Even though the United Kingdom is pleased to be assisting Guyana with an updated security reform plan, it does not want such a crucial document to end up as an ornament on a shelf.
This was essentially one of the perspectives proffered yesterday by British High Commissioner, Greg Quinn during a meeting with the press at his residence in Bel Air Gardens.
There, Quinn provided the media with an update on the work being done by United Kingdom (UK) Advisor on Security Sector Reform, Russell Combe; the observations and work of Financial Fraud Expert Dr. Sam Sittlington with the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU); the UK Border Force assistance and the progress on the UK Caribbean Infrastructure Fund.
On the subject of security, the British High Commissioner reminded that it was in January that Combe arrived in Guyana to start a 12-month secondment at the Ministry of the Presidency. He noted that the secondment meets a request which President David Granger had made very early upon taking office. This, he said, was in an effort to reinvigorate support to the security sector.
The envoy asserted that the security advisor will be looking at a number of areas such as security defence strategy and reform programmes and what that may include. He is hopeful that Combe will be able to provide very soon, terms of actions to be taken during the course of the year.
The Ambassador said that all those involved in the process are devoted to ensuring that “this does not become another piece of paper or worthy document which ends up sitting on the shelf.”
Quinn added, “We are very keen on ensuring that what the advisor does actually brings potential changes to make the security sector more efficient and more effective.”
He noted that there is already funding for activities which are going on at the operational level. He said, too, that the UK’s national crime agency is undertaking operational works with the authorities here. He did not divulge details in this regard, given the nature of those operations.
“One of the things we are looking for the advisor to do as well is to come up with a plan because there was the original Security Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) from 2006 -2007 which was cancelled. But to be honest, we can’t go forward on the basis of a 10-year-old plan. So one of Russell (Combe)’s tasks is to put together an updated version of that which he can present to us and the wider donor community,” the British High Commissioner asserted.
He continued, “Once we have that plan we will look at what each of us can do. I have said that the original Security Sector Reform Programme which the UK was funding was US$4 Billion. That was money was being funded by The Department for International Development (DfID) but attention has been shifted to infrastructure.”
The British envoy stated that DfID has since allocated £53M as grant funding for projects via the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). He said that this is to execute works on stellings, roads, bridges etc.
With regard to the Security Sector Reform Programme, Quinn explained that while money is not available from DfID for that, there are other sources.
But until the High Commission, among other stakeholders, is aware of what Combe is proposing, and what other donors would be willing to contribute, Quinn said he could not be definitive as to what amount would be on the table from the UK.
The envoy also confirmed that the security plan is expected to capture some aspects of prison reform in Guyana.
Back in 2009, the UK had offered a hefty sum for the SSRAP, but the previous government refused it on the grounds that the British law enforcement had too much of a big role in the implementation of the plan.
In October 2015, Quinn set the record straight that the complaints by the previous government about the plan were completely baseless. The British High Commissioner had indicated that a team would have looked at the Guyana Police Force to see what is lacking, identified the gaps, and then strategized as to what could be done to address those gaps.
The original plan was developed in 2006 and was to be implemented in 2009; together with a three-year capacity building plan for a National Security Committee in the National Assembly between 2007 and 2009.
Parliamentary Oversight was described by the plan as being at the core of democratic governance and management of the security sector, and key to the success of the programme.
Security Sector Reform was seen as a critical component for the attainment of good and democratic governance and was twinned with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s sponsorship of the needs assessment of the National Assembly conducted by Sir Michael Davies, and the recommendations which flowed there from 2005.
The link between governance and security was recognized, assessed and addressed through the recommendations made.
The SSRAP had highlighted that “Guyana remains dangerously close to tipping point. The consequences of failure – of the various stakeholders to seize the moment, to engage and initiate decisive action – may well be the transformation of Guyana into a failed state and/or haven for international criminality, with all the regional and international implications that this may entail. This is a development that should be avoided at all costs and will entail some give and take and flexibility on all sides, in the interests of the long suffering people of Guyana.”
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