The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday reiterated that it stood firmly with the government in its rejection of the US Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project and has expressed deep concern at the position taken by United States Ambassador Brent Hardt that it will proceed as planned.
Freedom House in a statement said that it is the “considered view of the PPP that the Project in its present form will not achieve its stated objective which is to build leadership capacity among stakeholders but apparently forms part of a much broader political agenda which could undermine the country’s fragile democracy.
“The PPP is hopeful that good sense will prevail on the part of the United States government and that the sovereign rights of the Government and people of Guyana to determine their own political future will be respected and not frowned upon as is currently the case.”
The party said it is at a loss to understand why a foreign power that lays claim to respect for democracy and self determination of sovereign states could so flagrantly disregard the opinion of another sovereign state and continue to persist with a Project that does not find favour with the Government of Guyana.
“The PPP stands firmly behind the Government of Guyana in its rejection of the LEAD Project and calls on the US Government through its Ambassador to end forthwith the continuation of the Project and re-engage the Guyana Government on the way forward.
“The PPP wishes to remind the US administration that Guyana has had a long and glorious struggle against foreign domination and dictatorial rule and can therefore do without being lectured on the elements of democracy and political leadership”, the statement said.
On April 24, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon met with United States Ambassador Hardt and expressed again government’s position on the contentious USAID-funded project and the Ambassador promised to communicate it to his government.
“The Head of the Presidential Secretariat conveyed the Government of Guyana’s perspectives on a path forward for continued cooperation,” the US Embassy responded when asked by Stabroek News for an update after the meeting.
“The Ambassador agreed to share those perspectives with USAID and the U.S. Department of State with a view to finding a mutually agreeable way forward that would support the interests of the people of Guyana in strong and vibrant democratic institutions, civic education in advance of local government elections, and broader civic engagement among women and young Guyanese,” the statement added.
Stabroek News was told that the Ambassador met with Luncheon to discuss the continuation of the decades-long collaboration between the United States and Guyana in the areas of democracy and governance.
“Since 2009, such collaboration has been conducted within the framework of the ‘Assistance Agreement between the United States of America and Guyana for Governing Justly and Democratically,’ which runs through September 2015,” the statement noted.
The two sides met just days after the Donald Ramotar administration said it would not discuss the project while it was being implemented.
Calling the decision to proceed with the project “provocative,” the administration had two weeks ago stated that there would be no further talks on the initiative unless it is suspended, with Luncheon saying the time had come for government to insist on its stance.
However, on Wednesday Luncheon informed that government would be meeting with Hardt at the Office of the President.
Hardt had met with government’s delegation—President Ramotar, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, and Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira—on March 27th last. However, Luncheon had explained that government became aware that the project was still being implemented, prompting the reiteration of its objections.
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.