Coastguard should be a separate armed service
Stabroek News
March 16, 2004

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Dear Editor,

It was with great awe that I read of the issues presented to the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) by Officers of the Air Corps and Coast Guard, GDF. I recall while an Officer Cadet, the School Sergeant Major (SSM) quipping that we, like him, "had joined for the money," not to be patriotic and serve the country as many of us had stated to the Commission's Board. But little did he know that for the following 12 months, money was of no significance, and that we were indeed there to pursue our personal development and ultimately that of the country.

Maj. Charles' presentation failed to include the fact that of the 60 odd pilots trained by the GDF, many were hand-picked, not necessarily for their 'academic prowess' but due to their acquaintance to some senior officer or government functionary - a practice which continues to date. These selections too, were not peculiar to the Coast Guard. Many who with earnest intention had joined the force to become pilots were either sidelined or relegated to the ranks of the Infantry Units, and left to languish (hungry, of course) on border locations without rations for weeks on-end, while helicopters and planes flew, legitimately and 'illegitimately', over-head with their bellies filled with mining equipment, supplies, and miners between locations. Further, he neglected to state that many of the aircraft were mashed-up, not necessarily by poor maintenance, but by the wanton abuse of senior officers 'illegitimately' using such aircraft for hunting and fishing trips.

On the issue of the Coast Guard, little was mentioned of the efforts of Captain Hinds (deceased) and Commander George who with professional and great skill managed to maintain the 'flotilla' in dire circumstances and to bring it to its present status respectively. But again, the incumbent Commander comes with the same old-ball - 'leaving' for greener pastures'. Then why did he leave the force for almost 7 years and was allowed to return? Wasn't there anyone more qualified and who could have efficiently 'skippered' the vessel?

He (the Commander) certainly would have made a greater impact had he suggested to the DFC, "That the Coast Guard would be much better off standing as a separate Armed Service." That is, being removed from under 'the dull echelons in green' sitting high and mighty in the 'concrete jungle' of Camp Ayanganna. And that it could benefit from increased foreign training and subventions (cash and equipment), from donor governments.

They need to move away from the excuses of 'poor remuneration and leaving for greener pastures' and face reality. The average soldier would admit that the most recognized officers were always those of the Air Corps - with their shiny rides, big houses and posh lifestyles. How could these be acquired when they were supposedly paid poorly? Further, the government and the Ayanganna 'Boys' cannot continue to stifle the 'Coasties' of the resources desperately needed for successful policing of the exclusive economic zone.

Yours faithfully,

Ex-officer (name and

address provided)

Editor's note:

We sent a copy of this letter to Brigadier Michael Atherly, Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force for his comments and received the following response from Lieutenant Colonel K. Persaud:

"Thank your for forwarding the letter from a reader on the presentation of the Air Corps and Coast Guard to the Disciplined Forces Commission.

The Air Corps and Coast Guard are key units that fulfill critical functions which assist the Guyana Defence Force in achieving its overall mission, both units are so treated by the Forces' Administration.

A significant amount of evidence was taken by the Disciplined Forces Commission on their visit to these two Units.

It is unfortunate that the writer chooses to offer his comments to the media and not to the Disciplined Forces Commission or the Guyana Defence Force itself, as such, it would be premature and useless to deliberate on this matter at this time."