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PPP rules out partial suspension of US-funded democracy project

The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday ruled out allowing uncontroversial components of the US$1.2 million democracy project to go ahead while the United States and Guyana negotiate the other aspects.

PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee was wary of the government facing greater criticism about its stance on the project being implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI).

“We can’t look at the LEAD (Leadership and Democracy) project like a bowl of spaghetti that we will cherry-pick… because we will come in for more criticism,” he said.

Government has insisted that the project must be suspended before negotiations begin.

Observers in some quarters have suggested that a total suspension of the Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project might not be the best approach because that could result in protracted talks well ahead of Guyana’s next general election.

The US embassy has declined to officially comment on the project that documents show is aimed at fostering greater involvement of youths and women in politics as well as closer relations among politicians and the wider public in crafting policies and exploring legislative reforms.

Rohee stressed that government did not approve of the entire project rather than aspects of it. However, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon is on record as saying that government found objectionable direct financial support to political parties because Guyanese laws do not contain such provisions. He had also registered government’s objection to another country getting involved in reforming Guyana’s constitution.

The opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Alliance For Change (AFC) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have voiced unconditional support for the project. APNU has said that it has not received any cash, only stationery and other types of support to run off a local government education workshop for youths in Essequibo less than six months ago.

The PPP General Secretary dismissed fears that the negotiations could become protracted, saying that everyone is interested in seeing a speedy resolution.

“It depends on how long the negotiations take too because a lot of time could be spent in the negotiation to settle the differences and to reach a compromise position which could harm the LEAD project,” he said.

While the US has consistently maintained that it had consulted the Guyana government adequately about the project, the Donald Ramotar administration has contended that the US approved funding, hired IRI, designed the project and handed it to the government.

Arguing that the project is being used to bolster the opposition’s electoral chances, the left-leaning PPP has recalled that the US had played a major role in removing it from office in the 1960s during the Cold War.