Feb 12, 2024 Letters
Please allow me sufficient space to respond to veteran journalist Mr. Kit Nascimento, for whom I had developed the greatest respect over time, beginning with his sojourn in the PNC after abandoning the United Force – for whatever reason(s)- who commented, somewhat disparagingly, on my article titled “The 2024 Jagdeo Budget Part 1: Leave Defence of Guyana to our Allies!” published by Demerara Waves on Sunday, 4th February 2024.I’m surprised that Kit did not discern the subtext of my article, which meant ‘Do not leave Guyana’s Defence to our Allies!’
On Friday morning whilst on the picket line with the hardworking underpaid Teachers, one of them called my attention to an article published in the Kaiteur News dated 9th February 2024 and, titled “Our National Security, The Integrity of our Borders and Their Protection is not a Matter for Political Gamesmanship.” She felt it was damaging enough to my character that it required my urgent attention. Refusing to be distracted from my pressing duty at the time, I asked her to relay a few points made. In the process, another Teacher turned up with a copy of the Stabroek News daily in which the same article was published, but differently headlined, as “Best’s Criticism of Guyana’s Current Defence Policy Regarding Venezuela’s Aggression Plays Well Into Maduro’s Hands.” Well, this piqued my curiosity but still not enough to leave the picket line at that time. After leaving the picket, I had some time to thumb through the articles and prepared my mind to deal with this awkward attempt at misinformation and character assassination published in the two leading dailies. There was a third one published by Chronicle, but no one mentioned it.
As I respond, Venezuela and Mr. Maduro are doing exactly as I predicted in my article of 4th February 2024- breaking the agreement he made with the Venezuelan Opposition with the risk of reimposed US sanctions. I further asked, “why in the face of such sanctions, should we believe Maduro would confirm to the ‘peace’ contents of the Argyle Agreement?” I followed this up by immediately asking “why in the face of such risks aren’t any significant funds and details presented about securing the nation from this existential threat posed by Venezuela?” Editor, Venezuela has been a threat to Guyana for six decades beginning with its occupation of Guyana’s half of the border island of Ankoko. I asked these questions against the backdrop of significant financial inflows into the Guyana treasury. Reminding the PPP that territorial defence is a prime national responsibility of the government, I then offered, as I have done is past opinions and presentations, my contributions to enable effective national defence.
I argued that the Guyanese citizens expected “details on how the nation’s first line of defence- defence diplomacy, would be buttressed and expanded globally … details on how the concept of total national defence would be operationalized across Guyana … details on how the GDF would be expanded and equipped to defend our land and maritime borders, beyond its current capability … details on how the GDF would be expanded and equipped to defend and protect our vital offshore oil resources … [and] details about establishing living and defensive frontiers.…” They were others, but these were specific to National Defence. Editor, I fail to see how any of these play in Maduro’s hands.
The substance of my piece is that national defence is a national responsibility, perhaps the most important task of any government. And, such a matter should not be left to allied nations. Kit missed that completely! Or, which I fear, he actually believes that it should. Then, I do shudder! My view does not prevent Guyana for engaging and establishing defence cooperation agreements. That’s part of defence diplomacy. I’ve done that often as Chief of Staff. But I have also pressed the PPP government during my tenure to do exactly, for national defence, as I outlined in my article. Editor, allow me to refer to the Organization Analysis of the Guyana Defence Force (2009),a document approved by the Defence Board of Guyana.At page ii, the GDF strategic goals to be met included “the development of a military capability comparable to at least one of our neighbouring countries … acquisition of naval platforms for force projection and enforcement of national laws in the territorial sea and EEZ … development of a reliable defence and security capability to provide for surveillance, detection and interdiction operations… development of a significant offensive capability (Air, Naval and Army) to deter aggression… [and] development of a highly skilled and motivated Reserve Force to support the Regular Force.”
Editor, allow me to now specifically rebuff some specifics by Mr. Nascimento. Here I exclude his disparaging remarks about me. In relation to me being a “Hardcore Supporter of The People’s National Congress”, I thank Mr. Nascimento for reminding the nation of my loyalty to the PNC. That’s a badge of honour. What about your pollical loyalty, Kit? How does my loyalty play into the hands of Maduro? His suggestion that criticisms by a former Chief of Staff of the Government’s national defence plan and budget plays into the hands of Maduro is without foundation and speaks to limited or feared capacity to debate such issues. Mr Nascimento has proudly announced a 100% increase in defence spending. Percentages mean nothing. Value is what has meaning. What is the value of the defence allocation? What can it buy? Can it acquire the assets refer to in the findings of GDF Organization Analysis? By the way Kit, defence includes offence.
