By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Speaking at the opening of the Annual Officers’ Conference – 2014, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Brigadier Mark Phillips reiterated the Force’s constant efforts to abstain from partisan politics.
Brigadier Phillips told the gathering of Officers and other senior members of other law enforcement agencies that the GDF remains committed to national defence and security, adding that once compromise it becomes the concern of all, including the Government, political opposition and civil society.
The Army Chief’s comment comes on the heels of criticism from the governing party – Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) – of a recent meeting between him and Opposition Leader David Granger.
General Secretary of the PPP/C Clement Rohee on Tuesday, February 25 had questioned the substance of the Opposition Leader’s meeting and support for the GDF, particularly its allocation in the upcoming 2014 National Budget.
According to Rohee, the Party had noted with disgust Granger’s pronouncement following the meeting. Granger is a retired Brigadier.
Granger along with Joseph Harmon, also a former GDF Officer and former Commissioner of Police Winston Felix had met with Brigadier Mark Phillips just under a month ago following revelations in international media linking Guyana to international drug mafias.
Following the meeting, Granger had said that the Opposition was willing and ready to lend whatever support it can to help strengthen the technical arm of the GDF, particularly aviation, coast guard and land assets.
The Opposition Leader, who noted his support for increased budgetary allocations to the Army told reporters then that the Army’s sea and aviation assets were largely insufficient to go after traffickers and protect Guyana’s borders.
Also speaking at today’s event was President Donald Ramotar. He said “when it comes to defending this nation I want to let the Army know that it is not alone, it has the strong commitment of the political directorate.”
He said his administration’s desire is to ensure that within the country’s financial means the military is provided with resources to be in a state of readiness, adding that “It is the responsibility of the government to determine the level of assistance provided to military and I wish to sound a reminder that over the last two decades the Army has received more funding than another time in history.”
There was much talk between the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Staff of improved technical resources for the Force in 2014. Three new patrol vessels have already been acquired while another two will be bought by the Government and will be handed over in the third quarter in 2014.
Brigadier Phillips said that the Army’s existing fleet of aircraft is also set for rehabilitation while the two Bell helicopters are slated for complete independent inspections this year.
Additionally the Chief said other concerns including increase man power are being addressed.