Last Updated on Friday, 16 October 2015, 1:22 by GxMediaPresident David Granger has announced plans to increase the number of regular soldiers, reintroduce the Guyana People’s Militia and beef up the air and marine wings of the Guyana Defence Force as part of a five-year “total defence” strategy.
Addressing GDF Officers at the army’s headquarters at Camp Ayanganna, he said the GDF’s five pillars must include recruiting more soldiers and reserves.
“The Force must be brought up to the authorised establishment strength to meet current and unforeseen challenges. A study will be done to examine how the ‘regular force’ could be augmented,” said the Retired Brigadier and current Commander-in-Chief.
The President also announced that the Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) would be re-established in all 10 administrative regions to render assistance in times of floods, threats to public order and other emergencies.
“The ‘reserve force’ must be re-constituted and maintained at a minimum of 50 per cent of the strength of the ‘regular force,’ he said.
The Reserve was established in 1976 and downsized by the previous People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration in 1997 into the 2nd Infantry Battalion. The GDF’s strength is estimated at about 2,000 persons.
He explained that beefing up the regular and reserve components of the GDF was part of a “Total Defence” strategy. “This policy – Total National Defence – emphasises the need for all the elements and instruments of national power to be combined to protect our territory. This policy will, on implementation, give our regular and reserve forces the resources they need to perform their mission over the next five years. The long-term objective is to ensure that Guyanese will be able to depend on defence forces, which will ensure the safety of the citizens and the security of the country,” he said.
Granger said the Civil Defence Corps is to be established to support the work of the Civil Defence Commission in responding to and managing disasters.
The President expects the GDF to continue being a key player in defence diplomacy by building on its participation in several United States-sponsored Exercise Tradewinds and contributions to disaster relief in several Caribbean countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat and Grenada that had been hit by hurricanes over the decades. “Guyana’s defence policy, as proposed in the BNSC Report, should be in accord with the state’s foreign policy and diplomatic posture. Defence diplomacy contributes to building confidence between armed forces and, in extreme cases, to preventing conflict, managing crises and resolving disputes between states,” he said.
Eyeing a well-commanded, well-trained and well-equipped force that is multi-role, flexible and fully-integrated with sufficient support weapons, the President said the Air Corps and Coast Guard should be upgraded to provide continuous surveillance of Guyana’s air, territorial and maritime borders and approaches and support search-and-rescue services to persons in distress.
Granger wants the Engineer Corps to help restore defence and public infrastructure. “This Corps once had the capability to contribute to the celebrated Mahdia-Annai and Itaballi-Sand Landing road projects. The non-completion of these projects is partially responsible for the underdevelopment of the hinterland,” he said.
The President’s restated that the National Cadet Corps would be re-established to allow boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years in secondary schools to pursue part-time training to prepare them for adult life. The GDF has already announced that the pilot schools identified for the Cadet Programme include the New Amsterdam Multilateral and the Stewartville Secondary.
Granger noted that the position of Adjutant General has been restored to allow a dedicated superior officer to pay undivided attention to discipline, the selection and recruitment of personnel, promotions, career planning and troops’ morale and well-being.
Now that the position of Quartermaster General has been restored, the President hopes that such a superior officer will ensure that finance is provided to improve infrastructure and ensure that equipment is acquired, repaired or replaced, that troops’ living conditions, meals and uniforms are adequate and that munitions and weapons are acquired and supplied in a timely manner.
The position of Inspector General is meant to ensure that the appropriate superior officer is responsible for maintaining the Force in a state of operational readiness and interoperability with fraternal Caribbean defence forces, he said. “This will be achieved through the improvement of training methods and schools and the conduct of training exercises,” he said.