Monday, June 15, 2009

Let the public be the judge

Guyana - Stabroek News Editorial, Monday 15 June 2009
Let the public be the judge

No doubt nonplussed by the government’s endless shilly-shallying on the delayed and much needed 3 million pounds sterling programme of security assistance to Guyana, the UK’s top diplomat here, Mr Fraser Wheeler made it clear to the media on May 25 that he was unhappy with the unnecessary hurdles that were being thrown up by bureaucrats.

This in turn prompted a histrionic response from the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Luncheon who couched his rebuttal in the mindset of the 50s and 60s so as to suggest that the UK was continuing to meddle unwholesomely in Guyana’s affairs. Quite unusually, considering his government’s traditional lockdown on such information, Dr Luncheon also released correspondence he had forwarded to President Jagdeo on May 6 asking to be relieved of his position in relation to the UK programme because of the impasse with the UK. As we said in a previous editorial, the resignation should have been accepted by the President.

Prior to the publicly expressed exasperation of the UK envoy there was nothing known about the correspondence that Dr Luncheon had dispatched to the President but it focused on one area – that the UK was trying to impose external management for the multifaceted programme. Dr Luncheon seemed to be completely unsettled by this alleged preference for external management though it was unclear whether his position on it had been reached in discussion with other stakeholders in the security sector. Dr Luncheon went as far as saying that the UK proposals were “offensive” and they suggested that Guyana was “totally incapable” of managing the security reform process.
Thus far, Dr Luncheon has shunned requests by the press for him to publish the offending details of the UK programme for closer perusal so that the public could properly judge whether there are indeed grounds to be slighted. By going public with the alleged unseemliness of the UK demand, Dr Luncheon has involved the man/woman in the street and they need to be brought more fully into the loop. And though there are fresh signs that Guyana and the UK may be able to reach an accord on the continuation of the programme, the public should be the judge of whether Dr Luncheon’s objections are well-placed, misplaced or constitute just another tactic of prevarication by his administration.

While he may be the point man on this project for the government it must have dawned upon Dr Luncheon that he is performing a function in pursuit of the public trust and not for his constituency but for all of the country. Further, Dr Luncheon would be aware that a significant portion of the country is disaffected with the government’s handling of the security sector and its disposition towards offers of assistance from friendly countries such as the UK.

It is unclear what form or outcome the alleged external management of the reform process foreshadowed. Suffice to say, however, a significant section of the populace would be quite comfortable with handing control of parts of our security needs to a well thought out programme constructed by the UK without the slightest hurt to nationalist pride.

The PPP/C has had 17 years to restore professionalism in the ranks and hierarchies of the various components of the security sector and to place them on a sounder footing to discharge their responsibilities and it has been a miserable failure. Many Guyanese would welcome the installation of UK professionals in the police force and certainly the forensic, investigative and crime-fighting wings as has been the case in several other Caricom countries including Jamaica.

Why Dr Luncheon might have balked at any such suggestion by the UK if indeed that was what was proposed might have much more to do with the dangerous web that the government may have found itself in thanks to the claims made by confessed drug trafficker Roger Khan, the related contention that the administration played an integral role in the sourcing of the famous spy equipment and the longstanding concerns about how connected elements of the government were with the infamous phantom squad and its throughput of bloodshed.

There is a great risk to the government that the installation of overseas professionals in the upper echelons of the police force, in particular, could lead to exposure of unsavory connections leading back to the government and also inspire persons who may have incriminating information to come forward and tell their stories. This is perhaps what the government – Dr Luncheon – fears more than anything else. The protestation about external management is just the coating of convenience for the kernel of the real concern.

This week’s attempt by the law enforcement authorities to reel in the bodyguards of Roger Khan for an alleged double murder points appropriately at how tellingly lax and incompetent our police force has been and how unmindful it was of threats posed by Khan’s organization. As we have lamented before, which democratic country can endure in a few years the killing of hundreds of men by a motley assortment of death squads, rogue lawmen and the narcotics industry without having a robust commission of inquiry into this? Yet there has been none here.

Even the most laid back of Guyana watchers would get hyper if the government were to continue saying that it knew nothing of Khan’s activities (and what about Peter Morgan?) here and were awaiting a comprehensive record from the US courts. It is quite clear that the Guyana Government wants no part of deep police reforms as there is a great risk of exposure, terminal loss of credibility and legal jeopardy. To establish whether he can be taken seriously, Dr Luncheon should forthwith publish the relevant sections of the UK’s demand and defend his assertion.

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