GDF to spearhead border education; Air Corps tasked with forest monitoring

Last Updated on Wednesday, 8 February 2023, 19:28 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali addressing the opening of the 2023 Annual Officers Conference.

President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday announced that military officers would undergo training on territorial issues so that they could train other members of the Disciplined Services at border locations as well as school-age children living in communities there.

“I believe strongly that they should be very knowledgeable. Part of their mandate should be teaching, doing special lectures and classes and he schools within those districts, educating the private sector…,” he told the opening of the 2023 GDF Officers Conference.

The announcement comes amid ongoing Social Media posts by persons and organisations in neighbouring Venezuela showing that Guyana’s Essequibo is part of that Spanish-speaking neighbour and others in Suriname showing that the New River is part of that former Dutch colony.

The President charged the GDF officers conference to devise a “specific agenda” in addressing the need for officers to be trained in border affairs, and the development of a manual on Guyana’s borders for every officer who would be posted at border location so that he or she is trained and could train others. “That manual should be a product of this conference,” he said.  He added that the GDF’s responsibility should include training police, prison warders and firefighters in those far-flung areas of Guyana. “They must be able to train and educate every individual operating at our border on borders with the knowledge,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud recently told Demerara Waves Online News that there have been fewer posts on Facebook and Twitter that misrepresent Guyana’s borders following complaints to the executives of those two Social media giants.

Air Corps

And as the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) seemed poised to acquire more aircraft, Dr Ali told military officers at their annual conference that the Air Corps needs to monitor the country’s forests which are worth millions of dollars. “If that is the case, those working in Air Corps should find it important and necessary to capture activities, events and circumstances in their flights that must attract the attention of policymakers and the Defence Board and the Defence Force,” he said. In addition to logging and other forest products, Guyana recently signed a US$750 million carbon credit deal  with the United States oil company Hess as the forest absorbs greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

The President said that aerial monitoring required a sense of awareness to effectively use the aircraft in a larger role rather than merely moving people and equipment. “There are many other things that that asset can bring into us from a security and development perspective that we are not capitalising on because that awareness is not there,” he said. More than 20 years ago, the GDF aircraft had been used to go after illegal Brazilian gold miners, garimpeiros, who had been ravaging waterways and forests to extract the precious yellow metal.

Dr Ali said over the long term government hoped to modernise the Air Corps and Coast Guard.

Chief-of-Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Godfrey Bess said a brand new offshore patrol vessel is expected to be added to the Coast Guard’s fleet and the Air Corps is expected to acquire another Bell 412 helicopter to add to the Bell 412 helicopter that was acquired three years ago.  Brigadier Bess added that the King Air 350 would shortly be available to the GDF. He said the President was aggressively seeking to have additional fixed wing planes to complement our aged Skyvans. He hinted that Guyana would soon acquiree equipment to “improve our domain awareness.” “Your investments in these critical areas are very important; especially as Guyana continues to develop as a petrol state.

President Ali, during his recent visit to India, expressed an interest in buying two HAL 228 planes for the GDF.