Kaieteur News Editorial, Saturday 30 May 2009
Security reform imbroglio
Against a background of violent assaults on citizens and the Police starting in 1998, the need for reform of our security sector has been conceded by all – including the government.
The need had presciently been given constitutional standing in the reforms of 2000 that were given effect in 2003 when a Disciplined Forces Commission was established to conduct countrywide hearings and make recommendations. The latter were submitted to Parliament in 2004 and the Special Select Committee should soon complete its review.
In August 2007, the administration signed an Interim Memorandum of Understanding with the British government on a “Security Sector Reform Action Plan” designed to reform the sector over four years. The British were to provide funding to the tune of approximately G$1billion.
The program was to complement the IDB’s Citizen Security and Justice Reform Programme and other ancillary projects such as the UNDP’s “Improving Social Cohesion, Security and Governance in Guyana” as well as the administration’s ongoing measures.
The security reform field was becoming quite crowded, if somewhat constipated, since the negotiations on implementing aspects of the various plans were notoriously drawn out.
Part of the problem with the British plan specifically was that in addition to enhancing police performance through “the provision of a uniform response to serious crime, forensics, crime intelligence and traffic policing” it sought to link those reforms to reforms in governance.
These included, for the sector, enabling policy-making to be “more transparent”, integrating “financial management” into public sector financial management reform, “creating substantial parliamentary and other oversight”, as well as “building greater public participation and inclusiveness”.
In a week in which we celebrated our “independence from Britain”, these intrusions in “governance” which have now become standard practice by aid donors from Europe, have to be seen as somewhat ironic. No matter how putatively well-meaning they are, they do allow the donors to intrude on our sovereignty.
From the launching of the British plan, the government must have made its reservations known because there was a claim by its crafters that there was “uncertain commitment to a governance dimension”.
Notwithstanding those reservations, however, the government has fulfilled a raft of recommendations including the establishment of the National Security Sector Reform Management framework, the appointment of a substantive Police Commissioner, establishment of a Standing Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Security Sector etc. We are not entirely sure as to what broke the camel’s back, but this week the government’s chief negotiator with the British, Dr Roger Luncheon, submitted his resignation to the President, claiming that the British were negotiating with “ulterior motives”.
Dr Luncheon claimed that contrary to the mutual agreement the British had “abandoned Guyana’s ownership” of the reform process. A bit more specifically he pointed out that they had asserted that Guyana did not have the “capacity” to implement the project – a claim which Dr Luncheon stoutly rebutted.
The British, presumably, would provide the “capacity”. This circumstance would constitute a “violation of Guyana’s sovereignty”, which Dr Luncheon maintained, he could not allow. While some may claim some extra sensitivity on the part of the government, Dr Luncheon’s position cannot be lightly dismissed.
In this anniversary-week of our Independence, it would be an act of historical short-sightedness to forget the manipulations by the British of our security forces in the ‘60s to secure what they claimed was “good governance” then.
In fact, the de-professionalisation and demoralisation of our security forces – not to mention the imposition of the very antithesis of “good governance” - was a direct result of their manipulations.
We would urge the opposition not to fall into the trap of opposing for the sake of opposing, but to place Guyana’s national interest foremost and utilise the inclusive institutions already created in Parliament and elsewhere to analyse the Government’s position and make mature recommendations.
“Good governance” will be a farce if it is imposed by trammelling our sovereignty: this we know from our history.