CPP, Funcinpec Embark on Key Meetings

Senate Said Most Complicated Issue

Funcinpec and CPP officials were tight-lipped on the results of the first day of working-group meetings aimed at forming a government, but negotiators drafting a bill to form the new Senate appear to have their work cut out for them.

A list of problems remain for negotiators, and the Senate legislation is unlikely to be ready to present to the National Assem­bly at its scheduled Nov 25 opening, said Funcinpec steering committee member Ahmad Yahya.

“We cannot make it the best it can be in three or four days,” he told reporters on the steps of the National Assembly after the group adjourned for the day. “It will at least take us from 10 to 15 days to finish it.”

One sticking point, he said, was how many senators would be appointed and how to ap­point them. “Many members of both the CPP and Funcinpec want to become members of the Sen­ate.”

The three working groups—charged with working out de­tails of a new Council of Min­is­ters, a government platform and creation of the new Senate—have (JUMP HEAD: Senate) been aiming to finish their work in time for the opening of the National Assembly.

Creation of the Senate, a new upper house of parliament expected to be chaired by CPP president Chea Sim, was the highlight of the deal struck at last week’s CPP-Funcinpec summit. The preliminary agreement broke months of post-election deadlock.

The National Assembly must approve the Senate legislation, as well as the Cabinet and platform details, by a two-thirds vote.

Neither side involved in Council of Ministers talks, which met at the offices of CPP President Chea Sim, would comment on their discussion other than to say the talks had been positive.

“We want to wait to the end and then we will talk to the press,” said Funcinpec steering committee member Ly Thuch.

CPP negotiator Sok An and Funcinpec negotiator Pok Than, who met at the Council of Ministers, told reporters there that 90 percent of the expected coalition government’s political platform is completed.

They declined to release any details on the talks. Pok Than said he expects the group to finish its business today.

Ahmad Yahya, however, listed a variety of obstacles his Senate working group faces before the legislation is completed.

Negotiators are laboring over whether senators should be appointed by the parties or by King Norodom Sihanouk. “This is a complicated issue to we will have to contact the King for his opinion,” Ahmad Yahya said.

Last week’s preliminary agreement had indicated that King Sihanouk might appoint Seante members.

Ahmad Yahya also sounded a note of caution over the proposed number of senators, saying that too many will be a strain on the national budget. The early number being floated by parliamentarians is 50 to 60.

Negotiators are studying old Cambodian laws dating back to 1940 and the laws of other countries in the make-up of the new Senate, but Ahmad Yahya said it is still unclear how much power the it will hold.

Meanwhile, the pro-CPP newspaper, Arayathor (Civilization), this week cited “top CPP officials” as naming the party’s honorary president, Heng Samrin, and Minister of Justice Chem Snguon as suitable for the two vice chairmen slots in the National Assembly.

The newspaper also cited the officials as saying Funcinpec’s current deputy prime minister, Ing Kieth, and Phnom Penh Governor Chhim Seak Leng are suitable nominees for Senate vice chairmen.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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