USAID Democracy Project: US project an affront -Luncheon

USAID Democracy Project: Continuing US project an affront -Luncheon

Roger Luncheon

Roger Luncheon

Stabroek News –  December 23, 2013

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon says that the continuation of a USAID-funded G$300 million (US$1.5M) democracy project here is an “affront” to Guyana’s sovereignty and the issue is engaging the highest levels of government.

“The issue is, the Cabinet of this nation, a sovereign country, indicated to the American Ambassador its definitive position on this matter, and according to the reports in the Stabroek News of the 19th of December, the (US) Ambassador in an article, has essentially said, I am going ahead with what I want to go ahead with, and this decision of Cabinet, disapproving this project, I will ignore, I will disregard, indeed he has effectively challenged state power,” the Government Information Agency (GINA) quoted Luncheon as saying during an interview on the National Communications Network’s Political Scope programme. 

GINA reported that Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has been mandated by Cabinet to ascertain if indeed the statements attributed to the US Ambassador were made by him. “We want the US Ambassador to confirm that what was read, that what was said, attributed to him is indeed accurately done by the reporter from Stabroek News. One can hardly expect the Ambassador at this stage of the game to disassociate himself from the remarks attributed to him, but for the record, we need a written submission where the Ambassador acknowledges the statements reported in the Stabroek News are indeed accurately reflective of the positions that he adumbrated, that it is a factual and accurate report,” Luncheon was quoted as saying.
Once this information is provided, government will “sit with the Americans and discuss this challenge, this flouting of state authority and this challenge to the exercise of authority by the Cabinet,” the HPS said.
On November 26, Luncheon announced that government had rejected the G$300 million (US$1.5 M) Leader-ship and Democracy (LEAD) project which, among other goals, aims to boost citizens’ engagement with local parliamentarians and improve overall governance.

US Ambassador Brent Hardt

US Ambassador Brent Hardt

The Donald Ramotar administration later claimed that it had no input but last week, US Ambassador Brent Hardt, in an exclusive interview with Stabroek News, said that government’s claim was “completely false” and the US embassy released a series of correspondence showing that from the start the administration was actively engaged on the project. Luncheon had even thanked them for their “diligent” efforts to inform government. The embassy also announced that the LEAD project will continue with or without government’s participation.

Following the publication of the article in the Stabroek News, GINA reported that Luncheon sharply criticised the decision to implement the project or aspects of it, despite strong objections by the Cabinet. He said that the issue was engaging the highest levels of government in no uncertain terms.
“This issue is an affront to Guyana’s sovereignty,” Luncheon, said according to GINA. “It is essentially a challenge by the US Ambassador in one, acknowledging that he, they, have ignored Cabinet’s disapproval, and are implementing elements of this project, not in any guise of having a discourse on the matter, but just to inform the government through the media of what position has been adopted by the American authorities. That is what at this point occupies the minds of the Presidency and Cabinet.”
GINA reported that Luncheon said that the US Ambassador’s resort to the media, in this case the Stabroek News to declare their intentions of pursing the project despite government’s position, borders on the “grossest disrespect and abuse of his diplomatic presence.” He said that all other “antecedent events” about the project can now be considered moot, the report said.
According to Luncheon, the view by some sections of society that the governance project should be entertained and even implemented due to its perceived importance is not the main issue. The opposition parties have been critical of government’s decision to reject the project. “It is not about the project and the US$1.5 million that we’re going to lose, it is not that. Cabinet made a decision, a definitive decision that is where the matter ought to have ended,” Luncheon was quoted as saying.
GINA reported that the USAID project was not approved by Cabinet and this was formally indicated to the relevant authorities on October 26. Uncon-firmed reports later indicated that the USAID project activities were being implemented and Cabinet wrote to the US Ambassador, requesting clarity on the matter, GINA said. It reported that on December 19, a meeting was convened among President Donald Ramotar, Luncheon and Ambas-sador Hardt. “The Ambassador was not categorical in affirming to the President and myself that yes, indeed, I have received confirmation of Cabinet’s disapproval, notwithstanding which the American authorities have indeed continued to implement elements of the project. He was not definite in making those two assertions,” Luncheon was quoted as saying.
Government and Guyana has benefitted from what has been described as a healthy engagement between the US through its USAID programme, Luncheon said. However, he said the actions concerning this specific project are “baffling and perplexing”, noting that the apparent move by the US’ top diplomat here, to challenge the authority of the state and to exert his powers in Guyana, need to be understood, GINA reported.
The issue of why this specific project is being used to confront the Guyana Government and disturb the healthy relationships that have evolved over time between the two governments is one that needs to be addressed, Dr. Luncheon said, according to GINA.
The US democracy project covers a wide scope of activities from boosting citizens’ engagement with local parliamentarians and education on recently-passed local government reform legislation to assistance for parliamentarians in legislative research and drafting of laws. The project is being implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and emphasizes consultations with all stakeholders.
The project, which seeks to support Guyanese stakeholder efforts to promote effective and responsive democratic institutions in Guyana, will strengthen political and consensus-building processes and skills through four programme components. These are: Strengthen political stakeholders to engage in consensus-building in the National Assembly and more effectively interact with citizens to address key issues; Strengthen the National Assembly and boost citizen engagement; Motivate and better equip Guyanese youth to constructively engage in political and civic processes; and Civic and voter education on the implementation of local government reform and local elections.

