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Opposition to approve funds to beef up GDF’s drug-fighting capacity; wants new national drug plan

Opposition Leader David Granger and APNU Parliamentarian Joseph Harmon

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Mark Phillips on Wednesday welcomed the opposition’s support for beefing up the military’s capacity, following a meeting with Opposition Leader David Granger.

“I’m heartened that the opposition is speaking with the same voice like the government as it pertains to re-capitalization of the GDF and recapitalization of the security forces and the whole fact that all the security forces need to adopt an inter-agency approach,” said Phillips.

The Chief of Staff acknowledged that the GDF would need more planes and boats to assist the Police Force, as the lead agency, in addressing security threats. “The government is aware of that. I am sure that the opposition is also aware of that so this is obviously a good multiparty approach towards the recapitalization of the security forces off course as the revenues will allow,” he said.

Granger said he asked the Chief of Staff to inform the opposition of the types of air, sea and land assets would be required to assist interdiction of drugs and guns. The GDF is expected to receive several inshore patrol vessels that Granger said were incapable of conducting operations on the high seas. “What we have gotten from him now is that he has started to acquire the maritime assets but these are not sufficient and we want to hear from him before the budget comes what additional assets he needs,” said Granger, a retired Brigadier of the GDF.

Asked why the meeting between himself and the Chief of Staff was useful in the absence of pre-budget consultations with the Opposition, Granger said A Partnership for National Unity was committed to supporting any legitimate requests by the GDF to combat narco trafficking. “Consultations or no consultations, we are going to support measures to prevent the mafia from having a foothold in this country,” he said. The Constitutional Court recently ruled that the opposition could not cut the Finance Minister’s budget but could approve or disapprove the estimates of expenditure.

The Opposition Leader attributed an increase in drug trafficking since the National Drug Strategy Master Plan expired in 2009. “We feel that it is because of the absence of a National Drug Strategy Master Plan that cocaine trafficking continues to take place in Guyana,” he said.

The Opposition Leader’s meeting with the Chief-of-Staff was held one day after 17 members of a trans-Atlantic cocaine ring were arrested in New York and Italy. The FBI said the Italian Mafia had planned to smuggle 500 kilogrammes of cocaine in pineapples and frozen fish from Guyana to Italy. Investigators named a local canning company that would have been used with the assistance of members of a Mexican drug cartel said to be in Guyana.

Granger feared that with the mafia’s reported presence, Guyana could see a return to that bloody period when a Guyanese convicted drug lord was caught with sophisticated cellular phone tapping and location equipment.