Guyana Defence Force in National Development

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The case for the Guyana Defence Force to be involved in national development is enshrine in the birth of the Force and it is articulated as the third part of the Force’s tripartite role:
1.“Defend the territorial integrity of Guyana.
2.Assist the civil power in the maintenance of law and order when required to do so. 3.Contribute to the economic development of Guyana.”[1]
The question then has to be, how will the Force be most effective in fulfilling this role. This essay contends that good civil-military relations with government and non-government organisations are critical to the successful fulfilment of this role. To demonstrate the relationship between successful national development activities and good civil-military relations, I will examine areas of development the Force can be most effective and show that the level of effectiveness will be driven by the quality civil-military relations in the said area. What then are the areas of development that the Guyana Defence Force can be most effective?

The following areas of development were selected because the military role and level of success is easily measureable: 1.Engineering – infrastructural work; road construction, housing projects for low income earners, etc. 2.Health services – medical outreaches; military doctors, dentists providing service in hinterland areas, etc. 3.Education – military personnel both soldiers and civilians are employed as teachers in hinterland areas where there are limited schools, etc. 4.Economic – military personnel being employed on economic projects; such as the establishment of micro-industries, for example, farming. 5.Administrative – Officers are seconded to administrative positions in government agencies and even the other Services of the Joint Services. 6.Aviation – Augmenting the transportation of people and goods to the hinterland regions.

Throughout most of its history the Force has been involved in national development by way of executing engineering projects particularly in the areas of hinterland roads and bridges construction. Also, the construction of low cost housing and airstrip rehabilitation are other areas where the Force participated in engineering works. This commitment to national development by way of executing engineering projects was highlighted in “Guyana’s Draft Second Development Plan, 1972-1976 which assigned specific responsibilities, to the Engineer Corps, for the construction of hinterland roads and bridges, the upgrading of airstrips and projects such as the rehabilitation of the hydro-electric power station at Tumatumari”[2]

The success of the Force involvement in these ventures is commendable, however, the Force was unable to remain committed to such ventures as a single source agency as time progress. This was due to lack of resources; both human and mainly material. Therefore, one can argue that a civil-military relation framework by way of partnership with a government or non-government would have enhanced the Force’s longevity in its commitment to such ventures. This was not lost to the Force administration and is exemplified in the Force’s most recent commitment to engineering projects as detailed in the Stabroek News. “Five ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) received keys to new homes at Tuschen Housing Scheme, East Bank Essequibo last week as part of a an ongoing partnership between Habitat for Humanity Guyana; the Ministry of Housing and the army to assist ranks with affordable housing.”[3]

Noteworthy is the commitment of government or non-government organisations to have such partnerships with the Force in this sector, as detailed in the same article, “Chairman of the Management Board at Habit for Humanity, Alex Graham remarked that the GDF has the capacity to play an integral role in various aspects of the housing response...
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