LET THERE BE CONSENSUS!
Kaieteur News. September 7, 2008 | By knews | Filed Under Editorial
The two-day consultations on the Economic Partnership Agreement concluded yesterday. These consultations, long hinted at, but hastily arranged, are expected to inform Guyana’s position on the matter.
For such an important consultation to have been limited to two days makes a mockery of the consultation process.
If as is being claimed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiated between CARIFOURM and the European Union lacks developmental features and has grave implications for Guyana, if it was a product of bad faith on the part of the Europeans, it is equally regrettable that the local consultations should have been so limited and abbreviated.
While a CARICOM summit is due to be held soon on the matter, Guyana either should have moved towards extended consultations earlier or should have made it clear that on such an important issue we were not going to be rushed.
It now seems bitterly ironic that Guyana should find itself scrambling for time in its consultation on the EPA when the need to meet last year’s deadline was believed to have resulted in this less than agreeable decision.
That being said, it would also seem that the most important national deliberative body in the country, our Parliament, has been bypassed when in these consultations.
Since the Economic Partnership Agreement is akin to an international treaty, it is inexcusable that Guyana’s Parliament was not afforded the opportunity to kick start the consultations through a specially convened session.
We are sure that while Parliament is in recess that its members would have been more than willing to have had a special sitting to deal with this most critical issue which has drawn criticism from our Head of State.
We have heard a great many criticisms of the EPA leading up to the just-concluded consultations. Yet, the specific areas of criticisms have not been amplified.
As such, there is a great lack of knowledge concerning the EPA and just what exactly Guyana is objecting to. The fact of the matter remains that for the vast majority of the public there is far too little information to make an informed judgment on the matter.
This was likely to be resolved during the kick-off of the consultations which involved some expert inputs being made.
This is all the more reason why more time should have been given so that the stakeholders would have had greater time to consider the various points of view and to arrive at a considered position on the subject.
Now that the consultations are over, Guyana needs to take a realistic position on the matter. Barbados, for example, sees no possibility of the agreement between CARIFORUM and the European Union being renegotiated. As far as that country is concerned we have a done deal.
Guyana on the other hand has insisted that it is a sovereign state and therefore Barbados cannot speak for Guyana.
But is the agreement a done deal? Is it possible even at this stage for the agreement to be renegotiated? These are issues we believe should have been ventilated long before the consultations, since they do have bearing as to whether we are engaging in a futile exercise.
We hope that now that the hurried consultations have concluded, steps would be taken to at least convince the Guyanese people that the interests of Guyana are being safeguarded.
One way for this to happen is for all the parliamentary parties along with the government to hammer out a joint position.
Because of complexities and technical nature of some of the issues involved, we believe that having such consensus would be the best assurance that our people can have that on this most important issue, their interests will not be surrendered on the altar of expediency.