President of the Network of Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs), Hazel Brown, wants the Government to release the latest version of the draft declaration that will be signed by the heads of States at the Fifth Summit of the Americas at the weekend.
Speaking yesterday at the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations meeting at the Daaga Hall of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Brown said:
"Whereas in previous Summits we were able to see the draft the heads are coming to sign because as you all know now the heads are coming here to sign an agreement that has already been negotiated and agreed, so they are just going to sit down on Sunday and sign."
"We want to see it, we want to know where it is after all of the effort that has gone into contributions to something we need to see it and we need to say today we want to see the declaration.
"I understand one of the communication people said it will be ready on Friday but that is not good enough we want to see it now, we want to see it today," she added.
She said the lesson they have learnt from this is that the process of engagement of civil society by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is very disrespectful.
Brown added that while the agenda for the civil society forum which was agreed upon two days ago did have some inputs from the Civil Society Organisations it cannot be said to be their agenda.
"Our determination is that when we gather in that boat tomorrow and on the following day we will make the agenda because that is our business that is what we have been putting our blood, sweat and tears into all these years and we cannot just sit down and roll over and say whatever you say," she said.
The most challenging aspect of the preparation for the summit forum, she said, has been getting the national secretariat which is appointed by the Government and the office of the Prime Minister to recognise and value the contribution that the civil society can make.
"We have to find a way to make them understand, recognise and value us as civil society. In particular, their attempt to control every aspect of the preparations including setting the agenda."
"Somehow they got it into their heads that this was a forum for civil society and not of civil society but we will continue to fight for the next two days," she added.