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Guyana government says it will not negotiate under duress with US officials
Published on January 10, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon has indicated that the Guyana government will not be negotiating the controversial governance project proposed by USAID under duress with US officials.

Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon
Addressing the issue during his weekly post-Cabinet briefing on Wednesday, Luncheon stated, “We aren’t negotiating under duress. We are not discussing a project and its implementation whilst it’s being implemented.”

The cabinet secretary stated that government’s disagreement of the project, which it has opposed after consideration, remains unchanged, and added, “It doesn’t enjoy the support, it doesn’t find favour with the government of Guyana”.

It was disclosed that government is in the process of crafting a response to an official note which was dispatched to the US State Department via Ambassador Dr Brent Hardt and responded to earlier this week.

The government had written to the ambassador seeking clarification following reports that aspects of the rejected USAID Leadership and Democracy Project were still being implemented, despite the administration’s objection to its design.

The response received from the US embassy called on government to engage the US on aspects, such as the design, of the project, according to Luncheon. The response neither indicated that the government’s concerns were noted or that the project will be abandoned or halted.

The government’s official response will be communicated to the US officials before the end of this week, he added.

“We need to have a discussion, the administration feels it is not an insurmountable matter, and we must find ways to address the issue, but we will not hold discussions while the project is ongoing,” Luncheon reiterated.

The move by USAID to implement various aspects of the projects has been described as an affront to Guyana’s sovereignty by the Cabinet Secretary.

He had stated previously, “It is essentially a challenge by the US ambassador in one, acknowledging that he, they have ignored Cabinet’s disapproval, they have disregarded Cabinet’s disapproval and are implementing elements of this project, not in any guise of having a discourse on the matter, but just to inform the government through the media of what position has been adopted by the American authorities”.

The views by some sections of society that the governance project should be entertained and even implemented due to its perceived importance is not the main issue, Luncheon had said.

“It is not about the project and the US$1.2 million that we’re going to lose, it is not that. Cabinet made a decision, a definitive decision that is where the matter ought to have ended!”

The USAID project was not approved by Cabinet and this was formally indicated to the relevant authorities on October 26, 2013. Unconfirmed reports later indicated that USAID project activities were being implemented, and Cabinet wrote a letter to the US ambassador, requesting clarity on the matter.

On December 19, a meeting was convened between President Donald Ramotar, Luncheon and Hardt.

“The ambassador was not categorical in affirming to the president and myself that ‘yes, indeed, I have received confirmation that Cabinet’s disapproval, notwithstanding which the Americans authorities have indeed continued to implement elements of the project.’ He was not categorical in making those two assertions,” Luncheon noted

The next day, the Stabroek News quoted the same ambassador as saying that the USAID project was being implemented despite the embassy being in receipt of the formal correspondence from Cabinet voicing its disapproval.

The government of Guyana has benefitted from what has been described as a healthy engagement with the USA through its USAID programme over the years, according to the cabinet secretary, but the actions concerning this specific project and the apparent move by USAID, to challenge the authority of the state have been viewed as “baffling and perplexing”.

Related stories:
US ambassador implements governance project in Guyana despite government objections
US ambassador arrogant and contentious, says Guyana government
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Paco Smith:

Its in instances such as these that those who did not appreciate him in life, should be able to discern just how revolutionary the former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was.

I know that mentioning him, within this context is akin to comparing apples with oranges, but what resonates profoundly in my mind is that if it were Venezuela, I'm quite sure there would have been no quibbling on the matter.

Yet, in reality, such a proposed programme deriving from the US would not have even been tabled in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

In all, I say that although it may be unpopular with many, quite possibly the Guyanese Government should take a leaf out of Venezuela's book and exert its "sovereignty", not by way of seeking clarification from the US Ambassador, but via that of a more direct and straightforward action.

Its unfortunate, but what comes to mind in this instance is the old saying, "He who pays the piper, calls the tune."

Maybe its time the Guyanese Government place a moratorium on collection of payments and starting singing their own tune.

Of course, within the existing international political economy, that is easier said than done. But that certainly doesn't make its necessity of such action, less valid.


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