UK looking forward to working with Govt on security sector reform – High Commissioner

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SMART hospitals, other UKCIF-funded projects on agenda

British High Commissioner Gregory Quinn, who waved farewell to Guyana back in August after his five-year tenure was completed, is back in the country and working with the Government of Guyana on a number of transformational projects.

One of the issues the High Commissioner looks forward to the UK working with the Government of Guyana on is the Security Sector Reform (SSR) project. In an interview with this publication, Quinn, who remains in Guyana until the end of November 2020, was optimistic about the project.

This project had seen British security expert, Colonel Russel Combe, being brought in back in 2017 to conduct an assessment of the local security sector and compile a report with recommendations for security reform.

His report, the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP), was handed over to former President David Granger in January 2018. While the report focuses primarily on reforms within the Guyana Police Force (GPF), there were also recommendations to address issues plaguing the prisons and the fire services as well as the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF’s) Coast Guard.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregory Quinn

After it was handed over, however, the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) spent much of 2018 reviewing the report rather than taking action on any of its recommendations.

With the No-Confidence Motion in December 2018, the then Government’s attention shifted elsewhere. However, Quinn noted that the UK will be working with the new Government on implementing the report’s recommendations.

In the meantime, there is more, unfinished business on the agenda, including projects linked to the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF). This includes the Linden to Lethem road upgrade; a project the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government anticipates can start next year.

“We want to push forward with the Linden-Mabura Hills road and the bridge at Kurupukari. Then there is the ongoing work on the SMART health facilities at Diamond, Leonora, Paramakatoi, Mabaruma and Lethem,” Quinn explained.

The Linden to Lethem road is a key link between Guyana and Brazil with the potential to boost trade. At present, it is little more than an unsurfaced trail that deteriorates during periods of rainfall. As such, the UKCIF programme, administered through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), will be providing funding for the first phase of the road from Linden to Mabura Hill, as well as a crossing at Kurupaukari.

The UKCIF has, in fact, allocated a total of £53.2 million to Guyana to fund several projects including the road. With the 2018 No-Confidence Motion and the former APNU/AFC Government’s delay in calling elections, however, these developmental projects were put on pause, until now.

The Kitty seawall rehabilitation project is another project that the British, through UKCIF, was assisting Guyana with. The project entails upgrading of the sea defence structure from Kingston to Ogle, through the use of rock groynes (barrier built out from the shore into the sea), revetments and upgrading the promenade to allow for recreational activities.

“We have funded a design for that,” Quinn explained. “Having done the seawall design, there is something there ready to be put in place as and when funds become available from another source.”

The region-wide £38 million SMART hospital initiative is meanwhile a joint project between the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and the United Kingdom’s Department For International Development (DFID).

The project aims to retrofit existing hospitals into institutions that revolve around Information Technology (IT) equipment. This includes specialised machines and renewable energy, while ensuring that the hospitals can withstand any natural disaster. Guyana’s cut from the project is approximately US$4.1 million. (G3)