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It must have come as a shock that the Government is utilising the engineers from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to build projects in the communities. According to the President and Commander-in-Chief, Irfaan Ali, it is the government’s aim is to sensitise communities of the developmental role that the military could play while reinforcing confidence in the armed forces. Over the years the GDF was vilified and maligned by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Guyanese can remember when the engineering department was utilised in construction works in the communities during the Forbes Burnham Government. The then Opposition PPP accused the Burnham government of militarising the country. During that period the army engineers built the Garden of Eden farm, provided technical (engineering) support during the construction of housing schemes and built interior roads, to name a few. These officers are highly trained, skilled and disciplined. Utilising their expertise in construction work in the wider society could only be for good for Guyana.
It is a pity the government wants Guyanese to now think using the soldiers’ expertise in the communities is reinforcing confidence in the armed forces that they spent years ridiculing, treating with disdain and undermining. It is the same GDF that would travel abroad and help rebuild societies ravished by natural disasters and political conflicts. These are our men and women in uniform. Those who respect and value their service and expertise never wavered in their confidence in them. Many remain ever so grateful for their service, protecting us and always ready to do their best at a moment’s notice even when the Government takes them for granted, insults and treats them badly.
Guyanese could remember only too well in the 2015 Election the PPP/C demonised the military. During the campaign they told their supporters not to vote for the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change Coalition. They told their supporters that a government led by a former head of the GDF, retired Brigadier David Granger, would mean the army would come kicking down the doors of PPP supporters.
The 2015 election happened, the Coalition was elected to office, and served for five years. Not one day did any supporter of the PPP had to fear or report their doors being kicked down by our men and women in uniform. In 2020 the PPP, having ridiculed the Coalition for having former military officers in their government, chose none other than a former retired Chief of Staff for its prime ministerial candidate.
Some would argue imitation is the greatest form of flattery, though the PPP’s damage to the army’s image is already done. Now they are seeking to clean up the hate and division they created by sending the army engineers into their communities to build bridges. They are on a damage control blitz, to assure the supporters they taught to hate our men and women in uniform that they are not aliens, bandits, murderers, rapists. These uniformed men and women are fellow Guyanese who are daily putting their lives at risk to protect ours.
Presently the army engineers are building bridges in Burma Dam to Catherine on the border with neighbouring Abary. In Lesbeholden they are constructing a 90 feet span lightweight vehicular bridge, and similar bridges are slated for construction at Cove and John in Region Four and Prem- Nagar in Region Three. There is also expected collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport to upgrade the restroom facilities at the Port Mourant Community Centre. All these constructions are happening in the PPP’s stronghold.
The Opposition, particularly the Member of Parliament with oversight responsibility for the military, should enquire about the government’s plan for similar projects in the strongholds of the Coalition. If there is none the Coalition must identify needed projects and deliver to the President and subject ministry for construction, repairs, remodeling and repurposing. The primary role of the GDF is to ensure the protection and safety of all Guyanese. The last thing that must happen is for our military to become a partisan political arm, building projects in communities only where supporters of the PPP dominate.