What on earth did Minister of Home Affairs Mr Clement Rohee have in mind when he decided to present only an edited summary of the proposed Security Sector Reform Action Plan for the National Assembly’s approval last week?
It is well known that the Guyana-Britain agreement signed by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon and British High Commissioner Mr Fraser Wheeler in August required the administration to seek the National Assembly’s approval for the action plan and to set up special select committees on the Disciplined Forces Commission report and to review the implementation of the action plan.
It is also well known that two of the plan’s explicit objectives are to create substantial parliamentary and other oversight of the security sector and build greater public participation and inclusiveness on security sector issues. Why then the secrecy in presenting the plan for discussion by this country’s legislators? How could they be expected to comprehend a process which they had not studied and commend a plan which they had not seen?
Public safety spokespersons Ms Deborah Backer for the opposition People’s National Congress Reform and Mr Raphael Trotman for the Alliance For Change expressed their parties’ concerns at being denied access to the full plan. While they supported the plan in principle, they were concerned that they had been given only the edited, and not the entire text yet had been asked to support the motion. Mr Trotman astonished the Assembly by waving a leaked copy of the full plan, asking sarcastically, “Is this transparency where MPs cannot have access to an original document?”
It was quite comical, therefore, for Minister of Home Affairs Mr Clement Rohee to insist that it was the administration’s intention to win public support for the plan and to express misplaced optimism that such support would be forthcoming. He claimed to be aware of the importance of public support for the law enforcement agencies in their implementation of the action plan. But, how could the public support a plan when their elected representatives were being deliberately kept in the dark about its details?
Under the plan, the National Assembly is required to establish a special select committee which will receive and examine official annual reports on the status of the implementation of the plan. The committee is also to provide a final report to the Assembly on the completion of its examination of the reports on the implementation of the entire plan. But, since the seeds of suspicion between the administration and opposition already seem to have been sown, the committee might have stumbled before it has even started.
If the administration persists in its senselessly surreptitious stance, will the special select committees ever see the full text of the plan or will they be given the complete reports? If Mr Rohee is so secretive that the plan cannot be disclosed to the members of the National Assembly, what treatment can the proposed oversight committee expect?
Members of the National Assembly have good grounds for scepticism. Over the past decade, the administration has commissioned numerous studies and plans on the reform of the security sector which it has been reluctant to implement. Mr Trotman referred to the Guyanese Disciplined Forces Commission report, the British Symonds Group Report, the CARICOM Task Force on Crime and Security report, and the National Drug Strategy Master Plan, for example, all of which the administration has treated with scant regard.
“The history of security management by the PPP government is a disappointing failure and I hope that this is not just another plan,” Mr Trotman said, adding, “We are being denied access to the real document. It means that you don’t respect us