Home Top Stories President confirms ‘operational interference’ in Army – Opposition Leader
…ranks concerned about “whimsical” changes affecting promotions, benefits
Changes being sporadically and whimsically made by the Ministry of the Presidency into the operations of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) are affecting the promotion of army ranks and inevitably their morale.
This is according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who recently told the media that an anonymous letter highlighted the complaints and concerns from some army officials about practices which are having negative impacts on their performance and their future in the military.
However, he noted that President David Granger was yet to address those issues raised, which specifically spoke to allegations that centred on his involvement and interference in the smooth operations of the GDF.
“They (army ranks) are saying that the changes, that the junior officers, have a shifting goal post to meet to get to be promoted and that the standards and that the rules keep changing all the while. And that they are done based on the whims and the fancies of the Ministry of the Presidency, and it is not discussed with the senior officers even in the GDF. That is a very specific allegation that it is done this way, that, therefore, officers’ promotions are affected and they don’t get answers,” he said.
Jagdeo pointed to another major concern that was raised by the army ranks which revolve around the process of interdiction.
“The rule has been changed now that if you are interdicted and one year passes, the instruction from the Ministry of the Presidency and the President, is to terminate your employment. And they are saying that the court matter could even take more than a year. So, if their employment is terminated now before the case is concluded, and they prevail, how do they then address that situation?” he queried.
Resignation vs retirement of military personnel
Thirdly, the Opposition Leader zoned in on the issue of military ranks retiring from the GDF in comparison to him (Granger) resigning. Changes that have been apparently made by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government have resulted in many of them having to worry about their future and benefits if they choose or have to retire, he said.
“They claimed in the past once they had served after 20 years, they were free to leave, to retire from the Army, with all their benefits once they had met that threshold of 20 years. So, this government has changed this now to say that even if you finish the 20 years and you want to retire, you cannot get your full benefits because we will treat it as a resignation. Therefore, you don’t get any of your benefits, you have to wait out all the years … so this is a big change too,” Jagdeo stated.
He added that he, along with the rest of his Party, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), do not want to politise such issues, but if the ranks themselves were crying out for intervention and have done so publicly, then he would have to speak out on their behalf.
“All I want to say to the Army is to ensure that we treat our soldiers well and the Joint Services…If these concerns have been raised and now publicly, then they need to be addressed and if they are counterproductive, I think the Government should change this.”
Jagdeo also lashed out at the President for his direct interference in the smooth operational process that the GDF had enjoyed prior to the coalition coming into power.
He noted that while President Granger wishes to cast blame on the PPP/C for what he deemed as “organisational neglect” resulting in the destruction of the National Cadet Corps, this is far from the truth.
“I am not sure it was destroyed, but look how disingenuous this is. This government now has former chiefs of staff Atherly, Collins and Gary Best, together they span almost two decades or so, a decade and a half, of governance at the helm of the GDF, so what they are saying is those people presided over the destruction of the National Cadet Corps, and they have all of them in their bosom across there and that’s what they are saying.”
He added that the response from the Ministry of Presidency to that letter mainly focuses on an explanation seeking to justify President Granger’s involvement in the affairs of the army but that he failed to address any concern that the ranks desperately need addressed.
“The release said that the President in his private capacity before entering office complied a book called “Values and Standards of the GDF”. So, imagine what they are saying, they didn’t deny interfering, they are saying the President when he was private citizen compiled a book and now implying that the Army, a State institution must follow what the President complied when he was not even President. So, they have only confirmed now what the officers are saying that there is operational interference.”