UK approached to revive security sector reform plan

Government has approached the British to have the rejected Guyana Security Sector Reform Action Plan back on the cards in the wake of the country’s ongoing battle to keep the crime situation under control, President David Granger said yesterday.

It was while Granger was highlighting the country’s security challenges that he made the announcement, during his address at the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the Private Sector Commission (PSC). The event was held at the Pegasus Hotel.

Granger did not elaborate on the talks held between the two governments but the announcement was met with applause from those gathered.

Shortly after the announcement, British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn told reporters that Granger has asked that the shelved 2007 agreement be resuscitated and at the moment both sides are looks at ways to do this, particularly as it relates to funding and updating aspects of the previous agreement.

Quinn explained that sometime in 2000 one of his predecessors started a process based on a request from the then Guyana government.

He said those discussions came to fruition with a plan in 2007 but it was cancelled in 2009 because the government thought “it didn’t meet the requirements that they wanted.”

He said Granger has since asked that the 2007 agreement be revived and as such the relevance of what is outlined in that agreement is currently being looked at. “Of course it probably needs updating,” he said, adding that they are also looking at how they would meet the requirements in terms of updating the original action plan.

Asked when some movement on this request would be seen, he said that he did not want to commit to a time because “we have to sort of go back in the UK and figure out who actually did the original assessment. Find out whether or not they are available to do a new assessment.

How we then do the new assessment…. So I don’t want to give you a specific timeline. I certainly don’t think you should expect something in the next few weeks,” he told reporters.

Asked if the £3 million set aside for the plan was still available, Quinn responded, “Good question. I don’t know the answer to that. There will be funding available I just don’t know on what basis… What we need to do first is figure out what needs to be done.”

Meanwhile Granger stressed that the country needs to be safe.

In the past few weeks there has been a noticeable spike in crimes some of which led to serious injury and loss of lives.

The issue was raised at cabinet by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan.

Over the years the private sector has also been calling for measures to be put in place to beef up security so that businesses can operate in a safe environment without fear of being robbed and possibly killed in the process.

Granger told those gathered that when people abroad hear of the crimes being committed here, “they don’t want to come to Guyana.”

He stressed that the country has to deal with the security problem. He noted that transnational crime will not be gotten rid of overnight as our borders are susceptible to gunrunning and drug trafficking.

In is in this regard he said that there is need for both the police and the army to be deployed not only at border locations but countrywide as the commission of crime is of bother to the government.

The UK withdrew the Guyana Security Sector Reform Action Plan in October 2009 after long delays in implementation and “quibbling” over administrative details, cited by then High Commissioner Fraser Wheeler. He had emphasised that the UK saw the need for “very tight management of resources” in the current economic climate. “The administration of money should not be a deal breaker, I would hope, [the reform is] too important for that,” Wheeler had said.

The then administration had claimed, “This decision by the UK Govern-ment is believed to be linked to the administration’s refusal to permit training of British Special Forces in Guyana using live firing in a hinterland community on the western border with Brazil and Venezuela.”

However, it was also noted that the then Guyana government was not pleased with the design of the plan and a new version, which had then president Bharrat Jagdeo’s input, had been submitted. It was at this point that the UK decided to step back.

The British had said that the final Guyana government proposal suggested a focus on police modernization, rather than on holistic security sector reform, which led to the decision to withdraw its offer of assistance.

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