GDF must always be ready for any eventuality – Commander-in-Chief

…says Army will play integral role in developing National Disaster Plan

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Dr Irfaan Ali says that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) must always be ready for any eventuality and as such, will have to play a greater role in the National Disaster Plan to help protect Guyanese and the country’s resources from the effects of climate change.

President Dr Irfaan Ali (centre) with Head of the Fire Service, Kalamadeen Edoo; Army Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Godfrey Bess, acting Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie and Director of Prisons, Nicklon Elliott along with the graduating ranks

He made these remarks while addressing graduates of the GDF Standard Officers’ Course 52 at Base Camp Ayanganna on Tuesday.
The Head of State pointed out that threats of natural disasters and pandemics qualify to be issues of civil defence. To this end, the GDF ranks were told that in addition to securing the country’s territorial integrity, they would have to play a bigger role in civil protection.
Army ranks are currently involved in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and members were actively involved in the national response to the countrywide flooding. They also played a major role in mobilising relief support for St Vincent and the Grenadines following volcanic eruptions in the island state back in April.
According to the President, the Defence Force is now suited to supporting civil protection, disaster preparedness, and disaster response operations presently and in the future. He recalled his address at the recently-concluded Annual GDF Officers’ Conference, where he highlighted that the National Defence Policy would see greater involvement of the army in search-and-rescue operations, disaster response, provision of infrastructural services, the defence and protection of border communities, medical outreaches, medical emergencies, and coaching and honing the talents of local athletes.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Dr Irfaan Ali

“Guyana has no control over the forces of nature. However, we can mitigate their effects and plan to better protect our people and assets. In this regard, Guyana will develop a comprehensive national disaster prevention, preparedness and response plan to help protect our people and our resources from natural and man-made disasters. The Guyana Defence Force will have an integral role in developing and giving effect to this plan,” he stated.
President Ali further posited that this new task would not diminish or detract attention from the GDF’s primary mission of protecting the country’s territorial integrity and defending its national sovereignty.
“Climate change will not disappear and while we all hope that another pandemic will not occur, we must always be ready for any eventuality,” he added.
The Head of State reminded, however, that most of the non-traditional threats were not unique to Guyana, and as a result, the country would continue to build partnerships to collaborate and cooperate in combating and mitigating all threats.
“This is your Force and these are the circumstances under which you are being inducted as officers of the Guyana Defence Force. You will be expected to lead the efforts in defending our country’s territory, in protecting its national patrimony and the safety and well-being of its people; and in supporting our Caribbean brothers and sisters who may be affected by disasters,” the President noted.

Graduates of SOC 52
The 24-month course commenced with 40 students in June of 2019, but whittled down to 16 graduates – two from Belize, two from Antigua and Barbuda, two from St Kitts and Nevis, one from the Guyana Fire Service, one from the Guyana Prison Service, and eight from the GDF.
The Head of State added that the participation of other countries in the course was indicative of Guyana’s commitment to defence cooperation. He said this was also evident by Guyana’s recent hosting of Operation Tradewinds 2021 – which also highlighted the country’s commitment to building the capacities of its neighbours’ defence forces.
“Guyana will continue the long tradition of welcoming officer cadets from our sister Caricom states to train alongside our officers of the Joint Services,” the Commander-in-Chief stated.

President Ali charged the graduates to be prepared for life’s future eventualities through knowledge, commitment, respect and discipline. He told the ranks to be steady, focused, and unwavering in the principles and values of their oaths.
“As you embark on your new careers as officers in your respective services, it is expected that you will exemplify the highest standards of discipline, excellence, professionalism, and leadership.  Your mission is not simply to lead but to make a difference through your leadership,” he implored.
The President charged the graduates to uphold the Constitution, respect the law and to remain worthy of their uniforms.
The graduating ranks are Javid Mohamed, Delon Abrams, Jevon Reid, Ralph Williams, Joshua Ferdinand, Carlon Warde, Roy De Younge, Seanden David-Longe and Jermy Charles from the GDF; Mauro Cucul and Radmon Smith from the Belize Coast Guard; Rayon Emmanuel from the Guyana Prison Service; Mario O’Flaherty and Lakeem Crosse from the St Kitts and Nevis Defence Force; and Leshawn Andrews and Charles Batchelor from the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force.
Mohamed was awarded the Sword of Honour as the best graduating student while Smith received the best international student award. The best drill went to Batchelor, best military knowledge to Abrams, best shot to Smith, and best fitness to Cucul.
The Head of State was accompanied by Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips; Minister within the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh; Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn; National Security Advisor Gerry Gouveia; GDF Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Godfrey Bess; Director of Prisons, Nicklon Elliott; acting Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie, Head of the Guyana Fire Service, Kalamadeen Edoo and other high-level ranks. (G8)