by Zena Henry and Denis Chabrol
As more than 7,000 members of the Disciplined Forces prepare to cast their ballots on Saturday, the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+ AFC) has appealed for their votes while rejecting claims by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) that Guyana would be militarized if the opposition coalition is victorious.
“In the 10th Parliament, there were only two former military officers Lt.Col. Harmon and myself. I don’t see how two officers could dominate a sixty-five member Parliament so there is no danger there would be any militarization,” he said.
Military, police, prisons and fire service personnel usually vote days ahead of civilians. Their votes would be mixed and counted along with ballots cast by other voters on May 11, 2015.
The Leaders of the coalition have dismissed repeated statements by Former President Bharrat Jagdeo which seek to taint the image of the country’s security agencies who they claimed have been involved in elections rigging and harassment of citizens under the PNC-government.
APNU’s leadership, senior functionaries and strategists include Presidential Candidate David Granger, who is a retired Brigadier, Retired Lt. Col. Joseph Harmon, Retired Police Commissioner Winston Felix, Retired Lt. Col. Larry London and Retired Chiefs-of-Staff Brigadier Edward Collins and Rear Admiral Gary Best. Asked what safeguards he would advocate to avoid blurred lines of authority or influence by the named ex military personnel on the current military, he said those persons have merely supported or endorsed the opposition coalition. “The names you have called have never sought office in the PNC (People’s National Congress) or they have never requested any office in any future government. They are Guyanese citizens who have merely stated their choice. They feel APNU and AFC will be able to provide the quality of life for all Guyanese citizens,” said Granger.
Granger, instead, accused the PPPC-led administration of militarization by employing senior officers in the Ministry of Finance, Office of the President, Civil Defence Commission and even made a dismissed officer a Minister of Home Affairs.
Some 10 days away from General polls former President Bharrat Jagdeo has warned of the militarization of Guyana should APNU+AFC, which is being headed by former military officer Granger win. The PPPC has since toned down its attacks on the military and President Donald Ramotar, in an open letter to the service personnel, has urged them to vote for the PPPC.
During his address at the launching of the party’s manifesto on Thursday , APNU+AFC Prime Ministerial candidate Moses Nagamootoo, told the Disciplined Forces, “we wish you well. Vote for change,” he urged.
Nagamootoo said, “Our men and women in uniform, we are told that they will be militarizing this country, but now we know they are in battle; ready to protect us and protect Guyana. They will be there to ensure we enter these elections peacefully.” Nagamootoo urged the ranks for, “A smooth transition of Office for APNU+AFC coalition as we take governance in Guyana in a climate of stability and peace.”
Granger called the former President a liar when he attempts to speak of a recruits’ annual pay today, being larger than the army’s entire budget in 1990-1991. “He does not explain the value of money then and inflation which has taken place, so he can make those allegations. He thinks he’s talking to fools.”
Granger said that the APNU+AFC Administration will give the Forces quality training, a superior command structure and increases in pay which was recommended 11 years ago by the Disciplined Forces Commission. He said they will receive quality assets in terms of aviation, resources to patrol land borders and maritime assets for coastland patrols to prevent smuggling.
“Jagdeo has never given them those assets; that is why we had a problem in 2000 with the CGX. He has never strengthened the coast guard sufficiently to allow it to protect our assets.”“He has never given the defense force the type of assets it really needs to keep this country safe.” About 14 years ago, Surinamese gun-boats chased out a CGX-hired oil rig from an offshore concession in the Guyana-Suriname basin. The United Nations Tribunal on the Law of the Sea later settled the dispute in a final and binding decision.
The political leader charged that when things go wrong the Forces are blamed, but the Administration never takes responsibility for the poor management. Granger said he was instrumental in some of the recommendations given to the governing party; some 15 reports, none of which were implemented.
Granger insisted that the government is dishonest based on their utterances and their actions. He too urged the ranks to, “vote well, vote for change. Give yourself the opportunity to grow and serve your country professionally.”