Georgetown, Guyana - (November 10, 2019) President David Granger, this morning, in reaffirming his support for the care of military veterans and their families, presented the Guyana Veterans Legion (GVL) with a cheque valued $1M, at the Remembrance Day Ceremony and Reception, hosted at the GVL’s headquarters, Coghlan House, Carifesta Avenue.
Following the President’s donation, several other individuals and organizations made monetary pledges to the Legion.
President Granger, in his feature address at the reception, reminded that the occasion was being held to pay homage to the millions of men, women and children who lost their lives during the two World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. Guyanese soldiers, he said, were among those killed.
The President explained that the two World Wars exemplified the ‘law of unintended consequences’ and began as a clash of European empires which resulted in a collapse of the acceleration of those very empires.
“We pay homage to the victims of warfare everywhere. We honour the memory of those who, after the Second World War, served our country in the British Guiana Volunteer Force, the Guyana Defence Force and the Guyana People’s Militia,” he said.
President Granger said this year commemorates the 50th anniversary of two of the greatest threats to Guyana’s Independence – in the Rupununi and New River – both legacies of a careless colonialism.
“We honour the soldiers who went forward fearlessly in the still unfinished task of defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Guyanese, though ever conscious of the past, must look to the future, especially during the coming Decade of Development,” he said, before assuring that the veterans will be supported.
“The State, during this ‘Decade’, accepts its responsibility to support its military veterans. The State will help to provide opportunities for veterans when they leave active military service,” he said.
President Granger reminded all of the motion that was moved in the National Assembly on November 21, 2013, calling for the appointment of a National Veterans’ Commission to “… examine the conditions and circumstances facing veterans of the defence forces and disciplined services; to make recommendations to ensure their health and welfare and for the general administration of veterans affairs in Guyana.”
While the motion was passed, the government-of-the-day did not implement it in the ensuring years. However, it has since been implemented under the Granger administration, and has resulted in an enhanced quality of life for veterans.
President Granger said the National Veterans Commission was convened in August 2016 and its recommendations are being implemented. A Veterans’ Act, to ensure that veterans’ benefits are secured by law, will be enacted; a Veterans Trust, to raise and maintain resources for the continuing education, training and re-settlement of veterans in society, will be established; a Veterans Administrative Department has been established and is tasked with ensuring that veterans and their families receive their entitlements in a timely manner. The National Veterans’ Home is receiving continuous assistance from the Guyana Defence Force through the payment of staff and other utilities and the Guyana Veterans Legion has begun to receive an annual subvention from the Government.
“Your Government iterates its support for its former servicemen and women. Veterans will never again be neglected,” the President said, to loud applause.
The Head of State said on this Remembrance Day, our thoughts turn to those in the Guyana Veterans’ Legion which emerged from the Guyana Legion and, formerly, the British Guiana Legion, formed after the end of the First World War.
“The Legion has become a mainstay of maintenance of veterans in the later stages of their lives by providing assistance to them and their families,” he said.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Greg Quinn, in his remarks, said it is important to honour servicemen and women and ensure that they had not died in vain.
“So, as we sit here today, let us take a little time to remember those who cannot be with us, [whether] they served in the armed forces or in other areas…Those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our countries, but also those who were injured, and indeed, those who survived in our militaries and who remain the standard bearers of fallen comrades and colleagues,” he said.
Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Ms. Lilian Chatterjee expressed similar sentiments in her remarks.
“Today I remember all the men who have served and continue to serve and sacrifice [so] that you and I may continue to enjoy rights and privileges such as liberty and democracy...We hope that their courage and valour in the first half of the 20th century is reflected in the way we live our lives and organise our societies today. And so, we continue to strive for peace with dialogue, with openness, deference and diversity, with respect for the rule of law. By doing this, we remember them,” she said.
Additionally, Legion President, Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) George Gomes emphasized that fallen heroes must never be forgotten. “It is our responsibility to maintain the tradition and ensure that future generations are taught about the significance and importance of these annual remembrance observances and to inculcate [in] them the need to maintain the tradition,” he said.
He informed that three of the 14 surviving World War II veterans have died since the last Remembrance Day. Nine of the surviving veterans attended today’s ceremony.
Lt. Col. Gomes also noted that the Legion has a responsibility to assist with the welfare of veterans and he appealed to the Government and the foreign missions present to assist the Legion to “do better” for veterans.
Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, who is performing the functions of Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, also attended the event.