Brits wanted to be “chief cook and bottle washer” – Dr Luncheon
The British Government wanted to be “chief cook and bottle washer” of the security sector reform project which it has now pulled out of, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon said, yesterday.
What it came down to was a project that was “set up, organised, and run by the Brits,” Luncheon told reporters at the Office of the President in Georgetown.
He was the Guyana Government’s key negotiator of the project for which the UK Government was provided grant financing to the tune of £4.9M.
The UK Government, Tuesday, pulled out of the project, saying that the focus of the project had changed to one of Police modernisation rather than total security reform.
In April this year, Luncheon withdrew from the negotiations, noting a threat to Guyana’s sovereignty.
But he was back in when an agreement was made to continue efforts to reach a deal favourable to both sides.
“I walked from this process when I saw the outrageously insulting document they sent in April,” Dr Luncheon said yesterday. He has promised to release that document to the media by the end of the week.
When the British Government announced, Tuesday, that it was withdrawing from the project, Guyana said that the decision by the UK Government “is believed to be linked to the administration’s refusal to permit training of British Special Forces in Guyana using live firing in a hinterland community on the western border with Brazil and Venezuela.”
The British rejected that assertion, saying Guyana had strayed from the original proposal. Yesterday, Luncheon held on to his argument about national ownership of the project as opposed to one taken over by the UK Government.
“I don’t think their contention holds water; I don’t believe so. And anyhow, who is to determine what is in the best interest for Guyana?” Dr Luncheon asked yesterday.
He further indicated that the disagreement with the British also had something to do with the management of the funds that would have flowed under the project.
“Some obviously feel that Guyana cannot manage grants of that magnitude, even though our history over the years since 1992 is replete with successful management of external funding of much greater size and complexity,” he stated.
Luncheon said the project would now have to be funded with money from the national treasury.
He said the project with the British was one of the three components of a strategic reform plan for the security sector.
The other projects include those funded from the treasury and through loan agreements. The Inter-American Development Bank is funding a Citizens Security Project and a project for the reform of the justice sector.
“There is no truth in the suggestion that the decision was linked to a UK military exercise. The decision by the Guyanese authorities (in June 2008) not to allow lives firing as part of the exercise was fully accepted.
The exercise took place, successfully, without live firing, in November 2008,” the British High Commission stated Wednesday.
The UK Government said that it fully respects the right of the Government of Guyana to determine the direction of Guyana’s security sector, and any programme for that sector.
The latest proposal from the Government of Guyana for UK Government funding for the security sector suggests a fundamentally different programme from the one we understood the Government of Guyana wanted, the British High Commission stated.
This understanding was based on President Bharrat Jagdeo’s letters of May 4, and August 14, 2006, which called for comprehensive, broad based, non-partisan and compelling reform of the security sector, according to the High Commission.
“The latest proposal from the Government of Guyana suggests a focus on police modernisation, rather than on holistic security sector reform.
After careful consideration, the UK Government therefore decided to withdraw its offer of assistance in this area,” the British High Commission stated. The High Commission noted that this decision was not taken lightly and was explained in person to President Bharrat Jagdeo and in writing to Dr Roger Luncheon.
As a result, the British said that it has re-allocated the £4.9 million to “other pressing needs within the Caribbean.” The Government of Guyana in a statement issued Tuesday evening, said the decision of the UK Government was regrettable.
Yesterday, Dr Luncheon said that he would release the pieces of correspondence so that the nation could be the ultimate judges of the issue.