President David Granger on Wednesday said the security sector reform plan that was received from British security expert Lt Col (rtd) Russell Combe in January is presently with Cabinet and he assured that it will be made public once it is presented to the National Assembly.
“The report was laid before the Cabinet and when the Cabinet has completed its deliberations it will be presented to the National Assembly and the public,” the president said when asked about the plan following a function at State House.
Asked how long it will be before it reaches the public, he said that it is dependent on when Cabinet completes its deliberations and presents the plan to the National Assembly.
“It’s nothing to hide. As you know, there are several serious security challenges, piracy …the reports being made about the prison service—the Mother’s Day party—and also within the police force. So, we are deeply concerned about the security situation and the sooner we implement those reforms, I think, the better,” he said.
The president also expressed his gratitude to the UK government for facilitating Combe’s presence here. After handing over the report, Combe left Guyana but returned last month to continue advising the government on security sector reform on a contract which will end in March next year.
Government has not divulged much information about the contents of the plan and neither has Combe.
Last month, shortly after the closing ceremony of an intensive two-week 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 said.
Combe later told the media during a brief interview that the report he submitted 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.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon had previously said that it is up to Granger to decide whether or not the plan would be released to the public.
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.
A previous attempt to get a UK-funded Security Sector Reform Programme off the ground was aborted under the former PPP/C administration following differences between the then government and London. After Granger took office, he reopened discussions on the issue with London.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has criticised government for its failure to make the 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.
Observers have stressed the need for the plan to be adopted so as to bring some order to the security sector, particularly in light of events occurring within the Guyana Police Force’s hierarchy, some of which was highlighted during the Commission of Inquiry into an alleged assassination plot against the president. Combe has publicly said that he did give some consideration to the revelations of the fractured hierarchy of the police force based on the evidence led during the inquiry.