‘Mischief afoot’

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—President Ali says “mischievous elements” attempting entangle Guyana into geopolitical conflicts

By Svetlana Marshall

President Irfaan Ali said Guyana will not be dragged into any geopolitical conflict as he underscored the importance of the maintenance of peace in the Caribbean and Latin American Region.

“Guyana has no interest in seeking confrontation or conflict. We desire peace, and we’re pursuing peace including through the cultivation of friendly and fraternal relations with our neighbours and with other countries and their militaries,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces said as he addressed the Annual Officers’ Conference last Thursday at the National Cultural Centre. Though not pointing to the heightened economic, political and military tensions between the United States of America and China, President Ali said there are “mischievous elements” attempting entangle Guyana into geopolitical conflicts. “Guyana will continue to promote friendly relations with other countries and their defence force but I am aware that there are mischievous elements, who wish to ensnare Guyana into geopolitical conflicts. Guyana has no intention to become a part of this,” the Head of State said.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

He added: “We cherish deeply our friendships and our partnerships with our strategic partners and alliances but we are also monitoring closely any threat not only to Guyana’s security but more importantly to the peaceful existence of this region.”

President Ali said Guyana will support every effort to ensure that the region remains one of peace. “We will partner with every single strategic partner that we have to ensure that this region remains peaceful and to ensure that our territorial integrity and security remain intact,” he said. However, the Guyanese Head of State said the partnership cannot be a one-way street, positing that there must be a collective approach towards the development of an overarching strategy involving countries in the region. “They must feel included in that strategy and they must feel as if they will remain safe and stable in that strategy,” he said. Warning against a dictatorial approach, he said the strategy crafted must be based on consultation.

However, cognizant of existing threats, the President charged the Defence Force to strategise even more and engage in constant scenario modeling. “We have a case at the International Court of Justice; you should be looking at scenarios, looking at models and developing a strategic approach to deal with all these scenarios,” he told the defence officers. He said there are several key areas that will require strategic thinking in crafting the country’s defence strategy, including the threat of climate change, food security, response to natural disasters, as well as analysing the global power shuffle.

The President said that it is imperative to create a “nimble structure that is knowledge-based and high in technology” and incorporate it in the development plan moving forward.

“If you look at the UAE and how they’re developing their defense strategy with the use of technology against different threats; whether it is anti-terrorism measures, whether it’s dealing with drug trafficking. How do we build the technology? What are the gaps in doing so?” the President posited.

The Chief-of-Staff (ag), Godfrey Bess said implicit in the Conference’s theme – ‘Enhancing National Security and Development through Capacity Building, Empowering Troops and Strengthening Community Relations”- is the Force’s commitment to effectively and efficiently protect the nation against all threats; whether domestic or foreign.

While noting that diplomacy remains Guyana’s first line of defense, Bess said GDF is nonetheless mindful of the ominous threat Venezuela poses to the Guyana’s territorial integrity, and stands resolute to defend the country at all cost.

“Consequently, on the international sphere, particularly in relation to border incursions and the blatant aggressive postures taken against Guyana, the GDF remains a strategic partner for international collaboration with the US, the UK, the European Block, India, Columbia, Brazil, Suriname, and our sister Caribbean militaries. Through such collaborations we continue to contribute to the support and maintenance of democracy, security, disaster relief and civil defence in this hemisphere,” the Chief-of-Staff said.

But though heavily dependent on diplomacy, Bess iterated that the Force is mindful of the pervasive great power conflict and the effects it can have on Guyana’s developmental thrust. “There is always an ever present danger of Russia deploying troops to Venezuela or Guyana being caught in a diplomatic conundrum as it pursues critical bilateral relations with the US and China. Thus, the time is opportune, as our theme suggests, for us to enhance our national security profile through capacity and community building initiatives,” Bess reasoned.

Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Godfrey Bess

Exactly one year ago, Guyana had cause to reinforce its support for the One-China policy after the US disclosed that the country had signed an agreement for the establishment of a Taiwanese Office here –signaling a major shift in position. “Deepening ties between Guyana and Taiwan will advance their shared goals of prosperity and security. Closer ties with Taiwan will advance cooperation and development in Guyana on the basis of shared democratic values, transparency, and mutual respect,” the US Government had said.

China has long warned Taiwan that any attempt to gain independence would result in “war.” But in back pedaling on its decision to grant approval for a Taiwan Office here, the Guyanese Government said it had established no diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Contending that it was not a Cabinet decision, the Government laid the blame at the feet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Today, the country finds itself in a similar position, defending its relations with China following an interview with a US-based Vice News journalist and the Vice President, BharratJagdeo, in which the countries’ relation was placed under the microscope, and the surfacing of allegations of corruption involving the Vice President, a Chinese lobbyist identified as “Su ZhiRong” and Chinese Investors.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy said it would appear that the journalist came to Guyana with a “predetermined agenda” to try and smear and attack China-Guyana cooperation, as well as Chinese companies.

“The Chinese side highly appreciates that the Government of Guyana upholds the One-China principle and keeps developing cordial relations with China. China-Guyana friendly cooperation, featuring equality, mutual benefit, innovation, openness, and benefits for the people, is in accordance with the interests of the two countries and two peoples, not against any third party, nor should it be influenced by a third party,” the Chinese Embassy said.

Vice President Jagdeo, in denying all allegations of corruption, also accused the journalist of having an “anti-Chinese agenda.” He said Guyana will not be caught up in “cold war politics.” “We believe in having friends everywhere; that’s why we are going to assess relationships on the basis of what is good for our people. What’s good for people, that’s what we are going to be pursuing, we don’t want to be caught up in that. We have close relationship with the United States of America and the US is a big source of investment now in Guyana but we are not going to be caught up in anti-Chinese hysteria,” the Vice President said.

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