Amid a border controversy with Venezuela, Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan, has affirmed the army’s unwavering commitment to deterring any territorial threat.
Khan spoke at a thanksgiving religious service to mark the GDF’s 58th anniversary.
“Our mission to defend this nation is non-negotiable,” the state-owned Guyana Chronicle quoted him saying.
Khan told ranks that the GDF could not delegate that responsibility.
“As Chief of Staff, it is my constitutional responsibility to ensure that the Force is ready for any eventuality,” Brigadier Khan asserted.
However, he stated that he was not there to beat any combat drums.
“But I offer a prayer of a nation and Force that is peaceful, and the wishes to those who claim what is not theirs to respect the process of international law and commit to its just conclusion, and, I dare say while we pray, we must prepare! A praying Force is a preparing Force,” Khan declared.
Guyana has stated that an arbitration tribunal in 1899 fixed its border with Venezuela.
But Venezuela is claiming more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, asserting that the Essequibo River to the east of the region forms a natural frontier recognised at the time of independence from Spain.
The long-running issue is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
However, Venezuela has announced a December 3 referendum on defending its territory claim.
In a statement last month, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) noted that two of the referendum questions, if answered in the affirmative, would authorize the Venezuelan government to embark on the annexation of territory.
Guyana has declared the Venezuela referendum illegal and has asked the ICJ to intervene.
The border controversy between the two neighbouring countries intensified after ExxonMobil discovered oil in the disputed region in 2015.