Georgetown, Guyana – (March 30, 2016) President David Granger, who today toured the British Naval Vessel, the HMS Mersey, which arrived at Port Georgetown on March 29, said this first such visit in 20 years is significant for the country, even as Guyana looks to build stronger international cooperation for regional security.
“The presence of the British Navy here is very reassuring. Although we do not have an agreement for them to be involved in any enforcement activities, we hope that this is the start of a longer [term] relationship, in which the Coast Guard and the British Navy could conduct joint training [exercises] and improve the level of security along Guyana’s coastline,” the President said.
The HMS Mersey is specially designed and equipped to respond to disaster-related emergencies and to intercept the trade of narcotics and the President explained that since Guyana is a part of the Caribbean’s disaster and emergency management mechanism and is also keen on interdicting narcotics entering and leaving Guyana, the ship’s arrival is welcomed by the Administration.
From left- GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Mark Phillips, Head of the Task Force on Narco-Trafficking and Illegal Firearms, Major General (Rtd) Michael Atherly, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, President David Granger, Lt. Commander in the royal Navy, Richard Hewitt and British High Commissioner to Guyana, James Gregory Quinn at the Ministry of the Presidency.
“Guyana has not entered a formal defence or security agreement with the [United Kingdom] or with the British Navy but we are committed, as part of the Caribbean Community, in the two main areas [disaster response and fighting the narco-trade] in which the Royal Navy has particular interest in the Caribbean,” the Head of State said.
Speaking of the country’s large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), he reminded that Guyana has been victim to intrusion into the zone, for which it does not have the maritime capability to efficiently patrol on its own.
President David Granger and the Ship’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Commander, Richard Hewitt stand at attention as the National Anthem of Guyana is played, just after the President’s arrival.
The HMS Mersey is currently touring the region to explore opportunities to render assistance to British territories overseas. It is scheduled to remain in Guyana until Friday. The tour of the vessel was facilitated by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Hewitt and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Brown. British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. James Quinn was also present and discussed areas of cooperation with the President at a lunch, which followed the tour.
The Head of State was accompanied by Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Raphael Trotman, who is currently performing the duties of Minister of State, Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordan, Brigadier Mark Phillips, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and Head of the Task Force on Narco-Trafficking and Illegal Firearms, Major General (Rtd) Michael Atherly.
Prior to the visiting the vessel, the President met with the Ship’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Commander, Hewitt at the Ministry of the Presidency, who, in a brief comment after that meeting expressed his gratitude to the country for the hospitality that he and his crew has received since their arrival in Guyana.
President David Granger in discussions with Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Hewitt and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Brown as British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. James Quinn looks on, aboard the HMS Mersey.
“We are here to visit Guyana on what is its 50th anniversary of Independence to reaffirm our partnership… It was an honour for me to visit the President and I was delighted to have an open discussion. He made us feel most welcome,” he said.
During the four-day visit, the crew on-board the ship will be interacting closely with the Coast Guard of the GDF to share experiences and offer technical support and training on counter-narcotic patrolling.
The HMS Mersey, with a 48-member crew set sail from the United Kingdom in early January to visit British overseas territories.