Eighteen years after it was disestablished by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration, the Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) has been re-activated and hopes to recruit an additional 1,500 persons as reserves.
Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips has announced that the GPM has been re-established with effect December 1, 2015 in keeping with the defence policy of the six- month old civilian administration.
“These are not full-time, these are part-time soldiers. The whole concept is to have a small regular army and a larger reserve that could augment the regular army,” he said.
Phillips explained the advantage of having the GPM as a separate entity rather than being part of the GDF as the 2nd Infantry Battalion since August, 1997. “They will have a separate budget and a separate organizational structure, greater involvement at the regional and community levels in defence and security activities, not to mention training and employment activities,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
The Commandant of the GPM is Colonel Patrick West who is previously Commanding Officer, 2nd Infantry Battalion (Reserve). “His task outlined is to start building the Reserve, building the Militia,” said Phillips.
The Chief of Staff said several drill halls countrywide would be rehabilitated and Regional Companies would be strengthened through recruitment and the provision of more leadership training for officers and senior non-commissioned officers. “We have not done any major or sustained maintenance of basically all the infrastructures in the different regions and it is our intention to start focusing on that in 2016. We are not going to achieve everything in 2016 but we are going to start in 2016,” he said.
The GPM was established in 1976 in accordance with the Defence Act at a time when the country had been facing internal and security threats.
Writing in the Guyana Review in November 2008, Retired Brigadier David Granger had said that the Militia during its 20-year existence had proven to be a vital component of the defence system that allowed citizens to contribute to national security on a part-time basis without making a full-time commitment to military service. With the loss of autonomy and the depletion in its strength, however, the esprit de corps that was nourished for two decades dissipated.
He had said that many of the Militia’s inherent advantages were lost. Regions without reservists, for example, could no longer assist the regular force to secure porous borders and coastlines or provide organised labour in the event of natural disasters such as floods and other environmental hazards. Most of all, the social capital amassed by the morale and zeal that once motivated ordinary citizens to serve as soldiers and to sacrifice their leisure time to make their country safer seems to have been squandered.
With regards to the GDF, the Chief of Staff said additional persons are being trained as soldiers to deal with attrition due to resignations and retirement so that the army remains at the authorized strength.
An estimated 1,000 persons have been recruited in 2014 and 2015. Phillips said a number of the 55 persons who went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) have been taking steps to return to duty.
Government also expects to boost the GDF’s Engineer Corps to be involved in infrastructural development in the hinterland.
The GDF also intends to acquire more aircraft and patrol vessels during the next four years.