The issue is and remains the Ramotar Administration’s refusal of the GY$300 million USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project.
Shortly after 6:30pm on July 24, 2013 US Ambassador Brent Hardt addressed an audience at Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, Georgetown. Members of the government, the opposition, civil society and others associated with the USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project were present.
These were Hardt’s first words to those gathered: “Good evening. Thank you for joining us this evening to welcome the Chief of Party for USAID’s Leadership and Democracy, or LEAD, project: Mr. Glenn Bradbury.”
Hardt continued to explain that the GY$300 million LEAD project “will build on USAID’s established track record of constructive and impartial engagement in Guyana to enhance democracy and governance. The program will engage with all actors across the political spectrum in a way that supports the interests of the Guyanese people in effective and responsive democratic institutions.”
Finally Hardt said: “Over the past months, we have been meeting with stakeholders from across the political spectrum to help shape the contours of the program, identify priorities, and chart a path toward successful implementation. I would like to thank all who have met with us — from the government and opposition, as well as civil society –many of you who are here today.”
Within the last few weeks, the Ramotar Administration has disapproved the LEAD project on the ground that Guyana was never consulted and was therefore given a “fait accompli” by the US Ambassador.
Hardt’s remarks at Cara Lodge on July 24 clearly suggest that the Ramotar administration was part and parcel of the LEAD project for months. Therefore, it took the Government of Guyana months to realize that the US Ambassador had given it a “fait accompli” and to object to this autocratic behaviour or Hardt stood at Glenn Bradbury’s reception and lied to every man and woman present.
If at all history has taught us anything, it is that the motives of a man must always be questioned. Why has the Ramotar administration refused the LEAD project? Why is the US Ambassador insisting that the project will continue with or without government participation?
The Fear Complex
On December 20, 2013 the Stabroek News reported that the LEAD project would continue with or without government participation. According to Stabroek News, Hardt said: “Absolutely… the project contractor is on the ground. We will engage with those stakeholders who wish to engage…We will continue to work in that spirit. We hope government will find a way to work with us.”
Hardt’s comment provoked a response from the Ramotar administration that exposes the real reason behind its refusal: fear. Consider the following section of a statement issued by the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on December 24, 2013:
“the PPP/C Administration has worked painstakingly to ensure that bilateral cooperation with successive US Administrations in the health sector, the security sector, the fight against drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, were successfully implemented to the mutual benefit of both countries, notwithstanding the challenges in each area.
It is therefore mind boggling to observe the conscious if not calculated straying away from long established traditions and the veering off onto a totally unknown and unacceptable path far removed from established customs and practices.
There is deep suspicion in political circles that this particular project was conceived to bolster the political fortunes of the opposition political parties in Guyana. Small wonder why the political opposition and sections of the Media are enamored with the project and has gobbled it up with hunger and satisfaction. After all, the money tree has now sprung up in the Opposition Camp to fund trips to the interior of our country, and radio and TV time, in short, to provide funding for activities of the opposition political parties so that they may have some political advantage over the PPP.
From all indications it appears that we have turned full circle to the extent that we have returned to the days of the mid 1960’s when the AFLCIO funded opposition Trade Unions and political parties to destabilise the Jagan-led PPP Government during the 1962-1964 period.
The PPP will rely on its historical and contemporary political experience to fight and to change at the political level, the course of events thrown up by this new challenge.
The People of Guyana must be made aware of these blatant efforts to interfere in our country’s domestic politics aimed at strengthening the hand of the political opposition with sole objective of destabilizing the democratically elected PPP/C Administration.”
If it has not been clearly said anywhere else, it will be said here: the Ramotar administration fears the LEAD project. What else, if not fear, would move the Government to publicly accuse Hardt of being a liar, of harboring contempt for Cabinet and to challenge him in a most distasteful manner?
The PPP Christmas Eve statement outlines and serves as evidence of its complex fear of the LEAD project.
The Luncheon Position
On the same day, Demerara Waves reported that Presidential Secretariat Roger Luncheon “shrugged off suggestions that government harboured fears that the project was ultimately aimed at toppling it from power.” Luncheon’s no fear “shrug” contradicts his party’s lengthy statement.
Luncheon also reportedly told the online publication that: “I do not believe it is the US government’s policy. I can’t understand why in the face of our rejection, notice of our rejection, to summons and exclusive interview and basically say Cabinet, Luncheon, Ramotar “screw you” I am doing what I want to do”.
In a letter to the Stabroek News published on Christmas Day, Luncheon wrote: “at this stage the issue is the US Ambassador’s apparent contempt of the Cabinet of Guyana, an act that can have serious repercussions. He has been reported in the press to have instructed that Cabinet’s disapproval be ignored. The Ambassador is playing with words with regards to consultation. I still contend that Guyana was not consulted.”
Later in the letter, Luncheon specifies that the Government’s contention is not that Guyana was never consulted but at what point the consultation took place. According to him, the US only consulted Guyana about the project after it had been passed and funded by US Congress and after the International Republican Institute (IRI) bid on and was awarded the project. Is this reason enough for Cabinet to rob Guyana of the LEAD project?
Luncheon has quite skillfully shifted the focus from Government’s refusal of the project to the manner in which he alleges Guyana was or was not consulted about it. The issue is and remains the Ramotar Administration’s refusal of the LEAD project.
It is understandable that the government would panic at the mention of IRI. The organization is both famous and infamous for its democracy related activities worldwide. It has been accused of toppling governments before.
The organisation’s website states: “A non-profit, non-partisan organization, IRI advances freedom and democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civic institution, open elections, democratic governance and the rule of law”.
The Bottom Line
By opposing the LEAD project the Ramotar administration has made itself enemy number one of democracy.