Georgetown, Guyana – (January 24, 2019) President David Granger, this morning, said the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) must remain ready to deter aggression, defend national sovereignty and ensure the development of Guyana as a safe, secure and strong state. The President was at the time addressing officers of the Guyana Defence Force, during the opening ceremony of the GDF’s Annual Officers’ Conference held at the Baridi Benab, State House.

President Granger recalled the Force’s swift action to suppress the Rupununi Rebellion that erupted fifty years ago on January 2, 1969 and reminded that Guyana has always been victim to claims on its territory despite international recognition of its land mass, territorial borders, territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“Guyana’s territorial integrity was violated again on December 22, 2018, just last month. A Venezuelan Navy corvette- the Karina PC-14 – made a hostile incursion into Guyana’s EEZ. The incursion took place at approximately one hundred and forty-four kilometres from the boundary that separates Venezuela from Guyana,” the Commander in Chief said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since dispatched a note of protest rejecting Venezuela’s aggression and asserting that its use of force to impede Guyana’s exercise of sovereign rights in its EEZ was a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations and general international law.

“Officers, Venezuela’s most recent aggression constituted its second naval assault against our territorial integrity and sovereignty… it is to be recalled, also, that patrol boats of the Surinamese Navy expelled a petroleum CGX Licensed exploration vessel and drill ship, the C.E. Thornton, from our waters on June 3, 2000.”

Notwithstanding the threats, President Granger made it clear that Guyana remains committed to ensuring that the Caribbean and continent of South America remain a zone of peace. “[Guyana] subscribes to the peaceful settlement of disputes and will do nothing to endanger international peace,” he said.

The President noted that incursions have not only occurred in Guyana’s maritime space, but also on land. Illegal mining, logging, illegal arms, narcotics, people and wildlife- trafficking and the smuggling of precious minerals have also continued. Moreover, the head of state reminded that the influx of more than 3000 migrants fleeing economic and political distress in Venezuela necessitates stronger controls along borders.

“The Guyana Defence Force therefore must maintain a state of readiness to secure our entire country and protect it from present and future foreign dangers. The Force therefore is obligated to secure the state and safeguard the entire territory from invasion, incursion and insurrection. Incursions must be deterred. Insurrections must be suppressed. The state must remain secure.”

The President also noted the many challenges facing the Force in protecting the territory pointing to the elongated coastline and land and river borders of nearly 3000 km, expansive hinterland and extensive network of waterways all constrain the Force’s ability to control the territory effectively.

“The small size of our economy and limited physical infrastructure diminish the Defence Force’s ability to respond rapidly to threats against our territory. Our country is rich in natural resources…our country’s natural resources belong to our people-present and future generations. Every citizen has the right to benefit from them,” he said.

Additionally, the Commander in Chief said the government had promulgated a defence policy aimed at strengthening the Defence Force’s role in deterring aggression, defending its territory and promoting economic development. Guyana’s defence policy emphasizes the doctrine of total national defence and implies that all elements and instruments of national power- economic, military, political, social and technological- will be employed in the interest of national security. “The regular Force must continue to consolidate its work, already resumed, of restructuring its organisation by strengthening the technical corps and by deploying the Reserve Force countrywide,” the President said.

Defence organisation
In October 2015, the President had announced that the Force will be restructured and reorganized to ensure that it is well-commanded, well-trained and well-equipped to perform its role. “Restructuring and reorganizing are aimed at improving its agility, capability and flexibility,” he said, while noting that its technical corps are being improved.

Additionally, the Head of State noted that the Force has received financial resources to improve its capabilities. Budgetary allocations increased by more than 75 per cent from G$ 8.0B in 2014 to G$14.02B in 2019.

“The Force is set to improve its physical infrastructure, acquire drones for border surveillance, inshore patrol vessels and engineering and transport equipment through budgetary allocations in 2019.”

As such, President Granger noted the need for the Reserve Force- known as the Guyana People’s Militia- to increase its strength to that of about 50 per cent of the regular Force. Its personnel strength has increased from fewer than 125 members in January 2015 to nearly 1500 in January 2019.

