Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Patterson/Seaga summit today
TONY LOWRIE, Observer staff reporter
Friday, November 01, 2002



VALE Royal will again be the venue for the third "summit", since August of last year, between Prime Minister P J Patterson and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga. But there will be a big difference between today's meeting and those which went before.

The two preceding summits were brokered by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and chaired by then president Peter Moses in August 2001, and by incumbent president Oliver Clarke in February of this year. But today, both party leaders will meet "eyeball-to-eyeball" without any third party mediator.

One official of the PSOJ told the Observer that this meeting seems to be "a separate kind of meeting between the two political leaders".

The PSOJ official noted that a meeting between the prime minister and PSOJ leaders is scheduled for next week at which time some of the issues previously raised, including the recommendations of the "seven-member committee" are expected to be discussed.

The "seven-member committee" which has two People's National Party (PNP) representatives, two Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representatives and three independent members, was formed after the February 2002 meeting and had submitted a report on tackling crime and violence.

Their recommendations included the creation of community consultative committees, measures to break the cycle of political patronage, and the overhauling of the police force, among others.

It was immediately after their February meeting that both political leaders promised Jamaicans "the most peaceful election campaign ever". This will be their first meeting since those elections and each seems to have hisown priorities.

Days after the results of the October 16 general elections, the JLP leader sent a letter to Patterson, requesting a meeting with him.

Among the issues raised in Seaga's letter are the appointment of the governor-general by an independent process; monthly meetings of Parliament's Appropriations and Internal Affairs committees, chaired by opposition members; measures to ensure approval by the contractor-general of all contracts over a certain sum and the allocation of a portion of the national budget to members of parliament for constituency projects.

In his response to Seaga's request for a meeting, Patterson noted that he previously had suggested monthly meetings between both men. He is expected to focus on matters relating to constitutional reform and ways to curb crime in politically divided areas during today's summit.

Delano Franklyn, one of Patterson's new junior ministers, told the Observer that both leaders are expected to engage in a "free-flowing discussion" and that it should be followed by subsequent meetings which will engage other representatives of groups and organisations in the wider society.