‘Heavily armed military officers’ did not guard President at graduation ceremony – Harmon clarifies

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A letter published by the Stabroek News today has caught the ire of the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), which described the contents as “iniquitous [wicked], malicious and misleading.”

The letter is headlined “Heavily armed military officers guarded the President when he came to speak to school student” and the author’s name was withheld by the newspaper.

In the first paragraph of the letter, the writer states, “What I witnessed was nothing short of mind boggling in terms of the level of security amassed around the President during his time at the school. Army officers too numerous to count and heavily weaponized guarded the building.  It reminded me of a recent event at Queen’s College where new students were asked to be present in the auditorium to hear the President speak.  Their parents were kept outside in the yard for almost two hours.  When the President arrived heavily armed officers were stationed at all the doorways to the auditorium and in and around the school.”

But the MOTP in a statement on Tuesday evening made it clear that security for the President is provided by the Presidential Guard Unit, which is a Unit of the Guyana Police Force.

“Security is not provided at any time by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).  Therefore, no ‘Army Officer’ would have been at either at the events in the capacity described.  Further, the President attended both events referenced with a reduced security detail based on the security needs assessment for those types of events.  At the graduation ceremony of the St. Roses High School on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 there were no armed officers in the venue,” the MOTP statement clarified.

It was further noted that a similar detail was assigned to provide security services for the President at the orientation ceremony for new entrants into the Queen’s College Secondary School on August 31, 2017.

“The Ministry rejects the untruths, which were carried in this letter without any attempt by the publication to verify the aspersions and statements made. It is filled with several spurious and wild claims, which are not only unfairly injurious to the Head of State and the Government of Guyana but also the reputation of the members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force.”

Meanwhile, the statement quoted Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who rubbished the claims in the letter, as he noted that nothing could be further from the truth.

“Presidential Guards are a Police Unit and there are no military officers who are in the President’s Security detail when he travels in this way. The cursory glance by anyone who was there at those two events would have shown that they were only Police Officers in black clothes. There are no military officers with any big guns as the letter is seeking to suggest at any of these two events,” Harmon was quoted as saying in the statement.

According to the statement, Minister Harmon noted that despite the recent threats to the President’s life, the Head of State has not increased or changed his security detail and has been moving around the country frequently. He questioned why a newspaper “that parades itself in a cloak of credibility” would risk its reputation by publishing the letter with name of author withheld, without seeking to find out whether its contents were based in fact.

“I think that that its totally rubbish and that Stabroek News as a responsible Newspaper, when something like that would have come to them, the easiest thing for them to do was  to make a call to the Ministry of the Presidency  or DPI [Department of Public Information] or Press and Publicity Department of the Ministry of the Presidency

President David Granger upon his arrival at Queen’s College in August 2017.

and they would have gotten the facts…But the question I would have is why would Stabroek News carry such a letter and the clear insinuation in it that the President is seeking to have dictatorial powers… It really leaves one to ask the question, why would something like this appear in the news and it affects the President himself… I want to debunk that nonsense that is written there as utter rubbish and it should be condemned to the garbage heap,” Harmon was quoted as saying.

Additionally, the MOTP statement quoted the Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West, who said that the Army does not hold responsibility for the security of the Head of State, nor has it ever been asked to provide that service.

“We have not provided security for the President for that activity or any other activity. When the President visits our location on Bases, we have a closed space here and we provide security in the confines of our Bases for the President, but that’s what we do and even in those cases you have the Presidential security present,” the Chief of Staff was quoted as saying.

According to the statement, Brigadier West said that Stabroek News, at no time, made contact with the GDF to ascertain the veracity of the contents in the letter.

“While noting that he is not at liberty to decipher the agenda behind the letter, he said that the GDF’s role is to provide security for the nation, ensure that the integrity of the borders is maintained, aggression is defined and the normal functions of the institution are carried out to ensure a peaceful country.”

The MOTP attached a number of images captured at the two events mentioned., which it said confirm that the accusations made in the letter are untrue.

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