To Dr. Roger F. Luncheon – On the LEAD Project

Dear Dr. Roger F. Luncheon,

First, I must express my most sincere gratitude to you, and by extension the Government of Guyana, for responding to my concerns regarding democracy, trust and tragedy in our nation. I hope that our interaction will inspire generations to come. I hope it serves as evidence that our leaders, our politicians, like you, are not unreachable or unwilling to engage with our people. I hope that it serves as an example of the rational manner in which such discussions must be conducted.

I have noted your recommendation that I do not “confuse opinions with facts” as it regards the USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. As a matter of fact Dr. Luncheon, I arrived at my current position on the issue after examining your public disclosures and those of US Ambassador Brent Hardt. I have since perused a set of correspondence between Government and US officials on the LEAD project and this only strengthens my position.

I still do not believe that Government’s concern about the alleged high handed manner of the US is the only reason behind refusing LEAD. Note that I am not dismissing Government’s concern. But I am saying that based on the data I have examined it is simply not possible, not logical that this can be the only reason. Now we shall proceed to examine some facts, truths, evidence if you prefer that term.

It is fact that on October 18, 2012 US Ambassador Brent Hardt wrote to President Donald Ramotar informing him that “USAID is planning to implement an initiative to enhance democratic processes and governance institutions in Guyana by strengthening the capacity of political parties in Parliament”. In the same correspondence Ambassador Hardt noted that he was “writing to solicit (Government’s) support in coordinating a meeting with appropriate leaders within (the PPP/C) to hear your insights”.

Dr. Luncheon, it is also fact that on October 29, 2012 President Ramotar met with Ambassador Hardt and USAID representatives. On November 29, 2012 Ambassador Hardt wrote to President Ramotar thanking him for the meeting. In this letter, Ambassador Hardt was very clear that “the information [Government] provided was very helpful in allowing us to finalize the scope of work USAID will be supporting in its planned Democracy and Governance activity for Guyana”.

Based on these facts, it is clear that as early as October 2012 the US had been consulting Government about a “planned Democracy and Governance activity for Guyana” and that Government was willingly participating. At this point, there is no indication that the US has said to the Government of Guyana “Here is the LEAD project, you must sign it and you must participate in it”. Where is the fait accompli?

Further Dr. Luncheon, it is also fact that more than a year after Government had first began discussions with the US about what would become the LEAD project Cabinet disapproved it. It is fact that from the beginning you have been contending that Government refused the project due to concerns about the lack of consultation.

It is clear from the correspondence released by the US Embassy (the letters I have quoted above) that consultation has indeed been taking place. Or is it Dr. Luncheon, that there is a misunderstanding between us? Have we interpreted “consultation” to mean different things? Is the process of formally meeting with US officials and discussing the project (which has been taking place since October 2012) not to be interpreted as “consultation”?

In your recent letter to me you again state: “The details I provided publicly clearly established that the United States designed, funded the project and contracted a firm to implement the project before bringing it to the attention of the Government of Guyana.” So Dr. Luncheon, your contention, I take it, is not that the Government was never consulted but that consultation took place after all of these things occurred?

As a matter of fact, Ambassador Hardt wrote to you on May 20, 2013 about the firm that had been awarded the contract for the project. In his letter he informed you that following “earlier consultations on the USAID/Guyana Elections and Political Processes Fund Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project, USAID has made an award to the International Republican Institute (IRI) for implementation of the Leadership and Democracy project”.

Clearly, Government had been involved in “consultations” with the US before the contract was awarded to IRI for the LEAD project. Ambassador Hardt’s words to you suggest that the issue of awarding the project contract had come up in “earlier consultations”. So what exactly is Government’s contention here Dr. Luncheon? Is it that Government is saying it should have enjoyed closer involvement in the process that saw the awarding of a contract by the USAID for a US funded project?

In all of this Dr. Luncheon, where is the US’s alleged high-handed manner? It is primarily the information available in these correspondences, and not merely my opinion or belief on the matter, which seems to all but dismiss this concern about US high-handedness. So Dr. Luncheon, how can this be the only or central reason for refusing to participate in LEAD when it has been so weakened?

I hope that now you are less perplexed about my position. The things I have presented thus far are facts, truths, evidence. In order to dismantle the merit of the data I have relied upon, you are left with two options: you can either contend that the correspondence released by the US embassy has been fabricated or is false, untrue, misconstrued (whichever term is preferable) or you can contend that it is limited in that it only presents one side of the conversation (that is only those letters the US would have sent to Government).

The first option would be a diplomatic disaster and I would be left with no choice but to ask you: where is your evidence that the US is lying or misconstruing information? If it is the second option then the solution would be simple: the Government can release its side of the correspondence so that a more holistic view of what has been taking place can be gained.

