The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is being geared up to help combat security threats other than its primary focus of protecting the country from its neighbours that continue to lay territorial claims.
Addressing senior GDF officers earlier this week, President David Granger said changes in the international and local environments made some of Guyana’s old approaches to public order and national security ineffectual.
The Commander-in-Chief reasoned that operations against criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money-laundering, back-trafficking and gun-running are often interrelated and so could not be conducted against only one of them.
Instead, he made out a strong case for cooperation among various state security actors including the GDF in keeping with a total national defence policy that will implement a five-year national security strategy that focuses on total defence.
“This would require a much higher degree of inter-agency co-operation than obtains at present, to combine defence with diplomacy, economic development with law enforcement, and the civil authority with the defence force,” said Granger, a retired GDF Brigadier.
Granger warned that if the threats were not addressed, criminal enterprises could take over power. “Law enforcement agencies could not respond appropriately to the new threats which, if left unchecked, could allow power to fall into the hands of undesirables.
The President has identified the need to increase the numbers of the regular defence force and the reserve which would be re-established as the Guyana People’s Militia. The militia was scrapped in 1997 and its members absorbed into the GDF as the 2nd Infantry Battalion.
Various quarters of the international community have been expressing confidence in the Granger-led coalition government to stamp out corruption, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has suggested that the fight against corruption in Guyana and other countries is being influenced heavily by the United States (US).
Successive Presidents / Commanders-in-Chief under the PPP administration from 1992 to May 2015 had cited the need for the GDF to play greater roles in combating transnational crimes and internal security.
President Granger has assured that soldiers would never be deployed to assist the police unless it is absolutely necessary, according to the law, and should withdraw immediately after their mission would have been completed. “Operations, in future, should have a clear and carefully defined mission. Troops, once
their mission has been accomplished, should return to barracks. The Force must not be allowed to become part of the rural landscape. The business of public order and everyday law enforcement, such as catching criminals, is a Police task and should remain so,” he said.
He noted that the defence force and the Guyana Police Force have operated jointly on several occasions in the past. “This was usually done only after a prolonged period of joint training, the establishment of joint operations centres which often included the co-location of troops with policemen in police compounds and, most of all, a clear definition and separation of duties and roles,” he said.
The then main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) had objected strenuously to the deployment of soldiers to trouble-spots such as Buxton, then a haven for heavily armed gangs, and mobile patrols in parts of the city and coast.