UK expert to steer security reform

- British High Commissioner

During his 12-month stint at the Ministry of the Presidency, British security expert Lt Col. (Rtd) Russell Combe is expected to produce a plan to guide Guyana’s security reform, British High Commissioner Greg Quinn said yesterday.

Combe arrived in Guyana last month and according to Quinn his secondment meets the request made to him by President David Granger to reinvigorate the United Kingdom’s support for the security sector in Guyana.

Speaking at a press conference held at his Bel Air residence yesterday, Quinn disclosed that during his stint Combe would be looking at a strategy and focus on coming up with a plan that will form the basis for the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP).

He explained that the United Kingdom is keen for it not to become another piece of paper or “wordy document which gets done and then sits on the shelf.”

“We are very keen to ensure that what Russell does is actually start delivering and start advising on potential changes to make the security sector more efficient and more effective,” the High Commissioner said.

Asked about funding, Quinn noted that there is already funding in the SSRAP at the operation level that national crime agencies are undertaking with the authorities in Guyana but he could not provide more information because of the nature of the operations.

He explained that one of Combe’s responsibilities is to produce a plan on how the partnership under the SSRAP would be done since the original plan, which was cancelled several years ago, cannot be used. The adviser is expected to produce an updated version of that plan, which he will present to the UK Government but also to the wider donor community since he is reacting as a focal point for assistance to be given for the initiative from that community.

“Once we have that plan, we will look at what each of us individually can do,” Quinn said. He pointed out that the original plan that was being funded by the UK was worth £4M, provided under the Department for International Development, which has since shifted its attention to the infrastructure sector in Guyana under a £53M programme to work on stellings and roads.

However, there are other sources of money but Quinn said until they see the proposal from the adviser and what other donors are prepared to fund, he would not be able to say what amount of money the UK would put into the SSRAP.

“I know we would do something, I am sure we would do something, I just don’t know what that is at this precise moment in time,” he said.

As to who the adviser would be engaging while in Guyana, Quinn said he would be “talking to anybody who would talk to him” and he noted that he has been out and about visiting police divisions as well as prisons, since prison reform would form part of the plan. He will also be visiting the hinterland to look at border security.

“There is nobody that Russell will not talk to within government, outside government, within the NGO community. He is casting his net widely in terms of what people as well as the professionals needed and where people consider the problems to be,” the High Commissioner said.

As it relates to border security, Quinn said that the focus would be on the threats that are faced by Guyana from narco-trafficking and all the monies that flow from this.

This is the second shot at supporting Guyana by the UK in the security area as the previous US$4.7 million SSRAP project collapsed in 2009 following differences between the then PPP/C government and London.

In June, last year, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office James Duddridge had told reporters that he would have presented a document on security reform to government for its consideration. He had explained that it entailed “a piece of analysis around the current state of the security sector and what could the potential action plan be taking forward different elements of security sector reform and specifically how the UK government could assist in that action plan.”

Soon after winning the election, President Granger had revealed that government had approached the British to have the rejected SSRAP back on the cards in the wake of the country’s ongoing battle with crime.