CWC will be `free from fear’ -- Army Chief pledges By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
March 9, 2007

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ARMY Chief of Staff Brigadier General Edward Collins yesterday assured that Guyana’s hosting of the major upcoming Cricket World Cup (CWC) tournament will take place in a climate that is “free from fear”.

“This year holds the promise of a very exciting one for the nation as a whole and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) will continue to provide the vanguard service that it has traditionally given to ensure that an enabling security climate is provided for the nation’s aspirations to be realized,” he said.

At the opening of the annual Army Officers Conference at the GDF Camp Ayanganna headquarters in Georgetown, Collins said the Army, operating in partnership with the Guyana Police Force, will ensure that the secure and stable environment created in 2006, continues unabated this year.

This, he said, will be achieved by the continued execution of operations on both the land and maritime spectrums of Guyana.

“Just as how we remained undaunted in 2006 by the theft of our weapons (missing AK-47s) and strove manfully to recover them while at the same time ensuring internal stability, so it is that we will continue this year to prosecute operations to ensure that high profile security activities such as the Cricket World Cup 2007 take place in a climate that is free from fear.”

His assurance came on the heels of the elaborate and successful security arrangements in place for the seven Presidents and members of 20 foreign delegations at last week’s historic Rio Group Summit in Guyana.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Bharrat Jagdeo, in the feature address at the conference, lauded the Army (and Police) for the “excellent security arrangements” in place at the summit.

President Jagdeo said Guyana has done remarkably well and the security arrangements for that event here can be favourably compared to any such arrangements for major events held around the world.

He said he felt a “strong sense of pride” when fellow Heads of State at the Rio Summit spoke about the “excellent arrangements” that were in place, especially in the area of security.

“I am very pleased with the role that the Joint Services played and I am sure that, and I can foresee this, you will play no less a role when we host World Cup Cricket – another activity that will showcase our country to the rest of the world,” President Jagdeo told the gathering.

Collins yesterday also lauded his officers and the work done by the Joint Services at the summit, saying it was “a job well done”.

“It has been no small task, for the military demands a lot from its members. We must cope with extreme demands, frequent hardships and ever present danger on top of a scarcity of resources. Yet, at the same time, we are richly rewarded with a unique sense of accomplishment that rises from meeting the expectations of our people.”

The Army Chief of Staff also said nothing must be allowed to “fracture” the growing cohesiveness among the Joint Services, which has evolved in recent times to a point of enhanced operational effectiveness between the Army and Police.

“Sticking together, therefore, is not only a useful deduction -- it is a national security imperative.”

According to him, “joint-ness” is an imperative that naturally flows out of the reality of scarce resources.

“I believe (this joint-ness between the Army and Police) is here to stay and whether there are negating factors, endogenous to the Joint Services or exogenous influences acting on our togetherness, nothing must be allowed to fracture this relationship.”

BORDER THREATS Apart from assisting in the maintenance of internal stability, Collins said the GDF will also continue to execute another of its core functions with the manning of Guyana’s border locations so as to be positioned to define any aggression against the state.

In this regard, he assured that the implications for national security interests and the challenges posed to Guyana’s sovereignty will be explored at yesterday’s conference, given the reported flurry of bilateral initiatives being pursued by Guyana’s neighbours to improve their maritime capabilities.

“The aim is to establish an understanding of the character, purpose and nature of the threat.”

“Once this has been achieved, the conference will then address the operational posture, the training objectives and the equipment needs required to deal with those threats,” he added.

In this regard, he noted that the past year focused more on the Army’s subsidiary role of internal security than its primary role of border defence.

Last year, he recalled, was “marked by very high operational tempo occasioned by the theft of the weapons”, referring to the shocking disappearance of 30 high-powered AK-47 assault rifles from the GDF storage bond at Camp Ayanganna, and the continuing efforts to recover all the weapons.

Noting that Operation Ferret was launched to recover those weapons, with its subsidiary Opposition Centipede, Collins said these operations, now in the 368th day, are by “any comparison the longest operation ever conducted by the Joint Services” but worth every ounce of operational energy and effort.

Collins also pointed out that the Army’s decision to operate primarily out of the troubled East Coast Demerara village of Buxton has brought “a dramatic change to the security landscape of that village”, which was once renowned only for being a haven for heavily armed and dangerous bandits.

He said, too, that during the year under review (2006) other operations branched out of Operation Ferret, one of which was conducted as a Joint Services response to the dramatic and daring robbery of two banks in Rose Hall, Corentyne which resulted in the recovery of a large portion of the stolen money.

Operation Ferret, he said, flowed into the unprecedented Operation Plexus, which ensured there was a safe and secure environment within the period from the dissolution of the 8th Parliament to the sitting of the 9th Parliament during which time the unprecedented national and regional elections were held on August 28.

He said Operation Plexus concluded without incident, and this was followed by Operation Dragnet which lasted nine days for the recapture of nine prisoners who had escaped from the Mazaruni Prisons.

Finally, there was Operation Southern Cone, catering to the security needs of the just concluded Rio Summit.

“All of this is testimony to the hard work of the Joint Services but all of this would be set at naught if we do not recover our weapons,” the Army Chief of Staff told his officers in the presence of President Jagdeo.

Collins said the recovery of the missing AK-47 weapons “must remain on our operational radar” and urged the Army’s intelligence to “accelerate its rebuilding process to develop new operatives, having suffered from a nasty blow to their clandestine efforts and a serious dent to their intelligence collection plan”.

Acknowledging that these things take time, Collins said the Army will continue to use whatever means available to recover the weapons.

“That’s an order and recovering those weapons, being the end must justify the means (and) you have my word that I am not one to be questioning means once the weapons are recovered.”