Private sector supporting rejected US democracy project

-following meetings with gov’t, American embassy

After meeting separately with government and the United States embassy, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has indicated to both parties that it believes that the $300M democracy project rejected by the Donald Ramotar administration should go ahead.

“We met with the (US) Charge d’Affaires last week…and yesterday (Monday) government… we basically said the same to the two: ‘have discussions and resolve this matter so the project can go ahead’”, a member of the PSC told Stabroek News yesterday.

The commission will sometime this week issue a statement on the two meetings, officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

The USAID-funded $300 million Leadership and Democracy Project (LEAD) which has been rejected by government but which the US says it will continue implementation of, aims to boost citizens’ engagement with local parliamentarians and improve overall governance.

Though it had first rejected the project, the government has since signalled that it is prepared to have talks on it.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon last week stated that the government would not entertain a request by the US government for talks on the project “under duress.”

“We ain’t negotiating under duress…We are not discussing a project and its implementation whilst it’s being implemented,” he had asserted. The US has informed government that it is standing by its position that the democracy project here would go ahead.

After the US stated that the project was going ahead despite the government’s objections, Luncheon described this as a breach of the country‘s sovereignty.

The ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday stated that government would agree to talks but that the project should be put on hold until completion of the discussions. General Secretary of the PPP Clement Rohee said “Government is prepared to enter into discussion on the matter under the condition that the project be put on hold or paused.”

Rohee noted that while the party is aligned with the government’s ideology, more consideration has to be developed. He said that while members of the private sector have come out in support of the LEAD project, they have to consider more than just the project proposal. While many in the private sector are supportive of the LEAD project “I don’t think you can only look at the project proposal you have to look at the exchange of correspondence,” Rohee asserted.

Correspondence releas-ed by the US embassy after government’s rejection of the project showed that there had been discussions between the two sides which at one point prompted Luncheon to express his gratitude for this.

Meantime, another executive of the PSC told Stabroek News that the organization met government and US representatives with the hope of getting the two sides to iron out concerns through dialogue. “They have to talk and I don’t mean through the newspapers where this one say this and the other say that…the two countries have enjoyed excellent relations and I believe this will continue when (they) sit and talk,” he said.

Asked if the project should be halted to facilitate those talks the executive said “No.  Who would determine the time frame of the talks?

Who is to say that it wouldn’t be ongoing while the people who need the project most suffer? This is something beneficial for all of Guyana as it is the people who are being educated about issues of development…democracy, elevating women, catering to children, local government elections and I can go on,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting with government, the issue was raised and government officials pointed out their objections to  the project.  The executive said that government also relayed other concerns but noted that the issue of the alleged breach of sovereignty by the US was the one most emphasized.

One PSC member pointed out that one component of the LEAD project which educates parliamentarians on effective dialogue is an area the PSC has found favour with. “A lot of the content has to do with parliamentarians doing things together and that is what all of us want to see,” the member said.

He made reference to the gridlock experienced during last year’s sittings of the National Assembly and said that with parts of the LEAD project implemented, it is hoped that the inflexible stance of political parties would cease.

All the members of the PSC that this publication spoke with were optimistic that the issue between the two nations will be resolved amicably. “We believe that this will be worked out…well we have to remain optimistic anyway,” one member said.

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