Army's role should be defined in constitution

Stabroek News
April 27, 1999

(This is the submission by the Guyana Defence Force to the Constitution Reform Commission. We shall be publishing extracts from other submissions.)


(1) The Constitution should succinctly state the tri-partite role of the Guyana Defence Force.

The Force shall be charged with:-

(a) Defining aggression and maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

(b) Assisting the civil power in the maintenance of law and order.

(c) Promoting national development through the provision of technical expertise and resources to assist the civilian authorities in the maintenance of essential services in times of emergency.


(2) The New Constitution should state clearly that the Guyana Defence Force is made up of land, sea, air and Reserve Forces. By so providing, the status quo of the present force would be preserved, whilst at the same time allowing for any future expansion of the force if and when the situation so dictates.


(3) The officer in whom the command of the force shall be vested shall be chosen and appointed from amongst officers on active service and who at the time of such appointment shall have had a minimum of ten years continuous commissioned service.

The President shall, upon the recommendation of the Parliamentary Sub-committee on Defence, appoint the officer in whom the command of the force is vested.

Apolitical nature of the organisation

(4) The Guyana Defence Force shall be apolitical; that is to say, it shall not be deployed for partisan political purposes. The right to vote shall be guaranteed to its members and any such vote shall be treated with the strictest confidentiality and not disclosed or declared as a separate component in any elections.

Parliamentary oversight

(5) This recommendation can be broken down into two separate parts:-

(a) Defence board

The Defence Board (DB) as provided for in the Defence Act shall retain its current composition. There shall be enshrined in the Constitution, however, a provision which creates this board charging it with the responsibility of dealing specifically with Guyana
Defence Force (military) issues.

(b) Parliamentary sub-committee on defence

This body shall be empowered by the Constitution to deal with national (general) security issues at the parliamentary level. This sub-committee shall provide necessary civilian oversight of the security forces and will ensure transparency in their dealings. The
Defence Board shall liaise with this body from time to time, but the officer vested with the command of the force shall have direct access to this body on issues affecting the operational efficiency of the force. The chairman of this sub-committee shall be the
Member of Parliament who has the responsibility for defence.

Employment of GDF troops outside of Guyana

(6) Section 7 of the Defence Act should be incorporated in its entirety in the New Constitution to read as follows:-

"The President as Commander-in-Chief may at any time, with the approval of the National Assembly signified by resolution thereof, order that the whole or any part of the force shall be employed out of or beyond Guyana".

Deployment of GDF troops within Guyana (Assistance of civil powers in the maintenance of law and order)

(7) There must be an unequivocal statement in the constitution, outlining the basis for deployment of the Guyana Defence Force or, (any part thereof) in support of the civil authority in the maintenance of law and order. It shall provide how such deployment is to be initiated (whether by the minister responsible for defence, with the approval of the National Assembly or otherwise). This is necessary to protect the civilian population and instill a measure of confidence and security within the wider society.

"The President as Commander-in Chief may, at any time, order that the force or any part thereof be deployed within Guyana to support the civil power in the maintenance of law and order".

Multi-National Exercises.

(8) The participation of GDF troops in any regional or multinational exercise within and outside of Guyana shall be with the prior approval of parliament.

"The President may at any time with the approval of the National Assembly signified by resolution thereof, order that any officer or soldier of the regular force or, with his consent, any officer or soldier of the reserve, shall proceed to any place outside of or within Guyana for the purpose of engaging in joint exercises with any regional or multinational force".