President David Granger: Thank you Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force. Citizens of Bartica, how you feeling today?
Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Mr Khemraj Ramjattan; Chairman of the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, Mr Gordon Bradford, officers of the Guyana Defence Force, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen:
Today I am happy and honoured to be here among you. I am happy to come here at the end of Exercise Green Heart. They say that Bartica is the gateway to the hinterland but for the enemy they thought that Bartica would have been the gateway to the coastland, but today, the GDF has stopped them in their tracks.
So Bartica is the gateway to a free Guyana and this exercise has been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our defence forces. So let us all join in congratulating the Guyana Defence Force on this magnificent exercise in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region.
The Constitution of our country requires the GDF to defend our national independence. It requires the GDF to preserve the country’s sovereignty and integrity. It requires the GDF to provide for the security of citizens against any armed aggression and this exercise today does exactly what the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana requires the GDF to do; to preserve the security of our citizens against armed aggression.
Today, Guyana has witnessed a display of total national defence. The total national defence that we have in mind is based on four pillars:
First of all, we have got to master our environment and this is not an ‘airy-fairy’ exercise; it is based on the environment of Guyana, which is three quarters covered with jungle and today the GDF has displayed, has demonstrated, has proven, that it is a jungle force to be reckoned with because they have been able to master the environment of Guyana.
It is this part of Guyana, three quarters of our territory, which is claimed by our neighbours; neighbours in the east, neighbours in the west, and today the GDF has demonstrated that it is master of the environment, the environment which is covered by jungle.
As far as the GDF is concerned, operating in the jungle like is a fish operating out the water. It is natural. This is your natural environment. You mustn’t be ‘strange’ and you’ve shown us today that you are capable of operating in the jungle like a fish can operate in water. You’ve also demonstrated that you’re an army of the people. The people love you. Region Seven loves you. Don’t you love the Army? (Resounding yes from the audience) – There you go. Every soldier is a citizen and every citizen is a soldier because you will be able to come forward and help to protect this country.
The second lesson that we’ve gained from Exercise Green Heart apart from the environmental lesson, is the lesson of experience. The GDF has been training in jungle operations for 45 years. The GDF is not a stranger to the jungle. The GDF has, just 10 kilometres away from here, established its first jungle warfare school- the Colonel Robert Mitchell Jungle and Amphibious Warfare Training School at Makouria. So 10 kilometres away from here, the GDF has a major training establishment and every soldier in the GDF, no matter what arm he or she goes into, will be required to go through the jungle and amphibious warfare training school at some stage along his career.
If he’s going to be a pilot, if he’s going to be a doctor, if he’s going to be a sailor he or she must pass through the jungle warfare school. That is the second recruitment school. One is the Colonel John Clarke School in Tacama and the second is the Colonel Robert Mitchell School at Makouria. These are ‘musts’ for training soldiers to operate in our environment. So we have started in the GDF, a programme of greening, i.e. every officer and soldier must have the ‘green’ experience of operating in the environment of the jungle.
The third lesson is that exercises are important and as I’ve said before, the series of Exercise Green Heart started many years ago and what you see today is simply a continuation of a long series of Exercise Green Heart. You’ve seen us here before and you will see us here again. We’ve been to other regions, but just as the human body needs exercise, soldiers need to be exercised in the environment in which they have to function. So there’s no room for complacency, there’s no room for flabbiness; when you exercise, you get rid of the fat and you become muscular.
There’s no opportunity for you to become unfamiliar with your environment. This is a logical sequence. You have a doctrine that is clearly defined; you have knowledge, which you have gained on your courses; you have skills which you practice; you have had a command post exercise and now you have been on a field tactical exercise and finally, what you’ve done here is exemplary.
People must know that when they come into Guyana to invest, they’ll be coming into a safe environment that is protected by one of the best defence forces in the Caribbean, the GDF. If they come into Aurora, in our gold fields; if they come in to explore our petroleum they must know that this country is committed to protecting their investment and no other country must intimidate them or threaten them.
