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I have already conveyed to the leaders of all the parties contesting the elections in Guyana, the congratulations of the Caribbean Community colleagues that they have, with considerable statesmanship, taken a major step in turning aside from rising conflict towards a resolution of current problems by inquiry and dialogue.

I take this opportunity to extend those sentiments of solidarity to the people of Guyana whose overwhelming support for the ‘Herdmanston Accord’ that the CARICOM Peace Mission brokered is the true basis of its sustained value to Guyana and the Region as a whole. In allowing CARICOM to help Guyana in a moment of need, Guyana has strengthened our Caribbean Community. People throughout our Region are more confident today of the worth and capacity of CARICOM, and of its relevance to all its Member Countries.

An important item of the Menu of Measures on which agreement was reached, is the continuing engagement of CARICOM in the implementation of the Agreement. That is true in a general sense. I wish to reaffirm that commitment by all the political leaders to all the people of Guyana. CARICOM will keep watch with you as you work to resolve the issues of division. But CARICOM is also pledged to undertake a specific role of facilitating implementation of the Agreement itself. Of paramount importance is the mounting of an independent Audit in relation to the elections of last December.

The broad Terms of Reference of that two-stage Audit have been agreed by the two main political parties. In helping to shape them, the CARICOM Mission also had the benefit of conversations with the other contesting parties.

The first stage of the Audit is obviously a matter of immediate importance. The time-frame is three months. That period commenced on Sunday, 18 January. CARICOM is ready.

Following consultations, I am pleased to inform you that I have today presented CARICOM’s proposal for the team of Caribbean experts who, in our view, are admirably qualified, experienced and well-suited to conduct the Audit as expeditiously as possible. As you will expect, the necessary consultations with the parties are now taking place.

You are aware of the significant support mobilised from Governments, bilateral and multilateral donors and the private sector for the conduct of the Audit. We in CARICOM are highly appreciative of this collaboration.

There is now some urgency for the two main political parties to name their representatives who will initiate the agreed process of dialogue. An initial issue to be addressed is the need for legislation or some other appropriate measure to facilitate the conduct of the Audit.

Since my arrival this morning, I have had intensive and encouraging discussions with the political parties which took part in Guyana’s General Elections of 15 December 1997. In my discussions with those parties so far, I have been impressed by the will and determination to provide strong and sustained support to this process of reconciliation based on the Menu of Measures to which the two main parties have committed themselves.

All Member States of CARICOM have given their commitment to providing support to this process aimed at reconciliation and resolution of Guyana’s current difficulties. We are indeed honoured to have been provided an opportunity to support the efforts of Guyana’s political parties to foster an environment for the promotion of a cohesive society and for peaceful development in the interest of all the people of Guyana.

The initial need now is for all the parties to hold both the letter and spirit of the Agreement. The latter is as important as the former, and the obligation does not rest only with the political parties. All the people of Guyana share in that custodianship, for it affects the future of every Guyanese. And I must tell you truly that what affects the future of Guyana affects the future of CARICOM and of the people of each and every one of its Member Countries. I hope my presence here today is some assurance of the sincerity of the Region’s commitment to the common future we share.

My colleagues in the Bureau have undertaken to support this process and at a time of mutual convenience they have agreed to visit Guyana over the next several weeks either individually or collectively.

The Secretary-General and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat will be with you throughout to ensure the continuous day-to-day support of the Community.

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