Former administration never serious about Security Sector Reform – President David Granger

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, January 18, 2018

During brief remarks, at a simple handing over ceremony for the British-funded Security Sector Reform report, prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Russel Combe, President David Granger said that the previous government was insincere about wanting to reform the security sector, despite being offered help from the United Kingdom.

“This came about because of the escalation in narcotics trafficking which brought with it a horrific spate of violence that we have never seen before. The linkages were there, that with the rise of narcotics trafficking was a surge in violence, a surge in execution killings a surge in the corruption of the security forces,” President Granger said.

President David Granger receives a copy of the Security Sector Reform Report from British Consultant Lt. Colonel Russel Combe.

The Head of State pointed out that the failure to deal with the narco-trafficking threats 20 years ago meant that the administration at the time was attempting to address the symptoms rather than the disease. “So many of the attempts at security reform were insincere. They wanted to deal with the murders, but they didn’t want to deal with the cause of the murders.”

Further, President Granger detailed the various attempts at security sector reform as far back as 1999 and labelled them ‘bluffs’.

“The Symonds Group of Consultants produced what is perhaps up to now the single most comprehensive Guyana Police reform programme which is referred to simply as the Symonds’ Report, but at the same time, nothing was being done to deal with the root cause of crime. That is narcotics trafficking, which had started to corrupt the security forces. So, the next year the government becoming worried at the disorder established something called the national security strategy organising committee, which of course was not meant to succeed. It was all a bluff put under Mr. Ronald Jairam Gagraj. It didn’t succeed because it wasn’t meant to succeed,” President Granger iterated.

The President reminded in May 2015, one of his first acts was to engage the British High Commissioner and then later the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, for assistance.

“… Security Sector Reform, that’s all I asked for, I didn’t even ask for agriculture, I didn’t ask for Business, I asked for Security Sector Reform, that’s all, and what he promised, he delivered, and the presence of Colonel Russel Combe today is a result of my conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron and through the efforts of the British High Commission in Georgetown that process was put in place. So, gentlemen, and ladies, we are now trying to correct the errors of over two decades of mismanagement of the security sector,” the President added.

Back in 2009

In October 2009, Guyanese learnt of the British Government’s decision to abandon the negotiations with the Guyana Government on the ₤4.9M Security Sector Reform Action Plan.

The contention then according to Dr. Roger Luncheon, then Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Guyana Defence Board and who had governmental responsibility for the project − the framework for the “Formulation and Implementation of a National Security Policy and Strategy” was concluded the previous year, but in his view, the version of the Security Sector Reform in Guyana Plan which was approved by the British government in April contained a proposal for a four-tiered British management structure which handed the British side “complete control” of the management of the programme.

Luncheon said that such a proposal was “offensive” and would not be tolerated by the Government of Guyana. The British, he thought, were attempting to convince Guyana that it was suffering from a “capacity constraint” in project implementation. He asserted that “Guyanese ownership” of the Plan will be maintained and that the government “will not relent one bit on this.” He added that the implementation of the reforms would indeed be facilitated by the British involvement, but that he is “not going to give up on our dignity [and] our sovereignty for the contribution that could come from this engagement”.

On the other hand, then British High Commissioner, Fraser Wheeler, reiterated that the British government was committed to Guyanese “ownership” of the process which was designed to be in accord with the OECD paradigm for security assistance. He further said that he was dissatisfied with the delay in implementing the reform plan, accusing “some persons” in the administration of “quibbling about administrative details.”

 

By: Kidackie Amsterdam

 

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