He mentioned the PNC “under Prime Minister Forbes Burnham … signed on to the Geneva Agreement, which, to this day, is conveniently misinterpreted by the Maduro government.” I could not see how this plays into the hands of Maduro. However, I’m happy Kit recognised and supported the signing by Burnham of the Geneva Agreement, a decision which the PPP disagreed with. Only a few weeks ago I comprehensively addressed that PPP flawed position in an opinion published by Demerara Waves after the 2nd Vice President attempted to besmirch the character of the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. So, thank you Mr Nascimento!
Editor, I am sure that by now Kit and his sponsors are beginning to agree that I was right in referring to the “frailty of the Argyle Declaration”, especially in the face of Maduro’s troop build upon the Venezuela Guyana Border and what Kit calls his manipulation for a “Venezuelan Supreme Court ban on his major political opponent, Opposition Leader, Maria Machado.” Mr. Nascimento makes the same point I made in my article. However, I do part company with him when he stated that I suggested that “that millions of dollars must suddenly be poured into building the Defence Force in order to go to war with Venezuela.” Nowhere in my article did I suggest any such. In fact, it tells me that Kit didn’t read what I wrote and perhaps was given a script to follow, except the Burnham part. Just, perhaps!
The last paragraphs, or such, of Mr. Nascimento’s letter speaks to bilateral defence cooperation with the US, UK and others. However, I’m sure Mr. Nascimento knows they are different levels of defence cooperation. One of the highest being deployment of allied troops to fight alongside national forces. Which is he referring to? Does he know? Does the government know? Have we singed any new defence cooperation agreements? Importantly, by Mr. Nascimento’s own words “the US and Guyana were deepening our defence cooperation to preserve Guyana’s borders and for Guyana to be able to defend its territorial integrity”. This is a clear statement that Guyana is responsible for its own national defence. This is what I said in my article. Once again, Mr. Nascimento agrees with me. Therefore, how does my article play into the hands of Maduro?
Editor, Mr. Nascimento took umbrage with me saying the PPP ‘wished away’ this existential danger to Guyana for 23 years. That danger being Venezuela’s threat to the Essequibo county, Interestingly, if these bilaterals are the centre piece of Guyana’s national defence strategy, as suggested by Mr. Nascimento. And these will stop Mr. Maduro from invading in the future, then he must agree that those types of bilateral didn’t exist during the PPP’s twenty-three years. For, if they did, Venezuela would have been prevented from seriously threatening the annexation of Essequibo. This is consistent with my comment that the PPP ‘wished away’ this existential danger to Guyana for 23yrs. It’s either the PPP had a level of bilaterals with allied nations and they didn’t work in our favour, or there was none at all! Mr. Nascimento can take his pick. But I’m sure in the end he would agree with me. The real question is whose actions really played into Maduro’s hands? That of Dr Best, now, or of the PPP, historically.
Mr Nascimento’s point about Foreign Minister Hugh Todd’s reaffirming that “Guyana maintained that the settlement of this controversy was properly before the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement” is consistent with Joint Parliamentary Resolution. However, Foreign Minister Yvan Gil’s push back by saying “let us flatly reject the possibility of third parties interfering in or benefiting from any debate or dispute between Guyana and Venezuela” only squares the matter right back to where Venezuela was before Argyle, and where she is now. Foreign Minister Gil’s response is consistent with my comment about the frailty of Arglye Declaration. Again, whose actions really played into Maduro’s hands. That of Dr Best, now, or of the PPP?
Editor, Mr Nascimento’s letter is ‘much ado about nothing’ It hangs nebulously into thin air amongst a gust of misunderstanding at worse, and at best a contrived confusion about what constitutes national defence. Perhaps a different subject may have presented Kit with a better challenge. Hopefully this debate is over. And I do wish him well.
Dr. Gary Best.
Everything that comes out of Jagdeo’s mouth is aimed at confusing this nation.
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