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Also read: US AID – LEAD Project Controversy – Editorial in Stabroek News

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  • de castro  On 12/28/2013 at 1:53 am

    Ambassadors are “diplomats” whose main tasks is “to gather and share
    local information” with their governments. Snowden a thorn in the US
    security side for his expose….embarrassment !
    Not unlike Royalty they must remain “above” politricks….
    comments in local media of a political nature are easily
    distorted …. Embarrassingly so.!!
    Brent Hardt should refrain from expressing an opinion
    especially in local media…he is an ambassador of US
    government in Guyana ….and not a colonial governor.

    Dr Roger Luncheon is however a politician so will have a political opinion
    of which he is entitled to express/announce publicly.

    It is for both gentlemen to better understand the limitations of their
    office “contract of employment” both employees of the Obama administration.

    US aid of 1.5 m USD although welcomed should not have strings attached
    as it is an insignificant amount…in comparison to other forms of aid and development given to Guyana for development.


  • guyaneseonline  On 12/28/2013 at 5:05 am

    Stabroek News- December 27, 2013
    Dear Editor,

    I refer to the letter from Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon in yesterday’s SN captioned ‘The Government of Guyana was not consulted on the USAID project.’

    Dr Luncheon wrote: “The project was conceived by the American authorities. The project was funded by the US Congress. A bid was tendered, the US organisation, International Republican Institute, won that bid and was awarded the contract to implement the project.”

    I always wanted to know the genesis of this project. Now I know.

    In the last 15 years or so I have published scores of letters arguing that Guyana is not a real democracy. The following two encounters explained it well. In 1990 I ran into a Washington Post reporter who had just returned from Suriname and Guyana. He said that the Western ambassadors in Georgetown told him you could not have democracy in a country where “every last man votes race.” Asked to explain further, he said when one ethnic group has a numerical majority, that group will always win, and it becomes a sort of dictatorship. I also recall another memorable statement from him: “All the elections there have been grudge matches between the Blacks and the Indians.”

    Also in May 1990 I was interviewed by a BBC reporter, Hugh Crosskill on the telephone from London to explain my group’s fast and vigil outside the United Nations in New York. After the recorded interview was over, Crosskill called me back from his London office to talk off the record. He told me that what we were really doing was trying to replace a black government with an Indian one. (Crosskill was shot and killed in Jamaica in June 2002.)

    Now, 21 years later, I can only say that both the Washington Post and Croskill were absolutely prescient. We need to find ways to institute genuine democracy in Guyana, not do another replacement job and replace an Indian government with and African one. If this is going to be the outcome of the USAID project, there will be friction.

    I support this project if it will place pressure on both ethnic parties to transform themselves into genuine non-racial parties, and if there is a reasonable chance that a significant pool of swing voters comprising both Africans and Indians will develop in this multiracial society. The baton of power must pass to a new government every two or three election cycles.

    I would urge the US government to take out full page ads in the Guyana independent press to explain the project to the public. Win over their support. The US government helped a great deal to throw out the dictatorship in 1992. The US government has lots of credibility and trust

    from both ethnic groups, and without a doubt they have the capacity to help this nation change its voting culture and also develop genuine democratic institutions and practices.

