GDF better off today than five years ago – President Granger
President David Granger has declared that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is better off today than it was five years ago when he assumed office.
The President made the remarks during his address at the opening of the GDF Annual officer’s conference on Thursday at his official residence at State House in Georgetown.
“The Defence Force, today, is a superior organization to what it was five years ago,” he said, adding that public confidence has been restored in the army and as a consequence, national defence has improved.
The President said monies to the GDF under his Government has increased from just G$ 8.04 B in 2014 to G$13.9 B in 2019.
“These improvements will continue over the next ten years,” the Commander in Chief said.
The Government has not been able to present a budget for this year due to its reduced powers as a result of the Opposition sponsored No-Confidence Motion passed in December 2018.
This year, the President, a retired Brigadier himself, is set to contest the national elections.
One of his major opponents is also a retired Brigadier, Mark Phillips, who is running as the Prime Ministerial Candidate for the main Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
It is believed that the Opposition selected Phillips to capture the votes of the disciplined services.
The President spoke of improvements in the GDF’s technical corps – particularly the Air Corps, Engineer Corps, Signal Corps and Coast Guard.
He said the Air Corps’ fleet was augmented with the acquisition of light reconnaissance aircraft, the force’s recapitalization programme has been boosted by increases in Central Government’s budgetary allocations and defence cooperation has allowed the Force to benefit from donations of equipment, training and participation in military exercises with friendly states.
The President said the militia’s personnel strength has grown from fewer than 125 members in January 2015 to nearly 1,500 in January 2020 and their presence in the ten administrative regions allows for a swifter response to threats and emergencies.
Guyana’s general and regional elections are set for March 2, around the same time the country is expecting its first cargo of oil from the Stabroek Block offshore.
The President said the GDF has been boosted to protect the country’s maritime zone and by extension, investors.
“The interruption of economic activity in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been a grave threat in the recent past. The country’s maritime zone now is the scene of a surge of economic activity; petroleum production has commenced and exploration is continuing.
“The EEZ must be protected from illegal incursions aimed at the intimidation of investors or interference with production,” he told the soldiers gathered at State House on Thursday.
The President said the Coast Guard must be strengthened to provide greater security to investors in petroleum, fishing and other maritime activities.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Chief-of-Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West.
The Chief-of-Staff in his address noted that “ocean patrol vessels for the coast guards are necessary and more offroad vehicles are also necessary in order to ensure that as a force, we have the capabilities that are necessary to support an emerging oil industry.”
He said a total of 2,272 ranks were trained in 2019 compared to 2,250 in 2018. The Chief of Staff said there will be increased border patrols in 2020.
The Guyana Defence Force will celebrate the 55th anniversary of its establishment on November 1.
The annual Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officers’ conference on Thursday opened under the theme “Effective Transformation for Total National Defence.”