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Political leaders address GDF Senior Officers

Opposition Leader, David Granger (at lectern) addressing participants in the Senior Command and Staff Course (APNU photo)

Leaders of  Guyana’s two major political parties have so far briefed participants in a  Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Senior Command and Staff Course about the political, security, economic and educational state of the country.

PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee, in his interaction with the officers on Thursday, August 14, sought to debunk Opposition Leader, David Granger’s claim of “education apartheid”.

While Granger used the opportunity afforded him one week earlier on August 7 to sell his “One Nation” concept , Rohee pointed to the PPP’s historical position of advocating a National Front Government and even offering critical support to then People’s National Congress (PNC)-led administration of then President Forbes Burnham.  The left-leaning PPP had supported the socialist administration’s nationalisation of the sugar industry.

Granger, based on a release by his parliamentary coalition, appeared to have dealt frontally with Guyana’s territorial integrity, but the PPP’s statement did not indicate whether Rohee addressed that aspect of border security. The PPP General Secretary also did not react to Granger’s concerns that poor infrastructure in many areas was retarding development.

The General Secretary addressed many issues during his almost three-hour long interaction with the soldiers. The main topic was the ruling PPP/C’s vision for Guyana and its current policies being implemented for the modernization of Guyana and advancing the livelihood for all Guyanese. The General Secretary traced Guyana’s economic recovery since 1992 following the restoration of democracy and the basic civil and political rights of its citizens.gdf course staff

In addition to explaining the development trajectory which the PPP has successfully steered Guyana towards and the prudent management it has stuck to which resulted in sustained economic growth over the years, Mr. Rohee made reference to the 1974-1976 period during which the PPP extended Critical Support to the then PNC Government. This policy was adopted in light of the progressive positions adopted by the PNC at that time which the PPP viewed as in the best interest of Guyana and all Guyanese. This he said showed maturity and commitment to put the nation and the welfare of its people first despite political differences between the two parties.

In this regard, the PPP General Secretary expressed disappointment at the failure of the current opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC), to indulge in petty and partisan politics rather than to support transformative projects such as the Amaila Hydro project, the Specialty Hospital, the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and the Marriot Hotel, which will propel further the country’s rapid development and drastically improve the lives of all Guyanese.

With regards to Opposition Leader David Granger’s call for a future “One-Guyana” administration Mr. Rohee recalled that the PPP was the first political party to call for a National Patriotic Front and National Front Government. He noted that former President Forbes Burnham had an ideology which he followed and he made it clear where he stood however, the current leader of the PNC unlike Burnham is always ambiguous in his positions (if he takes any at all) on International issues. And as far as ideology is concerned it appears that he is not influenced by any.

Mr. Rohee emphasized the need for the political opposition to act responsibly and that they should not derail the Nation’s development gains achieved thus far. He reiterated that the PPP and the PPP/C Government will continue to put the Nation and its people first and would not be distracted from it efforts to continue to work for the betterment of Guyana and Guyanese.

Mr. Rohee also took the opportunity to refer to the sustained successes in the education sector resulting in many Guyanese students excelling with distinction. While addressing this particular issue, Mr. Rohee debunked the notion of “education apartheid” showing how all Guyanese children are entitled to attend school irrespective of race, class or religion and that such a disparaging and false notion only serve to discourage the efforts of the country’s hardworking teachers and students.

The PPP General Secretary commended the joint efforts of the Army and the Police in crime fighting, their collaboration on issues of National Security and protection of the Nation’s borders. Several questions were answered at the end of his presentation. Mr. Rohee extended best wishes to the ranks for their future endeavours as Members of the Guyana Defence Force.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) said Retired Brigadier Granger highlighted five challenges – National Unity, National Security, Economic viability, Educational apartheid and Good Governance – facing Guyana. He suggested that the military officers should focus them as they embarked on a new phase of their careers.

Granger told the officers that Guyana was still not yet a unified nation. The nation could not progress without a greater degree of unity and this was the basis for his repeated call for ‘One Nation.’

On the challenge of national security, while recounting the Surinamese Navy’s intrusion into Guyana’s seaspace in 2000, he expressed alarm over the incursion of a Venezuela Navy Frigate into Guyana’s waters in October 2013. He said that the threats to national and public security, resulting from porous borders and seaspace and the lack of resources for the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force and the Coast Guard were major problems. 

Extreme poverty was a challenge to economic viability, Granger said. He lamented that the economic development of many regions continued to be held back because of poor infrastructure. ‘Education apartheid’ was also becoming evident. Despite celebrating the performance of  a few brilliant high-performers at the NGSA and CSEC on the one hand there were also about 7,000 dropouts from primary and secondary schools countrywide every year on the other hand. He told the officers that such a large number of poorly educated youths was bound to impact immediately on employment and, in the longer term, on the economy.

Granger closed his presentation to the officers by addressing the challenge of governance. He said the time for ‘winner-takes-all politics’ had long passed. He iterated his call for a government of national unity base on shared governance and inclusionary democracy.

The military officers posed several searching questions to the Opposition Leader in the interactive session at Camp Ayanganna.