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US Ambassador wants “integrated” partnership; Rohee hails security cooperation

L to R: Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee and American Ambassador, Brent Hardt chatting after the handing over ceremony of the Advanced Fingerprint Information System

United States (US) Ambassador to Guyana, Brent Hardt on Tuesday called on the two countries to trust each other, in the wake of an ongoing battle over an American-funded leadership and democracy project.

Addressing a handing over ceremony of an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to the Guyana Police Force (GPF) under the auspices of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the envoy told the gathering including Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee that improved security and good governance were keys to Guyana’s development.

“Today, as we lay yet another foundational pillar for strengthening security through CBSI, we need to recommit ourselves to maintaining a broad and integrated partnership of trust between our countries,” said Hardt.

The Guyana government and the ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) have repeatedly accused the US of implementing LEAD in the absence of consultations about the design of the project.  The dispute more recently boiled over with the government revoking the work permit for LEAD’s Chief of Party, Glenn Bradbury and President Donald Ramotar unequivocally stating that his administration does not want the project in its present form. Bradbury, a Canadian, is employed by the Washington DC-based International Republican Institute (IRI) which has been contracted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to execute the LEAD project.

But the Ambassador pointed out that “security does not take place in a vacuum”. “If we are to be successful over the long term, our efforts to boost security and law enforcement must be embedded in a strong democratic, economic and social framework,” he added.

He recalled that the Guyana government has long endorsed and worked together in partnership with the US to integrate economic development, security, democracy and governance and social issues.

LEAD largely reflects a 2009 Assistance Agreement with the Guyana government for “Governing Justly and Democratically”.

Hours later after saying that Bradbury had violated Guyana’s national interest and sovereignty by engaging the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), a number of parliamentary committees and the University of Guyana (UG) without consulting their heads, the Home Affairs Minister suggested that the US-Guyana relations were on a sound footing in the security sector.

Unlike in the area of politics and governance, Rohee said the cooperation between Guyana and the US, particularly in the security sector, has been very productive and has been to the mutual benefit of both countries. “Whatever is said in respect of the political cooperation, cooperation in the field of governance, cooperation in the field of democratic practices is another kettle of fish.

And while the two appear to be and in fact are mutually reinforcing, as I said, there is no contradiction between the cooperation of the government of Guyana and the government of the United States in the security sector and differences that we may have in other fields of cooperation,” he said.

Rohee, a former Foreign Minister, said that the two sides needed to diffuse the situation associated with the LEAD project.

Earlier Tuesday, Rohee did reiterated that the PPP believed that IRI was aimed at boosting the opposition’s electoral chances.

For its part, the American embassy has said that LEAD is  is designed to benefit the Government and people of Guyana through the promotion of understanding and consensus-building within the National Assembly; greater citizen engagement with Parliament; civic education on local government and greater civic engagement among women and youth.