    Yours faithfully,

    Mike Persaud

  • de castro  On 12/28/2013 at 7:31 am

    Please say if you know or suspect “the motive for Hugh Crosskills
    killing……” and if there is evidence to support it….Jamaica 2002…

    Aid not unlike love must be unconditional…without a political/racial bias.
    or it is considered a “bribe” “favour” with its hidden agenda.
    I firmly believe that Guyana and Guyanese voters will not be
    “Fooled” “tricked” most of the time…..only some of the time.

    Trust is an essential part of the peace and reconciliation of the Guyanese
    peoples especially so internally…externally it is viewed differently.
    Racial integration in Guyana must remain uppermost in the minds and heart
    of its peoples and their 65 elected representatives….
    Guyana is changing
    Guyana will change
    Guyana must change
    Led by its 65 democratically elected representatives
    Democracy not only in words but also by actions.

    Forever the optimist

    Kamptan e mail

    • Thinker  On 12/28/2013 at 8:37 am

      Hugh Crosskill became a drug addict and homeless. He was shot by the Jamaican police. Someone may be better able to recall the details.

  • de castro  On 12/28/2013 at 9:37 am

    Thanks ….you confirmed my suspicions….
    On my last visit to Kingston JA I did enter the “no go area” in downtown Kingston
    with my sister in law and her Jamaican friend…..
    There were “junkies” who we spoke to …but I certainly did not feel
    intimidated by their presence….they were cordial and friendly.
    The Jamaican authorities are guilty of overreacting in their
    endeavours of law enforcement….even farcical in their actions.
    Police especially uniformed officers will only be respected by
    all if their actions are reasonable in law enforcement. Bullying
    is very often their method of enforcement. “Only doing my job” !!
    Hardy boys were a very influential group in drug taking/trafficking
    a few years ago in UK …today it is less so.
    OK my brother thanks for your quick response to my questions.
    Enjoy this our freedom of expression that is guyaneseonline..
    appi 2014 and beyond….

  • gigi  On 12/29/2013 at 12:03 am

    …”The US government has lots of credibility and trust from both ethnic groups, and without a doubt they have the capacity to help this nation change its voting culture and also develop genuine democratic institutions and practices.”

    Herein lies the problem with Guyana. If Americans do not find their gov’t credible and therefore cannot trust their gov’t, why are Guyanese? Especially since the US is responsible for the Burnham presidency, and inciting the racial strife and conflicts still taking place in Guyana.

    America is not interested in helping Guyana. Besides, let America help its own bigoted, ill informed, uneducated, and marginalized voters so that they can participate in the US voting process to make America a better place, because a better America means a better world for most everyone. When America learns to take care of and rely on itself rater than bullying weak, defenseless nations to brutally and thugishly pillage their resources, the world will no longer view them as “greedy and ugly Americans.”

    The Guyanese people should support the current Guyana government and encourage Guyana to align with China, India, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and the rest of our South American allies and neighbors to build, trade, and forge prosperous and strong allegiances.

  • gigi  On 12/29/2013 at 12:19 am

    “He said that the Western ambassadors in Georgetown told him you could not have democracy in a country where “every last man votes race.”

    This also explains why America is NOT a democracy then, since not only does every last man and woman vote race in America, but the politicians are skilled performers who are preselected by the elites who run the country and given their script to practice and perfect way in advance for when they are released to the public to perform in full pomp and circumstance. And in typical Hollywood garish style too!

  • Thinker  On 12/30/2013 at 11:18 am

    It was due to the US that democracy returned to Guyana after the fall of the USSR. Jagan got in touch with a group of US congressmen who raised the question of democracy in guyana. He also followed the caricom leaders around at all their meetings and Guyanese in various countries demonstrated for the return to democracy. So it’s no point in criticising the US in terms of its internal shortcomings. The US knows all the crap that has been going in Guyana under the ppp. It is simply doing something to redress the balance.

    • Thinker  On 12/31/2013 at 4:12 pm

      In any event Luncheon is the last person to talk about affronts. He was the one who claimed that there were no black Guyanese qualified to hold top positions in the diplomatic service. He is not qualified to talk about democracy.

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