Representatives of the United States (US) embassy and the Guyana government are preparing to meet to iron out differences about the controversial US$1.2 million Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project.
Word of the impending talks came Thursday- the same day the Private Sector Commission (PSC) appeared to lean on the side of government on the issues of sovereignty and the need to adequately consult with the administration of President Donald Ramotar.
“The Commission, having reviewed the Summary and Proposed Activities of the Project Document is, however, of the view that there is merit in the overall objectives outlined in the document to promote effective and responsive democratic institutions in Guyana and for motivating youth and women to be more engaged in the political and civic processes, but that its implementation must not go forward without the full agreement and sanction of the Government,” said the business organisation in a statement.
The PSC’s position emerged following separate meetings with delegations headed by the US Embassy’s Charge D’Affaires and President Ramotar.
The umbrella business organisation said it concluded that Guyana and the US have left the door open for further discussion and refinement of the project proposal. “We, therefore, have encouraged both parties to pursue consensus and to come to a mutually agreed position for the benefit of the country,” said the PSC.
When asked by Demerara Waves Online News whether negotiations have already begun, Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon said American and Guyanese officials were in contact to set dates to begin talks. “We are meeting. Commitments have been made to meet, invitations have been exchanged to meet,” he said.
He, however, insisted that government would not engage American representatives unless project activities were suspended. “We have taken a simple position: were we to engaged in any form of a genuine engagement about the way forward it cannot be under duress,” he said.
Luncheon appeared cautiously optimistic that the US would put a brake on the LEAD project being executed by the International Republican Institute (IRI). “I think if, indeed, we start out across the table dealing with project proposals and discussing it what we consider a truly bilateral spirit we must come up with an agreement we could live with,” he said.
Government and the US are locked in controversy over whether there was adequate consultation on the project. The issue of sovereignty also surfaced when the US Ambassador, Brent Hardt had said that the project would go ahead despite government’s objections.
The Ramotar administration has accused the US allocating funding, designing LEAD and hiring IRI with the expectation that government would have accepted it.
The opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Alliance For Change (AFC) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have all supported the project that seeks to forge closer working relationships among politicians across the divide as well as engage youths and women. The US hopes that these can help to build consensus in crafting policies and laws.
While APNU has denied receiving cash from LEAD , the Guyana government has also objected to the project on the basis that the country has no provision for funds to be provided to political parties. Also a point of objection is foreign involvement in assisting in constitutional reform.