Defence operations
Meanwhile, the Commander in Chief added that “domination of our national territory cannot be taken for granted.” He said that the ground forces will continue to conduct long-range jungle patrols to the farthest frontiers and distant corners of our territory as “The GDF was never intended to be a ‘coastal’ force; it is, and will remain, a comprehensive national force. It must reach every corner of the country and be competent in conducting long-range patrols, in any weather or terrain, by day and night and for long periods.”

The President also noted that the frontline villages are vulnerable to illegal incursions and their residents must therefore be protected from such threats. “Frontline villages are guardians of our national territory and national patrimony. They are our first line of defence against any attempt at incursion. They are the eyes and ears which can alert the Defence and Police forces to hostile action which threaten public security and national defence,” he said.

President David Granger, this morning, said that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) must remain ready to deter aggression, defend national sovereignty and ensure the development of Guyana as a safe, secure and strong state.

Defence cooperation
Guyana also continues to cooperate with friendly countries. “Cooperation is the basis for collective security, the resolution of regional tensions, collaboration in combatting transnational crime and managing disaster,” the President said.

He noted that it is through cooperation with foreign countries that the Force has been able to improve its capability through training, joint exercises, the exchange of information, the intelligence-sharing and donations of non-lethal equipment. Cooperation is being pursued with several countries – under regional, multilateral and bilateral arrangements.

“Your Government has employed diplomacy and deployed resources successfully to denounce acts of aggression against its territory, to isolate aggressive states and to bring to bear pressure on them to refrain from continuing and repeated similar conduct. It has mobilised international support for respect for our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the President added.

He noted too that Guyana agitated for the territorial controversy with Venezuela to be resolved through a peaceful, juridical process. The Secretary General of the United Nations, on January 30, 2018, for the first time in 53 years advised that he would refer the controversy to the International Court of Justice. “Your Government is confident that the Court will rule in our favour and bring an end to this decades-old controversy which has impeded our national security and impaired economic development,” the Head of State said.

National integration
The President also noted that the GDF is so organised and deployed countrywide that it has become an essential agent of national integration.

“Recruitment into the Force helps to create a sense of belonging, recognise all groups and allow them to practice their culture freely. Guyana is fortunate to be a country in which the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas coexists with cultures of Africa, Asia and Europe. Multiculturalism must not become an impediment to national integration. “Military service does not require soldiers to abandon their cultural practices and adopt another culture. It recognises the country’s demographic and geographic realities. It accords recognition to every group and encourages the promotion of their practices. Everyone feels more accepted and, thus, will be imbued with a greater sense of belonging,” the President said.

Total national defence
He also assured that the government through its enlightened and progressive defence policy, is strengthening the Defence Force to help it to secure our borders and safeguard Guyana. “The nation can be assured of the Government’s resolve to protect the people and preserve the national patrimony. It commits to continuing to take measures to shield the people from peril of transnational crime. The Defence Force will continue to work with frontier villages to protect our territory and natural resources and repel threats to human safety and national security,” he said. – PTO–

The Defence Force, the Commander-in-Chief said, is the vanguard of national defence. “The Defence Force has been, and always must be, ready to deter aggression, defend national sovereignty and ensure the development of our country as a safe, secure and strong state,” he said.

Similarly, Chief-of-Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West spoke of the transformation of the Force over the years. He said the Force must ensure that it strengthens its competencies as training for traditional areas, land, sea and air is shaped to address the changing needs of the country.

Brigadier West said last year, 73 per cent of the GDF’s ranks underwent training and this year plans are on stream to continue that training. “In 2019, I expect that the leadership of the Force will be just, bold and professional in their dealings…officers must be able to demonstrate adaptability, professional competence, strength of character, environmental awareness and respect for all,” he said.

The Chief-of-Staff assured that the Force will continue to aggressively man the frontiers, support the civil powers in maintaining good order and support the efforts of our national, regional and international partners for the economic enhancement of Guyana.

This year’s conference is themed, “effective transformation for total national defence”.

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