BBC Caribbean
April 1, 2004

PNC renews calls for shared governance

Guyana's opposition leader, Robert Corbin has renewed calls for shared governance after disengaging from a process of dialogue with President Bharrat Jagdeo that less than a year ago was hailed a breakthrough in Guyanese politics.

Mr Corbin on Wednesday said that his party is scaling down its participation in parliament.

"For the future then we will not engage President Jagdeo in any form of bilateral discussions save except for those required under the constitution. The plight of our country can no longer be addressed only by the leadership of the ruling party, the government and the opposition."

"Future discussions of urgent and critically important national issues must also engage the parliamentary political parties and civil society organisations," Mr Corbin said.

Promises broken

The People’s National Congress (PNC) leader claims that the government has not fulfilled its promises and is refusing to order an inquiry into an alleged extra-judicial death squad that hunted wanted men.

Mr Corbin told BBC Caribbean Service, that many of the areas of concern to the PNC were crying out for attention.

"For example the government has boasted about the parliamentary committees that are now finally established. That was a decision of the Constitution since 2001. And while it may be argued that these have been finally put in place, the important decisions such as the reform of the Guyana Police Force which has to do with the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission is not yet complete.

"Even before the commission has completed its work the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has announced that they will not be bound by its recommendations," Mr Corbin said.

Death squad allegations

The opposition leader said his decision to suspend parliamentary relations came following calls by all sectors of society for the government to investigate claims that a government minister sponsored a hit squad blamed for more than 40 killings in the past year.

"These allegations go to the very foundations of the rule of law in Guyana. They suggest the state is breaching the most fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution that is the right to life.

"The President has described this as a tiny issue. And if that is the regard life has in this country nothing else matters. Why do we continue dialogue?," Mr Corbin said.

The PNC leader said these issues must be addressed immediately for the population to have faith in governance.

Boycott to continue

Mr Corbin said the opposition boycott, involving 31 legislators, will go on until there is an inquiry into allegations that Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj headed an extrajudicial hit squad to hunt down escaped convicts and suspected criminals.

Both the government and Mr Gajraj have denied the claims, and the government has said it would launch an independent inquiry only after witnesses give evidence and testimony.

In the meantime, the police have been investigating Mr Gajraj's ministry.

President Bharrat Jagdeo's government has not commented on the boycott, which does not prevent parliament from legislating.

With 34 of 65 seats in the National Assembly, the governing party can still pass laws by simple majority.