One of the real joys of my May 2014 trip to Guyana was the intensification of an old friendship with my high school classmate, Roopnandan Singh (Lau, to his mates). I had the pleasure of spending most of my waking hours with Lau: his was usually the first phone call I received in the morning and the last at night. He had expended much effort, prior to my arrival, securing interviews and following up with people to whom I had addressed correspondences. He transported me to all of my interviews, and his punctuality stood in stark contrast to what one traditionally expected of Guyanese. He tried to ensure that everything I wanted to do got done. It was the most concentrated time he and I had spent together, and I sincerely hope, not the last. For all of his kindnesses, my thanks.
My interview with President Ramotar (May 12) lasted about 75 minutes and focused on civil-military relations since 1992. Among the issues we discussed were the missions of the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), budgetary allocations, and relations with different Chiefs of Staff. The interview was followed by an extensive session with Presidential Advisor Gail Texeira. I subsequently met with Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh.
My interview with Chief of Staff Brigadier Mark Phillips, MSM, took place at GDF Headquarters, Camp Ayanganna on Wednesday, May 14. Lt. Col. Nazrul Hussain and Lt. Col. Cargill Kyte were also present. The visit lasted two and a half hours, during which, Lt. Col. Hussain raised the possibility of my lecturing to the officers in the Senior Command Staff course, which had just commenced at Timehri. The Chief of Staff also urged my participation, which took place the following day. Brigadier Phillips also aked Colonel Kyte to arrange for my visit to New River.
During my interview with Chief of Staff Brigadier Mark Phillips, Colonel Hussain suggested I make a presentation to the officers taking the Senior Command Staff Course at Camp Stephenson, Timehri. Brigadier Phillips thought it was a good idea, and I was scheduled to speak on “The Role of the Military in a Democracy,” the next day. However, on the recommendation of Lt. Colonel Kenlloyd Roberts, Officer in Charge of the Staff Course, I conducted a seminar on thesis preparation on Thursday, May 15. It was a highly interactive session and, at the conclusion of the seminar, Colonel Roberts invited me to lunch with his staff at the Officers’ Mess, Timehri. In rather familiar surroundings, we engaged in a lively discussion on issues relating to Guyana’s national security.
The Georgetown Public Library hosted a reading by winners of the Guyana Prize for Literature. The proceedings were chaired by Mr. Petamber Persaud and included comments from the Chief Librarian. I read excerpts from both novels, The Flour Convoy and The February 23rd Coup. Following the reading, we responded to questions from the audience. The event was reported on in the Guyana Chronicle.
My visit to the New River Triangle was arranged by Chief of Staff Mark Phillips, with the imprimatur of President Donald Ramotar. Since there was no flight scheduled for Camp Jaguar that week, a special charter was arranged with the Air Services LTD. I flew out of the Ogle Aerodrome on what turned out to be an hour and a half flight. Lieutenant Eastman, the Camp Commander, gave me a guided tour of the camp and briefed me on the defenses in place.