With the growing threats to Guyana’s territorial integrity, President David Granger has sent a firm message to the newly-reconstituted Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) that it should be prepared for action at any time.
The Head of State was at the time addressing the Guyana Defence Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference at the Army headquarters, Camp Ayanganna on Thursday, when the country’s territorial integrity was at the top of the agenda.
He said the Defence Force should not look forward to an increase in its staff strength at the moment, but instead should rely on the reserves unit, which was dismantled almost 20 years ago, for support.
President David Granger (centre) sits with GDF Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier General Mark Phillips (on the President’s right) and officers of the Guyana Defence Force. Immediately next to the President are Ministers Carl Greenidge, Khemraj Ramjattan, Basil Williams and Joseph Harmon, all of whom are also Defence Board members (Ministry of the Presidency photo)
“The strength of the Guyana Defence Force is not going to be increased above the current capacity levels. The Force, however, will be built up not only by a strong regular force, but it will be augmented by a reserve force which as you know has already reverted to its original name,” he told the room of Army officials.
He said that the regular reserve forces must always be in a state of operation readiness to be deployed in any part of the country.
“Guyana’s borders are too extensive, its landscape is too expansive and the cost of maintaining large regular units, too expensive if we are to preserve our territorial and coastal security,” the Head of State noted, continuing that the reserves would support and supplement the regular force, as reservists will be deployed to every region to ensure that Guyana’s defence is total and comprehensive.
“Reservists will be the Force’s eyes and ears, they will sort of constitute an army of the people, protecting the communities and making the residents safe.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the border controversy with Venezuela, Granger said Guyana was a small state and from the time of independence, it has been the victim of security problems including the outright aggression and annexation of its territory.
Up to the present time, the President reminded, Venezuela is still in possession of Guyana’s part of the Island of Ankoko and Guyana has been faced with incursions, insurrections and transnational crime. This country, he said, therefore needed a coherent and comprehensive defence strategy that could counter these threats which could undermine the security and stability of States.
“Guyana’s national defence strategy over the next four years must acknowledge the need to take steps in concert with regional partners to address security threats affecting the Region. Guyana must be a reliable partner in the cause of regional security and ensuring the Caribbean remain a zone of peace.”
The Head of State said the philosophies steering Guyana’s national defence strategy must, therefore, reflect a long-term thinking process to respond to the multiple crises facing the country, the Caribbean and the continent. Guyana was an integral part of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which was at the core of Guyana‘s security strategy, he noted, and the country was a partner in the promotion of regional peace and security also.
“Our strategy must emphasise that Guyana is a national power, within the framework of regional interests. Our strategy must ensure that national independence is preserved, that sovereignty is secured and our territorial is guaranteed,” President Granger said.
He added that the country’s national defence strategy was undergirded by the concept of total assets of defence. Guyana for 50 years has employed diplomacy as an instrument of defence to denounce acts of aggression against its territory and to isolate aggressive States internationally. Granger said although Guyana was a small State, it has used diplomatic might to garner international support to deter aggression and safeguard territorial integrity while seeking out cooperation for international security.
The President said Guyana would continue to pursue diplomacy in its quest for international peace and its sovereignty.
“Guyana’s national defence strategy seeks to preserve peace and security and is committed to nonaggression. It is aimed at a system of collective security; this should guide the GDF and determine its mission over the next four years. This combination is the basis for developing its manifesto over the next four years,” he said
Meanwhile, GDF Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips said the studies of the border insurrections dating back decades have kept the Force ready and ever vigilant to defend the country’s territory.
He said 2015 was a year of increased training activities for the Force. Last year was also a year of contingency planning, heightened activities and defined aggression against the border.
“It was the year of the commencement of Operation Dragnet aimed at improving territorial, public and citizen security toward Guyana. By the end of 2015, a substantial number of soldiers were trained. Today the border deployment is no longer hampered by inadequate troop strength,” Brigadier Phillips said.