The Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) says no army officer provided security for President David Granger at two school events he attended in August and November contrary to a letter in yesterday’s edition of Stabroek News.
In the letter headlined, `Heavily armed military officers guarded the President when he came to speak to school students’, the anonymous letter writer stated that at the graduation ceremony of the St Rose’s High School on November 15 where Granger gave a speech to the graduating class of 2017, the level of security amassed around the President was mindboggling.
The writer stated that “Army officers too numerous to count and heavily weaponized guarded the building.” The letter writer also said that a similar situation obtained when the President spoke at the Queen’s College Orientation Ceremony on August 31.
According to the writer, heavily armed officers were stationed at all the doorways to the auditorium and in and around the school while parents were kept outside in the yard for almost two hours.
The Ministry however said in a press statement last evening that security for the President is provided by the Presidential Guard Unit, which is a Unit of the Guyana Police Force.
“Security is not provided at any time by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). Therefore, no ‘Army Officer’ would have been at either (of) the events in the capacity described,” the statement said.
It further noted that the President attended both events with a reduced security detail based on the security needs assessment for those types of events.
“At the graduation ceremony of the St. Rose’s High School on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 there were no armed officers in the venue. A similar detail was assigned to provide security services for the President at the orientation ceremony for new entrants into Queen’s College on Thursday, August 31, 2017,” the statement said.
The statement charged that the letter “is filled with several spurious and wild claims, which are not only unfairly injurious to the Head of State and the Government of Guyana but also the reputation of the members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force.”
Minister of State Joseph Harmon is quoted in the statement as having dismissed the claim and stating that a “cursory glance by anyone who was there at those two events would have shown that (there) were only Police Officers in black clothes. There are no military officers with any big guns as the letter is seeking to suggest at any of these two events”.
He added that despite the recent reported threats to the President’s life, the Head of State has not increased or changed his security detail and has been moving around the country frequently.
Both Harmon and the Ministry questioned why the newspaper would risk its reputation by publishing the letter with name of author withheld, without seeking to find out whether its contents were based in fact.
“I think that that its totally rubbish and that Stabroek News as a responsible Newspaper, when something like that would have come to them, the easiest thing for them to do was to make a call to the Ministry of the Presidency or DPI [Department of Public Information] or Press and Publicity Department of the Ministry of the Presidency and they would have gotten the facts…But the question I would have is why would Stabroek News carry such a letter and the clear insinuation in it that the President is seeking to have dictatorial powers… It really leaves one to ask the question, why would something like this appear in the news and it affects the President himself… I want to debunk that nonsense that is written there as utter rubbish and it should be condemned to the garbage heap,” Harmon said.
Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West is also quoted in the statement as stating that the Army does not hold responsibility for the security of the Head of State, nor has it ever been asked to provide that service.
“We have not provided security for the President for that activity or any other activity. When the President visits our location (or) Bases, we have a closed space here and we provide security in the confines of our Bases for the President, but that’s what we do and even in those cases you have the Presidential security present,” he is reported as saying.
Brigadier West also noted that the GDF’s role is to provide security for the nation, ensure that the integrity of the borders is maintained, aggression is defined and the normal functions of the institution are carried out to ensure a peaceful country.
The statement was accompanied by several pictures taken at the referenced events which show that only one member of the Presidential Guard was within proximity of the President at each event. The statement also noted that footage is available for both events at the Press and Publicity Unit at the Ministry of the Presidency.