GUYANA’s military is a professional body that has endeared itself to the Guyanese people after the pre-1992 “indecencies and excesses” under the People’s National Congress (PNC) administration.But, Dr Roger Luncheon contends that this is under threat given rising “suspicions” that are influenced by the increasing involvement of ex-military officials in the political maneuverings of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
“I do not believe that our memory is so short that when we see these two bodies getting back together again, it doesn’t reasonably raise our suspicions and causes us to wonder ‘what if’,” he said during a press conference held yesterday at Office of the President.
Brigadier (rtd) David Granger heads the coalition of parties that is APNU, whose majority partner is the PNC, and is also the presidential candidate for the newer Alliance of APNU+AFC. There are also several other ex-military officials who are part of APNU’s leadership.
Asked to detail his concern on this issue, Dr Luncheon said, “Guyana went down a road under the ‘Burnhamite’ People’s National Congress, a road that was facilitated by the concept of party paramountcy that brought the disciplined forces, particularly the military, to be a part of the enforcement arm of the then government.
“I suppose one may want to argue that point, but I don’t believe an argument can be sustained that the military was not an active participant into the repression that took place under the PNC in this country. I don’t think we can argue about that.”
He explained that post-1992, much work was done to rehabilitate the image of the disciplined forces by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration.
Dr Luncheon, who is also Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS) said, “The concern I have dates back to 1992, when my president, Dr Jagan (the late Dr Cheddi Jagan) says to me ‘Luncheon, you and (the then Minister of Home Affairs) Feroz Mohammed, you are tasked with rehabilitating the image of the military in the minds of the Guyanese people.
“This is a national institution and the specter of it being the handmaiden of the Burnhamite PNC and it perpetrating all of the indecencies and the excesses on the Guyanese people, we cannot allow it to cloud our image and our judgment…y’all got a job, clean up and mek sure that this image is corrected’.”
Dr Luncheon said the confidence reposed in the military evidences the success of this undertaking.
“I want to believe we have done a good job. I want to believe that a professional military exists and that after its post-1992 actions, it has endeared itself to the Guyanese people,” Dr Luncheon said.
All considered, the HPS contends that damage has been done to a rehabilitated image and there is much more at stake.
“Much of what APNU has done is run-of-the-mill politicking, but this (militarisation) of APNU has undone 23 years of patient cultivation by this Administration; that is what Granger has done…whether it is the retired military that has been encouraged to flock and positioned in the APNU leadership, one can only imagine the impact on the serving military.”
He was emphatic in stressing that there is no question as to the “militarisation” of the main political Opposition, hence the “depth” of consequent concerns.
Dr Luncheon said, “Suppose, God forbid, APNU were to succeed in the 2015 elections, obviously they would have a debt to pay back to the military officers who supported them…there has never been any question whatsoever about appropriations and resourcing or denial of resourcing for the military. APNU has always seen it fit to join with the Government on this issue.
“One can only wonder were this opportunity to be provided again, how could I be certain that we will not have the same outcome; that indeed in the face of an opposition in the PPP, that the same military from the Burnhamite era, that supported the PNC’s illegal and undemocratic actions, might not be coerced into doing the same under a possible APNU administration.”
He reiterated that the worry is a real one that could have lasting impacts.
“It will re-awake, it will re-arouse fears that have been dormant, that we have succeeded in allaying over the last 23 years,” the HPS said.
Dr Luncheon stressed that a military-political alliance, in Guyana’s context, fueled by the “influx of military, again retired military officers, into Guyana at this time to support APNU in its campaign” has not gone unnoticed.
“Who got ears to hear let them hear,” Dr Luncheon concluded.
By Vanessa Narine