President David Granger addressing the gathering at the PSC AGM on Monday
Amid soaring levels of crime President David Granger on Monday announced that his Government was seeking to have the United Kingdom designed Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP) revived and has approached the British Government for assistance in this regard.
The US$4.7 billion programme was scrapped by the UK some years ago after major disagreements with the then Bharrat Jagdeo Administration over some of the conditions of the plan. Granger made the announcement while addressing members of the diplomatic corps; executive members of the Private Sector Commission (PSC); and members of the business community, at the PSC’s 23rd Annual General Meeting at the Savannah Suite in Pegasus. Back in 2009, Guyana virtually walked away from the security reform programme, saying that aspects of the project threatened to encroach on this country’s sovereignty.
However, the British had contended then that the Guyana Government proposed a “fundamentally different” programme, focused on Police modernisation rather than the holistic reform originally requested. The UK’s proposed project had aimed to build a sustainable foundation for improving national security and reducing serious crime in Guyana by 2011. To this end, it spoke to the need for implementation of a national security plan and the security sector reform and to increase public confidence in Government’s response to security issues.
National security policy
It had also explained that developing a national security policy, as well as establishing management and oversight structures and building capacity within the Police Force were all crucial to responding to serious crime. The proposal had set out almost three dozen activities with detailed milestones and specific timelines until 2011. Towards the development of the security reform strategy, the targets included a series of public stakeholder consultations and training to strengthen parliamentary oversight, throughout the lifetime of the project. These were aimed at building government capacity for managing the reforms, developing a national security policy and a reform strategy, establishing accountability and oversight of the security sector, strengthening the professional standards and service delivery of the Police Force and establishing an effective structure for managing the reform project.
The proposal listed specific activities to be carried out in each area, ranging from the recruitment of staff, the design of legislative strategies, parliamentary programmes to public consultations and workshops. The proposal also had identified potential risks to these processes, including “weak” Government and Police Force commitment to and ownership of holistic reform; the unwillingness of civil society to participate in consultations and/or consultations that are not inclusive and therefore compromised; and a lack of commitment by Members of Parliament (MPs) to their oversight role.
At the PSC’s forum, the Head of State said the programme must be reintroduced since the country needed to be safe. “When people overseas hear about pirates killing fishermen and miners being robbed or when they hear persons returning to attend some wedding and being shot at, they don’t want to come to Guyana,” Granger said, continuing that “we need to deal with this public security problem. We are part of the continental landmass and we are not going to get rid of transnational crime overnight…Our borders are susceptible to gun running, trafficking and we need to ensure that our Police Force and Defence Force are effectively deployed,” the Head of State said to a rousing round of applause.
Looking to see
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn told media operatives just after the ceremony on Monday that the SSRAP is a long historical agreement which came to fruition in 2007 and which was cancelled in 2009, because the then Government had thought that it “did not meet the requirements that they wanted”
He related that Guyana’s Government has asked his Government to resuscitate the agreement. “What we are actually doing is looking to see if the agreement as it was nine years ago is still relevant and does it need updating. Then how do we go about meeting the requirements of Government in terms of updating the original plan?” he said.
Asked how soon the plan could “swing into action”, Quinn said he could not say, but much work needed to be done including finding the person or team that had carried out the original assessment, then seeking to ascertain if they were available to do another such assessment of the programme. He could not say too if the money was still available from the previous project. And while funding will be provided for this new project, he could not say on what basis this will be done.
Meanwhile, Granger told the gathering that he has laid out his plans for what he called the “2020 vision” for the life of the 11th Parliament. “This will take us from now until 2020, when, without prorogation and without dissolution, Parliament should come to its natural end.”
He said his mission over the next five years was to implement those plans with the support of all sectors of society. He restated that the business community remained an integral part of development and that many of the plans he has for the next five years would not be accomplished without the help of the PSC. The Head of State said he wanted to see improved infrastructure across Guyana, noting that all of the natural resources Guyana possessed could not be developed without proper infrastructure. High on Government’s agenda, Granger stressed, was security, not only for the Private Sector and its members, but for all Guyanese.
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