Further, I have also cited your own words as published in the Stabroek News and on Demerara Waves (the online publication). So unless, we accuse them of misconstruing your position on the LEAD project then the data that has been available to me as it regards your stance is also fact, truth, or evidence. So it would seem, Dr. Luncheon that my position on the matter has indeed been based upon facts, truth or evidence.

Finally, allow me to briefly address this issue regarding what you have described as an attack on our sovereignty and Ambassador Hardt’s “apparent contempt for the Government of Guyana”. I agree that no foreign entity has the right to come into our country and conduct business at will. The fact that I thirst for the democratic opportunities that LEAD promises does not mean I support an attack on our sovereignty. Such a notion would be ridiculous.

However, as you are well aware Dr. Luncheon, Ambassador Hardt’s alleged display of contempt came after Cabinet’s disapproval of LEAD. The issue is and remains Government’s refusal of the LEAD project prior to the ambassador’s alleged conduct. It is sad that matters of sovereignty have arisen but our debate is not about this and this has not been Government’s cited reason for disapproving LEAD.

You asked me “Where in the world of international law and relationships would a foreign government openly behave so outrageously?” I believe that as it concerns the disapproval of LEAD the question we should be asking ourselves is: Where in the world of diplomatic relations does a government publicly accuse a member of the diplomatic community in such a manner? Would it not have been more in keeping with diplomacy for Government to meet with Ambassador Hardt and attempt to sort out this matter?

On January 8, 2014 Demerara Waves (in an article headlined “No negotiation of US-funded democracy project under duress-Luncheon”) reported you as saying “We ain’t negotiating under duress. We are not discussing a project and its implementation whilst it’s being implemented”. I felt some hope when I read this Dr. Luncheon because I interpreted it as meaning that Government is willing to renegotiate if US stalls LEAD implementation. Has Government made this clear to the US officials? Is there a possibility that some agreement can be reached so that Guyanese, especially those of my generation, can benefit from LEAD?

I am sure, Dr. Luncheon, you have recognized that I am not attacking our Government but rather I am exercising my democratic right to question the actions taken by them for the greater good of our nation. I do not believe that denying Guyana the LEAD project is for the greater good of our country, of our people. If we do not examine every available side, if we do not question endlessly and reassess our position on these matters then how else will we arrive at truth? How else will Guyana progress?

For our people and country

Without Wax,

Sara Bharrat.

To Roger F. Luncheon – On Democracy, Trust and Tragedy

Dear Roger F. Luncheon:

I had a bone to pick with you about that USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. However, bone picking is exactly why we are the way we are. I have been many things, I am many things, I will be many things but I will never become the bone-picking-Bharrat. Truth is the currency I deal in.

After you announced that Cabinet would not have the democracy project I told my nani all about it. This is what she said: “Luncheon is a good man”. When people attack you personally, specifically when they say that all you are is bad, I defend you. I do not defend you because of any personal allegiance. I defend you because I know there is good in every man and woman among us.

I defend you because attacking a man personally is pointless and dishonorable. It only serves to distract us from the systems which we should be examining and questioning. Do not worry, soon our people will learn to shrug off these distractions; they will learn to see , to question, to act in the most effective manner.

I wrote about the LEAD project earlier. I do not believe that Government’s concern about the US’s alleged high-handed manner is the only reason behind refusing the project. People have no doubt read my words and recognized that I am for the project. However, there is more to the matter.

You see, there is a sad, sad story behind the fact that I would choose to believe the US over my own Government. When I made the decision I kept remembering all those appearances of the US in Caribbean history. I am well aware of the risks. When I made the decision I felt as if I were backed into a corner and left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Why should I have to feel this way, Mr. Luncheon? Why should I have to sit in my country and feel that I cannot trust my leaders? It is the tragic story of our country. We do not trust each other.

And there is the other question too, why should the US have to come into my home and clean for me? Can I and my brothers and sisters not do it on our own? I have decided that I will clean my own house. Democracy is not a gift that someone can simply hand us. Democracy is a journey, a path of self discovery, which we must take alone and together all at once.

You know, back in 2011 when I spoke to my peers about voting many of them had the same thing to say; they said that voting did not matter because none of you (politicians) were worth it. Outside of the PPP/APNU/AFC followings another tragedy was taking place. Young people were giving up on their democratic right because, and this is my belief, our political machinery has robbed them of hope.

Why has our political system done this to us Mr. Luncheon?

Do not worry though, I have since told these young people that there is always hope. I have told them that we must become responsible for our own well being and the well being of our country. I have told them that we are the final shred of hope to which Guyana clings. I have told them that we should not give up on our country. I will keep telling them until they hear, until they see, until they act.

So Mr. Luncheon, there is something much greater than the LEAD project that is struggling to take birth; that will be born.

For my people and country

Without Wax

Sara Bharrat.

P.S: Perhaps, I shall take a walk to the post office later to ensure that a copy of this at least makes it to your office. I know how easily such things get lost in the cyber world.

The Fear Complex, the Ramotar Administration and the USAID LEAD project

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.