After Luncheon, Hardt meeting…
USAID project halted to allow further talks
THE $300M United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project has been halted to facilitate talks, aimed at reaching a consensus between the Guyana Government and the United States (U.S.) Embassy in Georgetown.The announcement was made yesterday, during a news conference, at Office of the President, where the two parties issued a joint statement.
The statement read: “The Governments of Guyana and the United States of America have agreed that the implementation of the activities of the USAID LEAD project would be put on hold, temporarily, during the re-engagement on the design of that project the two sides have agreed would commence immediately.”
At the end of yesterday’s meeting, Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Dr. Roger Luncheon and U.S. Ambassador Brent Hardt, agreed to continue discussions next week, with a view to charting a way forward for the benefit of the people of Guyana.
Dr Luncheon, speaking on behalf of the Government, told the media that this pause in the months-long hullabaloo over the implementation of the project, despite Government’s objections, will allow a “structured” move forward.
He said: “I welcome the opportunity for us to move on in a structured way, with regards to the USAID LEAD project…there are considerable expectations of a mutually beneficial outcome…I expect us to seriously address a mutually beneficial outcome.”
The HPS was confident that the re-engagement on the project would be successful.
“Beyond the content of the LEAD project, the process is what the Government objected to. We continue to insist that the Government has not been a party to the design and the activities of the project…it is that which is fundamentally the bone of contention,” Dr Luncheon stressed.
According to him, the decision to move to re-engagement, not under duress, was essentially what was being sought from the U.S. Embassy in Guyana.
He said: “What essentially we have had to deal with, which I believe has been resolved, is the process of re-engagement not under duress. This is essentially what we sought…indeed we have achieved what we have sought, to have the implementation halted while we engage.”
DEMANDS & PROPOSALS
The HPS declined to comment on “specifics” over the negotiations between the two parties and what demands and proposals are on the table.
Asked about a timeframe for the re-engagement, Dr Luncheon said, given the significance of the engagement, time constraints is not a factor.
“We haven’t established a timeframe…one should not be conceding that the engagement of the Governments of Guyana and USA will be dictated solely by considerations of time…the engagement is intended to benefit Guyana and the decision that flows from ensuring benefit to the people of Guyana I can’t believe will be flippantly made and constrained by time,” he added.
Mentioned at yesterday’s news conference, too, was the revocation of the visa, extension of stay and work permit of International Republican Institute (IRI) resident Country Director Glen Bradbury, who is responsible for the implementation of the controversial LEAD project.
Dr Luncheon stated that a resolution will be part of the re-engagement process.
The answer is not a matter for either myself or Ministry of Home Affairs, the Immigration authorities, the U.S. Embassy or the Canadian Embassy to say…I don’t believe any of those parties have sat down and examined what would be the next step or next steps, but I am saying, in the context of the occasion, the temperament of our discussion, I am certain that matter will be answered.”
Bradbury, whose privileges were revoked just over two weeks ago, remains in Guyana. Whether or not he is still working has to be clarified, despite the fact that the revocation was intended to be immediately effective.
Hardt told the press conference there have been ongoing discussions on this issue.
The Ambassador said he is hopeful that a resolution will be reached on the matter before the end of his tenure in Guyana.
“I think we anticipate we can come to a resolution in a timely way…we are both making compromises on this situation,” the U.S. Ambassador declared.
Hardt also welcomed the move to re-engage on the project to find a way forward.
“We welcome the willingness of the Government to re-engage on this project…the programme was designed to benefit the Government and the people of Guyana and we think its objectives, for which the Government’s participation is vital, will be of lasting benefit.
“…we are hopeful that, at the end of the day, we can find a way forward in the tradition of our long and beneficial bilateral relationship. I am confident we can reach a resolution…I believe that these issues are not so difficult that we can’t find a way forward,” said the envoy.
He explained that the position of the U.S. Embassy in Guyana has, consistently, been that it is willing to modify and adjust specifics of the project on which there are disagreements.
“I am looking to dealing with these specifics so we can find out what concerns there are and take steps to resolve them,” he said.
Hardt maintained his contention that, moving ahead with the project despite the Guyana Government’s objections, was done based on an agreement reached with it in 2009, although he did acknowledge that it was not on the LEAD project itself.
FRAMEWORK OF ASSISTANCE
He said: “Everything that has been developed was fixed within the framework agreed in 2009. This is not to say that this is an agreement we have come to on LEAD, but a framework of assistance of governance and democracy that we agreed to and signed off on in 2009.
“I think we always felt comfortable that the programmes we have developed have been part of illustrated activities in the 2009 agreement…it never seemed to me we were operating outside of our traditional framework,” the Ambassador conceded.
The Government of Guyana and USAID, through the U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, signed an agreement titled ‘Governing Justly and Democratically’ in September 2009 and the Ambassador contends that the LEAD project’s features are captured in it, a contention that was refuted by senior Government officials, including Dr Luncheon and Presidential Advisor on Governance, Ms. Gail Teixeira.
The first component of it seeks to encourage consensus building in the National Assembly and facilitate more effective interaction between the Assembly and citizens.
The second aims to strengthen the effectiveness of the National Assembly and boost citizen engagement with Parliament.
The third aspect of LEAD is to motivate and better equip Guyanese youths to, constructively, engage in political and civic processes and the fourth involves civic and voter education relating to elections and local government reform.
The project was, however, not approved by Cabinet and that was formally indicated to the relevant authorities on October 26, 2013.