Oil & gas, national issues discussed with former Presidents – Ali

…open invitation extended to Granger
…meetings to be held every 3 months

Assuring that Tuesday’s meeting with three of the four former Presidents of Guyana is not a one-off initiative, President Dr Irfaan Ali has said that he will hold discussions with his predecessors on a quarterly basis.

President Irfaan Ali and his predecessors in discussion at State House on Tuesday

The meeting, which was held at State House, saw former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo, Donald Ramotar and Samuel Hinds joining President Ali for a working lunch. The lunch was expected to facilitate discussions on a framework for how the former Presidents can continue to contribute to nation-building.
President Ali informed the media afterwards that not only would the engagement be held every quarter, but there were fruitful discussions on a number of issues including Guyana’s developing oil and gas sector, local content, job creation and national sovereignty.
“This is not a one-off engagement; this is an engagement that will occur once every quarter. And it’s focused at a very strategic level. Some of the areas that are of key concern to us nationally, that we engaged on and shared ideas on are issues surrounding our border security, our sovereignty. Issues of the environment. We see the environment as part of our national development strategy,” the Head of State said.
He added that the Government has the Low Carbon Development Strategy as a framework. “We covered issues of climate change and mitigation. Oil and gas sector, we looked at the sector holistically, generating ideas and discussing strategies that would ensure strong local content and participation and ensuring our human resource base is geared towards the opportunities,” Ali also said.
Achieving national unity and making the Racial Hostilities Act even more robust with stronger penalties were also on the agenda. He noted that they also discussed strengthening governance and making it more accountable.

Another issue discussed by the President and his predecessors was national security and strategies for enhancing this. There were also discussions and the sharing of ideas on constitutional and electoral reform.
“Not only ideas but also how the various former Presidents saw the issues of constitutional reform, how it should be undertaken. What came out as a consensus is that it should be a people-driven process, not a backroom type of process. The people must play an integral role in the reform.”
“Electoral reform was another area that was discussed and placed on the agenda. How do we strengthen our electoral system? Looking at having external support and our legislation from penalties, clear definitions of the systems.”
Conspicuously absent from the meeting was former President David Granger. While Granger himself has been silent, his People’s National Congress (PNC) party had issued a statement a few days ago rejecting the invitation. The PNCR statement indicated that there was not enough explanation as to the purpose of the meeting nor an agenda for review before the engagement.
On the absence of Granger, the Head of State expressed the hope that the former President would understand the necessity of attending the meeting and being part of the discussions. He promised that Granger would again be invited when the group meets in the first quarter of next year.
“We made it clear that all the former Presidents will be invited. We’re hoping that former President Granger would understand the necessity in attending this meeting and being part of this. It’s a national effort, ensuring that we harness the ideas of our former Presidents who are still available to us.”
President Ali assumed office as Guyana’s 9th Executive President in August following five months of electoral and political deadlock following the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The former Granger-led APNU/AFC Administration had refused to concede defeat at the March 2 polls and demit office. In fact, even after a National Recount confirmed the People’s Progressive Party/Civic electoral victory, the coalition continued with its delay tactics by moving to the courts.
It took mounting international and local pressure for the new People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government to be finally sworn in to office on August 2, 2020.