GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- The decision by the United States Ambassador Dr Brent Hardt to implement a governance project, or at least aspects of it, by USAID despite strong objections by the government of Guyana has been viewed by the Cabinet as “arrogant and contentious”.
Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon
Cabinet secretary and head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, at his weekly post-Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday, said, “Cabinet contends that all other considerations about this project pale into insignificance with regards to the US ambassador’s public utterances. Of some significance was the ambassador’s delay in responding to a formal request from Cabinet for the clarification from the US authorities, specifically with regards to the disapproval of the project. Cabinet was unhappy, to say the least, about the public response in the exclusive interview with Stabroek News when the US ambassador made public his intentions to ignore and disregard Cabinet’s disapproval.”
Reported statements by Hardt about there being prior consultation with government were strongly refuted by Luncheon.
“This project was conceived in the United States, funded by Congress, the procurement of a contractor to implement the project, the National Republican Institute, all of those steps were concluded prior to any engagement with this administration on this project and that took place in late 2012,” Luncheon stated.
“On obtaining the details of that tendering process, the US ambassador’s assertion would be tested because it is our contention that the procurement of the contractor, the date of that activity, that procurement would establish that indeed the US ambassador never consulted, and he came to meet with the administration with a fait accompli, a project already conceived, a project already funded, a project contractor already on the job… I have no hesitation in saying there was no consultation with the government of Guyana,” he emphasised.
The term “consultation” is treated with great respect by government, Luncheon added, and the steps taken by the US ambassador indicated otherwise.
The cabinet secretary, in response to a question, said that USAID and other organisations’ presence locally is based on mutually understood agreements.
“There is a formal agreement that mutually recognises our obligations under the agreement,” he said.
He added that there was no clause or obligation in the bilateral agreement that stipulated that government has to convince any agency or USAID why a project was objected to by government. Except for this one “blemish” government has had, and is continuing to have a mutually beneficial relationship with USAID, Luncheon said.
It was disclosed that the proposed project has four components and one of these proposes to implement public support of political parties, an issue that has never obtained constitutionally, locally and the use of public purse to do so has never been considered locally by any administration, past of present according to the cabinet secretary.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues- Birkett has been mandated by Cabinet to ascertain if indeed the statements made by the US ambassador are attributable to him, but a response is still to be received by her on government’s behalf. A previous letter dispatched by Luncheon, seeking clarification about alleged activities indicating that the project was proceeding, is still to be responded to.
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 to the US ambassador, requesting clarity on the matter.
On December 19, a meeting was convened among President Donald Ramotar, Luncheon and the ambassador. The next day, 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.