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Boost for GDF’s Coast Guard, Air Corps

This Bell 412 helicopter will be the subject of an independent inspection next month to decide its future- President Ramotar

The Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Coast Guard and Air Corps are being beefed up to assist in border patrols and internal security such as combating piracy and crimes in the mineral-rich interior.

Addressing the opening of the army’s annual officer’s conference on Thursday, Chief of Staff  Brigadier Mark Phillips said the army has acquired three vessels through the United States(US)-sponsored Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and the Guyana government has also purchased two additional vessels to beef up inland patrols.

He also announced that two more patrol boats have been purchased by the Guyana government and would be delivered to the Defence Force in July 2014.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Donald Ramotar hoped that the new patrol vessels would help fight piracy and crimes in the gold and diamond-bearing interior.

“Our miners and fishermen must be able to pursue their activity without facing the possibility of raids in their camps, ambushes along interior trails and acts of piracy along our coastal fishing zone and I hope that the newly acquired vessels that will be at your disposal shortly will go a far way in bringing some of these activities to and end,” said Ramotar

The CBSI’s assistance has been provided under the rubric of combating transnational crimes like drugs and arms trafficking. Moves to improve the Coast Guard and Air Corps are also in keeping with recommendations by the Disciplined Forces Commission held several years ago to also suppress illegal fishing and smuggling of items to evade customs. That commission had also cited the need for better arrangements for recruiting and retaining pilots and engineers.

Ramotar also announced that as part of efforts to boost the Air Corps, the GDF would shortly decide the fate of the troublesome the large Bell 412 helicopter that experts say is best suited for search and rescue operations in Guyana’s rugged and densely forested interior. “The Bell 412 helicopter will during March 2014 undergo a thorough and independent inspection in order to facilitate informed decision-making as to the future of that aircraft,” he said. The Guyanese leader disclosed that government would replace “on an affordable basis” the fixed and rotary wings of the Air Corps to improve its effectiveness especially in the areas of search and rescue, medical evacuation and support of ground forces in border operations.

The GDF acquired two Bell 206 helicopters at a time when heavily armed gangs were on the rampage mainly on the lower East Coast Demerara and in areas of Region 10.