So what you have done here today, GDF, is an example to show our foreign direct investors that their investments are safe and that Guyana will use every fibre of its state system, of its defence forces to protect their investments. So it’s a good example. It’s also an example of unison that the defence force can work together with the police force, that the defence force can work together with the Regional Democratic Council and inside the defence force, that the infantry could cooperate with the artillery; that the ground forces could cooperate with the air forces and the coast guard, that the logistics and communication arms all work together. So this exercise is a demonstration of our ability to bring all of the arms together.
So it is good for me to be here and let me tell you that although we have this series of exercises continuing; it is timely that we should have the exercise here today because countries to the east and to the west have used this opportunity to try to reassert their claims to our territory.
Well, this week will be the last full week I think, by the end of next week, by the first of November, I think it’s a Sunday, week after the next Sunday, you’ll be celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary and it doesn’t mean that you must behave like a 50 year old; you must behave like a 15 year old. You must be fit and active and alert.
At the same time, we must remember that in 1966, 49 years ago, the Venezuelans occupied the island of Ankoko. So as I speak at this very moment, the Venezuelan National Armed Forces are still in occupation of Guyanese territory. The GDF is the only organisation that stands between the adversary and the people of Guyana. These children here, they are entitled to inherit the country which we inherited from our forefathers. We cannot sell out; we cannot give away; we cannot offer the adversary any corridor or any passage. We have an obligation to hand over to our children and grandchildren the country that we inherited from our parents and grandparents.
So we have had gunboats from the east, we have had gunboats from the west, but the GDF must always be able to guarantee the people of our country that they’ll be safe from any aggression. What happened in Suriname is that the National Assembly simply passed the resolution renaming the New River the Courantyne and claiming all the land between the New River and the real Corentyne.
We cannot accept a municipal decision. We will only accept the ruling of a Tribunal and as far as we are concerned, the Corentyne River has not changed in the last 100 or 200 years and as far as Venezuela is concerned – what they are claiming is that the Award of 1899, which gave them 15,000 km² of land, is invalid. If it is invalid, give us back the 15,000 km². Let’s start over again, but if they want to hold on to that land which was defined in 1899, we will hold on to the land which was defined for us in 1899.
So GDF, be not troubled by the gunboats. You stay firm and we the people of Guyana will be behind you, we the Government of Guyana will be in front of you. We will always deploy our diplomats, our diplomacy to ensure that peace is maintained. So have no fear. I will continue to meet with the United Nations Secretary-General and will continue to meet with any agency, which is committed to the peaceful resolution of these controversies. I will meet with CARICOM, I will meet with UNASUR, I will meet with the OAS, I will meet with the Commonwealth; at all costs Guyana’s territorial integrity must be preserved.
This is not an offensive operation, this is a defensive operation. Exercise Green Heart is about defending your territory. We’re defensive, not aggressive. We are protective. We are not offensive, we are positive not negative. So we want peace and this is the best demonstration of our desire for peace.
It’s a demonstration of our resolve; it’s a demonstration of our determination. It’s a demonstration of the fact that we will not allow our destiny to be impaired or compromised by anybody else. We have no choice. We in Guyana have no choice but to defend our territory, to protect our property. We have never sent a gunboat into the waters of a neighbouring state and we never will, and we don’t want any neighbouring state to commit the act of aggression against us.
We want to build an Engineer Corps to build roads here in Bartica, roads to Mahdia, roads up the Potaro; we want to build roads so from here you will be able to go into the Upper Mazaruni and into the Cuyuni. We want aviators who will able to evacuate the sick and the injured, conduct search and rescue operations. We want our musicians to come here and entertain the good people of Bartica, soon to be a town. We want the GDF to be fully integrated in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni, fully integrated in Bartica – like I said before, like a fish in water.
Soldiers of the GDF this has been a long week for you and I congratulate you. I thank you.
You have the gratitude of the nation. I would like to close by wishing you a happy Fiftieth Anniversary.
May God bless the Guyana Defence Force!
May God bless the people of Cuyuni-Mazaruni.
May God bless Guyana.