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US preparing groundwork for national unity project

The United States Embassy

Despite the refusal by the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) to accept the results of general elections held earlier this month, the United States (US) is crafting a new project that seeks to mobilize grassroots support for national unity.

Charge D’Affaires of the US Embassy in Guyana, Bryan Hunt said his diplomatic mission has already begun gleaning from civil society actors what they require to help deal with deep-seated ethnic issues and political bickering.

“We have started consultations with some of the stakeholders in the immediate aftermath of the election. It’s an ongoing process and in some ways we have already started what might do during the campaign season with some of the players,” he told Demerara Waves Online News in an exclusive interview.

 Such a project, he indicated, would not be handed to Guyanese by the US but would be the product of consultations with civil society, government and the opposition.

“We have to get an idea what specifically the Guyanese want to do so that we can then build what we call a contracting or grant document that we will put out there for proposals from anyone who is eligible to bid,” said Hunt. He  noted that the new government has restated that forging national unity is one of its main priorities.

Asked whether he believed that the PPP maintaining that the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections were fraudulent could be a stumbling block to several of the planned democracy and governance initiatives, the American envoy said community relation problems are deeper than the political divide.

Hunt said much would depend on a strong civil society and the involvement of the political parties after a “rough campaign” and Guyanese now weary of historical debates about the same age-old issues and grievances. With the likelihood of political parties influencing their supporters not to participate in certain projects, the American diplomat said that would call for creativity.

“I think civil society has to be much stronger. People are broader than their political affiliation. Everyone has multiple groups to which they belong, whether that is in the business community, within a religious affiliation, within a social club and I think playing on those affiliations and strengthening those affiliations is going to be critical in making sure that those stakeholders are at play,”  he said.

The Chare D’Affaires is against political parties dominating the social landscape of any country, but such affiliation is one aspect of social life.

Hunt was blunt about where the US stands in getting the PPP to constructively engage in such a process but he could not forecast whether it would succeed. “Should we continue to put pressure on the main opposition party to play a more constructive role? Yes, off course!

Do I think that the main opposition party is going to  accede to international pressure? I have no idea. That will depend on what they consider to be in their political advantage,” he said.

The US diplomat said much would depend on how political parties respond to the electorate who could opt to vote against those who refused to participate in constructive engagement.

The PPP and the administration that it led had been very critical of the US-funded Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project on the grounds that it had not been the product of adequate consultation, had been a funnel for funding opposition parties and had been aimed at removing it from office.

After a diplomatic spat, aspects of the project had been renegotiated and the green light given for its re-commencement.