No date set for talks on LEAD project

No date has been set for the United States/Guyana talks on the stalled Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project, which has been mired in controversy, U.S. Ambassador D Brent Hardt has revealed.

In an interview with Guyana Times on Sunday, the U.S. ambassador said he was waiting on the Donald Ramotar administration to set a date for the meeting to discuss the way forward on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project, making it clear that he was ready for talks.

In 2013, Guyana rejected the $300 million USAID-funded project, contending that the project did not reflect the input of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration.

The local U.S. embassy had signalled its intention to go ahead with the project despite the rejection, setting off a firestorm of controversy.

In recent days, Guyana and the U.S. agreed to meet about the controversial project, but when Presidential Adviser on Governance, Gail Teixeira was contacted on Tuesday for an update on the status of talks, she said: “I have nothing to report.”

According to Teixeira, President Donald Ramotar is not in Guyana and as such, she is unable to give further details. The president is currently attending the second summit of leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana, Cuba.

No change

However, on Friday, the president told reporters, “Things are more or less the same; we have not agreed with the project and we are saying that the project should be halted.”

In a previous interview, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon had said that if discussions were held in a mature bilateral spirit, there was no reason the negotiations could not end in a bilateral agreement.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC); the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI); and the opposition have been calling for the talks to begin.

The private sector bodies had indicated their support for the objectives of the LEAD project, but emphasised that the government’s concerns should be addressed.

The GCCI had said it “believes that its implementation will strengthen political institutions and enhance citizen understanding of how individuals can engage in the larger civic and political discourse in their communities and throughout the country.”

At the time, government said it will not move to the negotiating table under duress.

The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) had criticised the government for rejecting the project, contending that the PPP/C administration has allowed several international programmes to go downhill.

APNU alluded to the Security Sector Reform Project with the United Kingdom, which collapsed in October 2009, following differences between the two countries.

At the time, the then administration contended that the project came to an abrupt end after the UK was not given permission to execute a live firing exercise in the west of Guyana.

But reports indicated that the project landed in hot water after the Guyana government objected to certain preconditions which were thought to include the stationing of foreign law enforcement professionals within the police force.