Further talks with US on hold until democracy project shelved -Luncheon

Labelling the US’ decision to proceed with the USAID-funded Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project “provocative,” government yesterday said there would be no further talks on the initiative unless it is suspended.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon said the time has come for government to insist on its stance. “The basis for our re-engagement was that we were not re-engaging under duress,” Luncheon told a press conference yesterday at the Office of the President.

Stabroek News has learnt that the LEAD elements are currently being implemented as planned.

The Donald Ramotar administration had remain-ed unrelenting it its stance that the $300M project must be halted before any talks could begin on the project. It said it subsequently went into talks without knowing that the project was still being implemented. Upon learning at the meeting that the project remains on track, the administration yesterday reaffirmed its initial position against continued engagement unless the programme is suspended.

At the same time, the top official assured that relations between the two countries would not deteriorate over the LEAD project that the US has assured was geared at creating greater citizen and political participation in the affairs of Guyana.

Luncheon informed that the US Ambassador Brendt Hardt met with government’s delegation, President Ramotar, Foreign Affairs Minister Rodrigues-Birkett, and Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira, on April 9th.  He, however, explained that government became aware that the programme was still being implemented in its entirety and saw this as a premeditated act.

When contacted by Stabroek News , the US Ambassador said, “The discussions were positive and constructive, and the parties agreed to meet again as soon as feasible to continue the dialogue with a view to finding a mutually agreeable way forward within the framework of our longstanding cooperation through USAID on democracy and governance.”

He reaffirmed US interest in active government engagement in and support for the programme, which he said aims at enhancing consensus-building in the National Assembly, strengthening the citizen engagement with the National Assembly, supporting civic and voter education on local governance and local government elections, and expanding women and youth participation in civic processes.

Hardt, when asked in February at a Rotary function if the programme was continuing, had said that it was. He explained that since it was a budgeted programme, contracts were already signed with employees and the contractor implementing it, the International Republican Institute (IRI), had specified project timelines.

However, he echoed previous statements saying that he was open to talks with government at any time and that it was free to “get onboard” the project whenever it saw fit.

Government had said that there were areas of concern with the programme, including its belief that political parties could receive financial support through the project—an assertion denied by Hardt. Luncheon stressed that the laws of Guyana do not provide for state funding, much less foreign funding. “There is nothing like that in the law or in the practice. The Americans came in this project and invited what is a profoundly sensitive issue that has not been dealt with by this government or governments as far back as the day from independence—public support for political parties. That, indeed, represented a usurpation of our authority,” he had stated.

Another area of concern, Luncheon has claimed, is that the project supports activities for the formulation of policies that may lead to constitutional reform. “We don’t amend the constitution that way. I don’t call in America to help us to amend the constitution. And activities that address constitutional important roles and activities obviously can become part and parcel,” he said.

The US Ambassador had stressed that there has been misinformation in some sections of the media that the project will give financial aid to political parties. “We want to make clear that we do not provide funding to parties,” he said. This was also stated in correspondence to Luncheon.

“First of all, let me make clear what LEAD is not: LEAD will not provide any funding to political parties. It does not seek to promote any changes to the Constitution. And, it in no way threatens Guyana’s sovereignty. What it does do is seek to promote understanding, consensus building, strengthen the National Assembly, and encourage greater citizen engagement,” he had told the Rotarians.

He asserted that the core elements of the programme were proposed after extensive consultations with the government and other stakeholders over the course of the past year.

The first component, he said, endeavours to encourage consensus-building in the National Assembly and facilitate more effective interaction between the Assembly and citizens. It envisages cross-party negotiation workshops; speaker evenings for Members of Parliament; workshops on issue-based policy development; and multi-party issue fora where all parties select a representative to speak about a topic of public interest.

He said the second component seeks to bolster the effectiveness of the National Assembly and broaden citizen engagement with Parliament. “Here, it will work to strengthen the capacity of Members of Parliament and National Assembly staff to investigate and research issues, draft legislation, and conduct analysis of legislative initiatives. To enhance legislative transparency, it will support enhancements to the parliamentary website to ensure it includes current proposed legislation and schedules of committee hearings to facilitate the participation of experts, civil society and interested citizens. LEAD also seeks to support the establishment of a “Women’s Parliamentary Caucus” consisting of women from each of the parties represented in the Assembly. The caucus would offer a forum for the discussion of women’s issues in Guyana and a means to bring such issues to the Assembly in a collaborative way. There is also a proposed internship programme for three UG law students to provide research and drafting support to the National Assembly,” he explained.

Latest in Local News

default placeholder

Northern carriageway of Carifesta Avenue closed to traffic

The northern carriageway of Carifesta Avenue has been closed to traffic. This is to facilitate ongoing improvement and lighting works to the thoroughfare.

The newly appointed Deputy Commissioner General Hema Khan (left) with Chairman of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Board Rawle Lucas. She was introduced during a press conference held yesterday.

GRA sacks heads of Customs, HR

Chairman of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Board Rawle Lucas yesterday announced a major shake-up in the management of the tax body, including the removal of the heads of its Customs and Human Resources divisions for unsatisfactory performance and the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner-General.

European Union Ambassador Jernej Videtič (left) hands over the Coastal Engineering Design Manual for Guyana Sea and River Defences to Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson. (Ministry of Public Infrastructure photo)

$2B in EU funding for sea defences

While urging the swift operationalisation of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), European Union (EU) Representative to Guyana Ambassador Jernej Videtič yesterday handed over a $2 billion cheque to Minister of Finance Winston Jordan to aid in improving the country’s sea and river defences.

Members of the City Constabulary in their ceremonial dress march along Regent Street yesterday prior to the arrival of the President. (Photo by Keno George)

Put citizens first

With the controversial parking meter contract instigating fractures within the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), President David Granger yesterday reminded city councillors that they are accountable to the citizens who voted them into office.

Injuried: Dhaniram Tribeni

Canal Number One businessman beaten, shot in home invasion

A Canal Number One businessman is now injured after he was beaten and shot early yesterday morning when armed bandits invaded his home and escaped with a quantity cash and jewellery.

default placeholder

City councillor accused of invading Town Clerk’s privacy

A city councillor has been accused of invading the privacy of Town Clerk Royston King and his family after contacting one of King’s daughters about the controversial trip he made to Mexico with the Mayor and other council members.

default placeholder

Chainsaw operator, 16, charged over rape of 10-yr-old

A 16-year-old chainsaw operator was yesterday charged with the rape of a child under the age of 16 years old and later released into the custody of his parents.

Students of Guyana and Suriname who participated in the first Inter-Guianas Spelling Bee Competition, held yesterday at NCERD.

Guyana overall w-i-n-n-e-r in first Inter-Guianas Spelling Bee

Guyana’s students yesterday emerged the overall winners in the first Inter-Guianas Spelling Bee Competition. The Spelling Bee brought together students of Guyana and Suriname, from ages 10 to 14, in a concept of solidarity dubbed “Guianame.” The participants were drawn from several regions in Guyana and from the AlphaMax Academy, which has been the winner of the National Spelling Bee in Suriname for the past three years.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: