President David Granger: Inspector General of the Guyana Defence Force, Colonel Nazrul Hussain; Senior Colonel Zeng Xianglin, Head of the Military Delegation of the People’s Liberation Army; senior officers; technical officers of the People’s Republic of China; special invitees; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen.
I am happy to be here this afternoon to be present at this very important ceremony, a ceremony that symbolises a friendship between two countries which are thousands of kilometres apart, but which are close together in terms of their commitment to international peace and security.
The Guyana Defence Force, the national army of Guyana, is entrusted with the protection of this country’s patrimony. The Force, however, faces numerous challenges in safeguarding and superintending our national airspace; our land borders; our marine resources and our rivers.
Guyana, although a small state by international standards, is the largest country in the Caribbean Community; it has a coastline of 459 kilometres, it has land borders with Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname of over 3,000 kilometres. It has a variegated landscape, a landscape made up of grasslands; of highlands; of islands in the Essequibo- of wetlands, of the coastland, of the hinterland where our rainforests are abound.
It is the lands of lakes; a land of rivers, a land of beautiful waterfalls. We possess world-class flora and fauna which are incomparable national assets. The long distances, the vast spaces and the small aviation and maritime fleets available to our air corps and coast guard limit the ability of our government to effectively control our own air and maritime spaces.
The Essequibo River, for example, our largest river, is over 1,000 kilometres long, but it does not have a single bridge. The Rupununi, our largest region, bigger than the Republic of Coast Rica, does not have a single highway access to over three-quarters of our country which is covered with tropical rainforest; is difficult and that situation is compounded by inadequate infrastructure, insufficient aerodromes, bridges, highways and wharves on our rivers.
Infrastructure development is a top national priority. The technical corps of the Guyana Defence Force must be strengthened in order to allow the force to contribute effectively to national development and to execute its mandate of protecting our territory and preventing transnational crime. National Defence is inseparable from national development.
Public infrastructure enables and ensures public security by guaranteeing safety for our citizens; by providing assurance to investors and visitors and by contributing to an enabling environment for investment. Only on Saturday night I was with His Excellency, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, and I pointed to what I call the ‘Jianchun Initiative’ and he was the one who mentioned the importance of infrastructure to national development and here we are together again emphasising the importance of infrastructure.
Ladies and gentlemen, transportation and communication infrastructure opens opportunities for investment; it promotes the development of the productive sectors; it facilitates easier access to markets. The Defence Force will also derive benefits from infrastructure. The force will be able to ensure that it can effectively respond to medical and environmental hazards in the hinterland and in fact in any other part of the country. The air corps; the engineering corps, the signal corps and the coast guard, particularly, need recapitalisation in order to more effectively control our airspace and our land space, our sea space, and our rivers and to provide reliable communications in any weather in any terrain.
The Guyana Defence Board, recognising the need to enhance defence and development, at the same time took the decision in 2015 to put emphasis on the recapitalisation of the technical corps of the defence force. The Defence Board sees the air corps as providing continued surveillance over our coastline, over our maritime borders and over the approaches to our country. The air corps will also be able to support search and rescue services for persons in distress on land or at sea.
The Coast Guard, once strengthened, will be able to conduct continuous surveillance over our maritime borders and approaches. It will be able to provide search and rescue services to persons in distress. It will be able to bring an end to contraband smuggling. It will be able to protect our fishery from poachers.
The engineering corps, once strengthened, will be able to restore defence and public infrastructure throughout this country. The signal corps, once re-equipped, will be able to ensure reliable communication to the four corners of our country, over any terrain in any weather. The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, therefore, thanks the Government of the People’s Republic of China for its incomparable cooperation and assistance over more than four and a half decades.
The government, the defence board and the defence force are grateful for this equipment and machinery from the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army. The vessels will be a welcomed addition to the force’s riverine fleet. The earth moving, earth clearing and earth perpetration and other equipment will improve the capability of the engineering corps.
You Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, we look forward to the continued support of the People’s Liberation Army and of the People’s Republic of China, especially in strengthening the technical capability of the defence force.
This ceremony this afternoon is a tangible expression of the commitment of our two Republics to international peace and security. This ceremony is an expression of the fraternal ties between the Guyana Defence Force and the People’s Liberation Army. This ceremony is a symbol of the friendship between Guyana and China.
I thank you