August" elections. This is the least wise of courses and we recommend strongly that the GECOM address, as a matter of urgency, the issues that led to the withdrawal of the three Commissioners. We urge the GECOM Chairman to recognize the dangers and damage to public confidence which are the consequence of unilateral decision making. We trust that good sense prevails and he sees the wisdom of building, rather than undermining public confidence in GECOM.

The report from our Chief Scrutineers, who attended the meeting with the Secretariat of the GECOM yesterday, 26 April 2006, confirms our worst fears: the election machine is grinding away, powered by one-party decisions that make nonsense of the Constitution's insistence on inclusionary and participatory methods of decision-making. Does the GECOM really believe that the contesting parties will waste their time and resources on a List that not even GECOM itself has tested for accuracy?

We insist: the outstanding and most vexed of these issues, which now confront us all, can be resolved by Guyanese of good will and patriotic determination. We, therefore, urge that Cabinet reconsider its decision to close the door to a negotiated settlement of the outstanding matters.

Guyana cannot afford to miss yet another opportunity to close ranks and heal wounds.

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