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Rear Admiral Best recommends better use of resources for security, defence

Rear Admiral Gary Best salutes shortly after handing over the Force Colours to new Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips.

Rear Admiral, Gary Best on Tuesday called on government to overhaul the way it allocates resources to the security sector and urged that the air and maritime wings be strengthened up.

“Therefore, from a defence perspective, it is critical that a constant and sharp eye be placed on aviation and maritime development to provide faster access for forest and remote aerial protection and hydrocarbon security,” he said in his farewell speech at the Change of Command Parade held at the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Base Camp Ayanganna. Best handed over command of the GDF to Brigadier Mark Phillips who was sworn in on Monday by Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Ramotar.

Guyana’s remote and largely un-policed border is said to be a hotbed for drug and arms traffickers, illegal gold and diamond miners and loggers. His reference to hydrocarbon comes at a time when there is increasing oil exploration offshore Guyana for oil.

It is unclear whether the large decades-old long-range helicopter is again down. However, the two other choppers do have severe limitations including being unable to fly at night in certain areas. The Coast Guard is expected to obtain several more vessels from the United States under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

Ending his more than 30-year long military career, Best urged the Guyana government to restructure the allocation of resources to the security sector because the country’s successful development would depend significantly on creating and preserving a safe and secure environment.

“It, therefore, appears to me, Your Excellency, that a re-rationalization, a re-prioritization and a re-allocation of key resources to the defence and security sector is now necessary for a safe and secure environment,” said Best who holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He argued that defence and national security was more than just the GDF but effective defence and security could only be achieved through the interlinking of the democratic, civil and economic progress of the State. He also recommended the clear interlinking of all key sectors and resources.

In parting words he charged his successor, Brigadier Phillips, to take a firm grip on the defence force in providing leadership. “Your gravest test is not where you stand in the good moments but where you stand in times of challenge and controversy. You will have to be strong and hold your ground. You will have many testing moments.

Rear Admiral Best listed several of his accomplishments which included instilling a sense of morality, purpose and professionalism in the soldiers’ lives and working to provide a foundation for education, growth and continued transformation of the GDF.

In apparent reference to several unpopular decisions that he had made, Best seemingly defended his actions without specifically referring to any instance. ““A popular leader tells his troops what they need to want to hear but a good leader tells his troops what they need to hear,” educate those under your command and raise their and your esteem at the same time,” he said. Among those decisions was putting in place rules to address the abuse of duty-free concessions, non-payment of bonuses to a number of officers that eventually led to legal action in the civilian court which he won, and the institution of a policy to address conduct and sexuality after a phone video had circulated with two females having sex.

Rear Admiral Best urged the Officer Corps to be guided by a moral compass that points to justice, fairness and compassion. Noting that praises must not be the sole objective of decision-making, he urged the officers to use their mistakes and disciplinary action as examples so that their subordinates could avoid those same pitfalls.

Best, who is now completing a doctorate in International Relations at UWI, said “I am ready to serve my country in new capacities as the years progress.” His doctoral research focuses on Climate Change Financing.

Brigadier Phillips is now the eight Chief of Staff of the GDF. The others were Colonel Ronald Pope (1965-1969); Brigadier Clarence Price (1969-1979); Major General Norman Mc Lean (1979-1990); Major General Joseph Singh (1990-2000), Major General Michael Atherly (2000-2004) and Brigadier Edward Collins (2004-2007).