Almost four months have passed since British security expert Lt Col (rtd) Russell Combe delivered a highly anticipated security reform plan to President David Granger, who is still to say when or even if it will be made public.
According to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, it is up to Granger to decide whether or not the document will be released.
“It is a matter which the president is dealing with personally and he will determine when that [the document] is going to be made public,” he said after being asked by Sunday Stabroek when the plan would be made public.
This newspaper was previously told that after being reviewed by the president, the plan would be sent to Cabinet. It does not appear that this has been done as yet.
Granger returned to Guyana yesterday after attending an official engagement in London.
Days after receiving the report in January, he had provided minute details about the areas the proposed reforms will focus on.
Speaking at the Annual Police Officers’ Conference, he said the reforms would entail crime prevention through improved intelligence and pro-active deployment, protection of victims and vulnerable groups from criminal behaviour or disorder, the promotion of greater public confidence in officers through ethical conduct, and the promulgation of measures aimed at building the force’s capacity and capability.
Combe returned to Guyana just over a week ago to continuing advising the government on security sector reform, on a contract which will end in March next year.
When approached on Friday after the closing ceremony of a two week intensive anti-corruption training programme for law enforcement officers, he declined to speak on the contents of the plan, saying that it is a matter for the president. He was asked specifically about the recommendations he has made as well as whether he was disappointed that the report has not yet made its way into the public domain.
“Certainly, a part of the approach that I know the UK wishes to take, in terms of my support, is to have transparency and for as much of the areas that I have dealt with and spoken about—in reports both to the president at the end of my time but also in other reports that I submitted throughout the period, such as the interim report in June—there would be as much available in the public domain as possible but that is a matter for the president,” he told Sunday Stabroek.
Combe later told the media during a brief interview that the report he submitted was a strategic one that places focus on areas of general improvement within the Guyana Police Force. A number of initiatives have already been undertaken and he stressed that the plan is being considered and being “worked through” at the moment.
Progress being made
During the interview with this newspaper, he expressed satisfaction with the progress being made with reforms since his report was submitted.
He said that there have been a number of training activities aside from the anti-corruption course. Combe noted that there has also been training of prison officers, supported by the UK, as well as an aviation security consultancy project executed while he was away. He assured that similar subject matters will be looked at throughout this year, “all of which will contribute to what needs to be done in the reform process. Some of it is straight forward mainstream training, such as the last two weeks here, but they all contribute to reform and improving the ability of the police to detect crime, fight crime, enforce the law and improve the situation in Guyana.”
Like Harmon, Combe informed that he has returned to continue the security sector reform work he had started.
“The role is still to continue as the advisor to the president but it will be slightly adjusted considering the fact that I have delivered the report…that is still being considered by the government but we are going to carry on coordinating a number of areas that are happening under the whole security sector reform, which are ongoing with initiatives within the government, such as the programmes and projects under Citizens’ Security Programme (CSP), funded by the IDB, as well as other support from individual nations and indeed the support that the UK provides in terms of funding,” he said.
“So, the whole process when I delivered my report back in January for my first year here is dynamic. There are a lot of things ongoing, initiatives already happening by the police themselves, such as realignment of police divisional boundaries …and, of course, initiatives that the president announced last year about having a police division per region. These may take longer to implement and many will need to be prioritised as resources are available but our intention is to try and have something ready to go once they are affordable as a result of the income from oil and gas,” he said.
A previous attempt at the UK-funded Security Sector Reform Programme was initiated under the former PPP/C administration but was aborted in 2009 following differences between the then government and London. After Granger took office, he reopened discussions on the issue with UK officials and as a result a decision was taken that another attempt at formulating a plan would be made.
After the handing over of the plan, Granger had stressed the importance of the need for security sector reform, saying it would correct all the errors made by the former PPP/C government.
He had said too that there could be no reform of the sector unless the root cause of crime is looked at, something that the former administration failed to do.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has criticised government for its failure to make the action plan available for public viewing and scrutiny. “You can’t reform the police force in secrecy. You have to have buy-in from everyone, including the opposition. So this decision to regionalise the force, I heard them say that before the report, is it part of the report and why and how is it going to function? So, it’s like they have made a decision,” he has said.