Armed Forces Overviews
Guyana

Guyana Defence Force

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By Wim Sonneveld

History In 1831, the three colonial settlements of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice merged to become British Guiana. After the abolition of slavery, African refused to work on the plantations for wages, and many established their own villages in the bush. Plantations closed or consolidated because of the shortage of labour. A British company, Bookers, resurrected the sugar industry by importing indentured labour from India. From 1846 to 1947, nearly 250,000 labourers entered Guyana, drastically transforming its demography and laying the basis of fractious racial politics.

British Guiana was run very much as a colony until 1953, when a new constitution provided for home rule and an elected government. In 1966, the country became an independent member of the British Commonwealth with the name Guyana, and in 1970, it became a republic with an elected president. Guyana hit world new in 1979 with the mass suicide-murder of nearly a thousand cultists in the expatriate religious community of Jonestown.

A new constitution was proclaimed in 1980 by socialist president Forbes Burnham. The current state controls the two main export industries, sugar and bauxite, but the recent trend is to reduce government involvement in the economy, so both of these industries may be privatized.

Source: Lonely planet

Guyana Defence Force

Responsible for protecting Guyana from external threats, the GDF concerned itself with internal security, border defense, civic work, and other activities. Some observers viewed the GDF primarily as a partisan internal security force, noting in particular the deployment of its best units to the capital. Yet the military is also a deterrent to the genuine external threat resulting from the border disputes with Venezuela and Suriname.

In the 1960s, the GDF carried out military operations to counter both external and internal threats. In 1969 the GDF quelled an insurrection in the interior led by ranchers who the government believed had been armed and aided by Venezuela. That same year the GDF expelled Surinamese soldiers from a disputed area in south eastern Guyana.

The GDF maintained a high level of involvement in civic action and national development. Training and logistical support to the agriculture, mining, fishing, and construction sectors received the greatest emphasis. The GDF provided medical support to civilians as needed, and its telecommunications and aviation resources were used during emergencies and in relief operations.

The armed forces were a single unified service comprising ground, naval, and air components. This structure gave the army operational control over the naval and air elements. The president of Guyana is commander in chief of the GDF. The GDF is organized into approximately twenty corps whose activities ranged from training to intelligence to catering and musical performance. Service in the GDF is voluntary, and its membership is overwhelmingly Afro-Guyanese. Women were accepted into the service but constituted only a small percentage of the total force.

The air wing of the GDF was created in 1968. In 1970 it was redesignated the Air Command, GDF. The 200-member Air Command is headquartered at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown. In the early 1990s, it's aircraft helicopters operated from Georgetown's Timehri Airport. The command's primary missions are transportation, communications, and liaison. Secondary missions include counter narcotics and maritime patrolling. Currently the GDF Air Command's operates a variety of aircraft. Only one Shorts Skyvan remains in service and is operated alongside a Harbin Y-12 Turbo Panda, acquired from the Chinese aircraft manufacturer in early 2002. For many years, a Bell 412 was the sole helicopter in use with the GDF, until it was augmented by a pair of Rotorway Exec 162F helicopters in 2004 and 2005, which were locally assembled.

Source (among others): Guyana Defence Force.