President David Granger on Sunday promised that his Government will help to provide opportunities for veterans when they leave active military service.
The Head of State, a former military officer himself, said over the next ten years, the Government will accept responsibility to support its military veterans, as he addressed those gathered to observe Remembrance Day.
Following a march and the laying of wreaths at the War Memorial, Main and Church Streets Junction, Georgetown in honour of fallen soldiers during the two World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, the President delivered an address at the Guyana Veterans Legion (GVL) headquarters, Coghlan House, Carifesta Avenue.
“We honour the soldiers who went forward fearlessly in the still-unfinished task of defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said, before assuring that the veterans will be supported.
“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 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 and 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 measures were recommended by the National Veterans Commission was convened in August 2016. The Commissioned followed a motion that was moved in the National Assembly on November 21, 2013, 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 former Government did not implement it, however, it has since been implemented under the Granger administration, and has resulted in an enhanced quality of life for veterans.
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.
The Head of State also presented the GVL with a cheque valued $1M, which caused several other individuals and organizations to make monetary pledges to the Legion.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Guyana, 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.
(Extracted and modified from the Ministry of the Presidency)