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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Guyana Third Force members have agreed to disagree - Ravi Dev
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News

The Guyana Third Force (GTF) Platform is not about to break-up though there are disagreements on some issues.

Current platform Chair-man Ravi Dev said these issues included the form the GTF would take to go to the elections and whether one or some members would support either the PPP/C, PNCR or remain with the concept of the third force.

The GTF Platform also does not agree with a boycott of the upcoming general elections and has taken the stand that it would do everything to encourage people to register and to vote.

Last month, leader of the Guyana Action Party (GAP), Paul Hardy announced he was walking away from the platform after differences with other GTF leaders but he remained supportive of the Third Force concept. His departure led to questions about the GTF's future.

Asked about the platform's programme that should have been launched early last month as was announced during an interview in December, Dev in an interview during Monday's parliamentary debate said there were some difficulties in this regard. He said there was a programme with the ultimate goal being a common electoral approach to the upcoming elections after the grouping had decided on common core values and principles. However, he said, "In terms of getting there, one has to have a common electoral strategy and there's no question that there are some differences in how exactly we are to get to that strategy," and as such no programme has yet been formalised.

Asked whether the platform was on the verge of breaking up as was being touted in some quarters, Dev said there was collaboration among members and some amount of cooperation but "There are some differences of opinions as to how exactly we are going into the elections. Do we go in as a body or not?"

He said GAP and ROAR were of the firm opinion that they would not go into any electoral arrangement in the pre-election period with either the PPP/C or the PNCR. "There are other members who feel that they can link up with one of those or in the case of the WPA, another option might be to stay out. We, GAP and ROAR, are not going to stay out of the elections. So you have that," he said.

He explained that if one were focusing on the platform as an electoral vehicle, in terms of going to the elections on a common slate, that may not be possible but there are other areas, "where we are still collaborating, we are still talking. There is no question about it."

With regard to the elections, Dev said that even though the majority agreed on a common position of not boycotting the elections due by August 4, one member, Peter Ramsaroop of Vision Guyana has expressed the feeling that the boycott was an option. Ramsaroop has posited the view that elections should not be held until certain electoral reforms are put in place.

Dev reiterated, however, that the platform's position is that elections should be held as constitutionally due, which is August 4.

In spite of differing views and the fact that GAP Leader, Hardy, walked away from discussions on the issue of members aligning themselves with either the PPP/C or the PNCR, Dev said the members of the platform still meet but "have agreed to disagree."

He said one of the disagreements stem from the fact that some members believe that for the platform to be "The Third Force" in the Guyanese context, members have to remain outside the PPP/C and the PNCR. Other members of the grouping feel that because of the deep structural problems that are inherent in the constitution, the two might still be able to control the presidency without a Third Force and as such there was need to coalesce with either.

One misrepresentation in the media was that the Alliance For Change (AFC) was not a part of the platform's discussions because of a WPA objection. Dev said, "That was a Guyana Third Force Position. It wasn't just the WPA."

He said that the GTF as a group felt the AFC leaders had to give up their seats in parliament before discussions could proceed. Khemraj Ramjattan, who was expelled from the PPP/C and Sheila Holder, who holds a GAP-WPA seat in Parliament, and are now actively campaigning for the AFC, retained their parliamentary seats. Raphael Trotman, former PNCR MP and now the presidential candidate for the AFC gave up his seat late last year.

While the majority agreed to the position regarding the seats, Dev said Leader of the Unity Party, Dr Joey Jagan has always made it clear that it was not an issue for his party but he would go along with it.

Hardy has always felt the AFC was always a part of the Third Force and should have been on the platform initially. Trotman and another member had attended one or two of the GTF's meetings in the early stages.

While Hardy walked away from the discussions late last year, Dev said he was still open to collaboration. In fact in discussions, he held with him on Monday, Dev said Hardy was open to having a common position on the electoral question.

And with regard to the execution of former journalist and talk show host, Ronald Waddell last week, the platform would issue a joint statement and GAP was willing to be part of it.

"What GAP has said very clearly is that they are not going into any coalition with either of the two major political parties. ROAR is stating that position, too. It would not get into an alliance with either the PPP/C or the PNCR before the elections."

All the members, he said, continue to feel that they could cooperate in other areas such as on electoral matters, which would be the key issue in the coming months. For example, he noted that in an interview published in Mon-day's issue of the Stabroek News, the WPA Co-Leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine said the party might not even enter the elections.

Different groupings would make their own determination as to what their electoral strategy would be, he said, adding that they were trying to keep an idealism going in which small political parties maintain their core values and mission statement. They have not walked from those he said.

"If we are talking about coalition politics we just can't up and walk out on every other issue," he added.

Speaking as ROAR Leader, Dev said that among the more pressing issues that GECOM needs to conclude was its method of sanitising the Official list of Electors (OLE). He noted that Parliament gave GECOM a mandate to come up with a mechanism for verifying the list on its own.

At the last meeting between GECOM and the parliamentary opposition, the commission's Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally indicated that he would be presenting GECOM's options in writing. "We haven't heard from him. That is one outstanding issue," he said.

Another outstanding issue, he said was the cross-checking of the list internally through fingerprinting. "I understand a Jamaican company is being given the contract. If that's the case," he said, "that would make us go a very far way."