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No negotiation of US-funded democracy project under duress-Luncheon

Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon

Guyana on Wednesday signalled that it was open to re-negotiating the United States (US)-funded Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project but vowed that it would not be doing so under while the project is still being implemented despite government’s approval.

“We ain’t negotiating under duress. We are not discussing a project and its implementation whilst it’s being implemented,” Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon told a post-Cabinet news conference.

Government has accused the US of presenting the project as a fait accompli because funding had been already allocated, the contractor – International Republican Institute (IRI) already hired- and the project already designed.

Luncheon said that while Guyana was willing to engage the US, the Donald Ramotar administration would maintain that the currently designed LEAD project remained rejected. “It doesn’t enjoy the support, it doesn’t find favour with the Government of Guyana,” he said.

The Head of the Presidential Secretariat said government has begun crafting a reply to the US State Department’s diplomatic note which was received on Monday. Asked wherther the US has said in its response that it would not be going ahead with the project, Luncheon said “They have not said that they have taken the government’s concerns into consideration and either have abandoned or… nothing to that effect,” he said.

While Luncheon did not believe that the controversy between Guyana and the US was insurmountable, he said the administration maintained that the US has violated Guyana’s sovereignty by deciding to go ahead with the project implementation in the face of the administration’s disapproval.

The opposition Alliance For Change (AFC), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have, however, welcomed the project.’

The Guyana government has rejected the project on a number of grounds, saying that it does not support direct assistance to political parties and encouraging policy formulation that could lead to constitutional reform.

The governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), for its part, has accused the US of bolstering the political chances of the opposition similar to back in the 1960s. At that time the US had persuaded Britain to remove the then Cheddi Jagan-led PPP administration from office because of concerns that he would have set up another communist state in the Western Hemisphere second to Cuba.