Georgetown, Guyana – (November 12, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, yesterday, said that the government intends to establish a National Veterans’ Trust, in his address at the annual Remembrance Day observance held at the Guyana Veterans Legion, Coghlan House, Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown. The Minister delivered his address on behalf of President David Granger, who is a patron of the Guyana Veterans Legion.
“It is our intention to set up a National Veterans’ Trust. It would be protected by law to ensure it is not subjected to the whims and fancy of anyone,” the Minister said at the observance. “We must uphold the principles of justice. Justice in our economic, political and social affairs as a nation as well as in our international relations… we must also reaffirm our commitment to the peaceful co-existence of nations on the resolution of conflicts and differences by peaceful means, he added.
Minister Harmon noted that Remembrance Day has been set aside to recall the end of hostilities and to honour the memories of those who perished during the world wars, reminding that World War I was one of the “deadliest conflicts in human history”.
He also said that while the end of World War I in November 1918 did not bring about an end to wars, Remembrance Day should be a moment of reflection on the ravages and futility of wars along with the colossal waste of human resources and material and the socioeconomic consequences that followed.
“It is also a day when we reaffirm our commitment to a world free of conflict, a world where differences are settled peacefully and without resort to threat or use of force. This is also a day for us to be reminded of our duty and obligation as a grateful nation, to show meaningful support and a life of dignity for military veterans,” he said.
The Minister of State then called on the Guyana Veterans Legion to be resolute in ensuring that the welfare of veterans receive its “justified and maximum attention”.
“It is you who are best positioned to understand this need and pursue this endeavour. Your organisation’s motto “Remembering our service, maintaining the bond”, speaks directly to this and suggests your mind is in the right place,” he added.
The Minister then reminded the veterans that they are not alone in the quest for a dignified life for veterans, pointing to President Granger’s resolution, called a National Veterans Commission, which was piloted in November 2013 through the National Assembly. The Commission would be tasked with examining the conditions and circumstances facing veterans and the Defence Forces, to make recommendations to ensure their health and welfare and for the general administration of veterans’ affairs.
Minister Harmon noted that when the coalition government took office on May 11, 2015 it remained determined to see the National Veterans Commission formally constituted. He said the Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of veterans has since been handed over and assured that the recommendations therein are “receiving our fullest attention”.
“…Within a short space of time, we would be advised as to the government’s position on these recommendations,” Minister Harmon said.
Meanwhile, President of the Guyana Veterans’ Legion, retired Lieutenant Colonel George Gomes spoke of the history of Remembrance Day even while appealing to government and overseas missions to “please help us do better for our veterans”. He said that there are 15 survivors of World War I as he pointed to Mr. Benjamin Durant who will be celebrating his 100th birthday on Thursday, November 15, 2018 and Mr. Gerald Stewart who recently turned 97 years old.
Referencing the Commission of Inquiry, Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Gomes expressed gratitude to the President for establishing it as veterans across the country stand to benefit from tis recommendations. “Remembrance observances continues to be a significant time in Guyana – “Lest we forget” is the theme. We must ensure these observances are never watered down,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his address, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Greg Quinn said, “In being here we do not honour war or death, but rather we commemorate those who have given their lives in the service of our respective countries…their bravery was key in securing the allied victory. These men fought thousands of miles from their homelands for a country they have never been to, but for a purpose they believed in.”
The British envoy said that the Government of the United Kingdom, through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League will be providing additional assistance to 7,000 veterans and their widows in 30 commonwealth countries, including Guyana. “Our servicemen and women continue to protect us in difficult and dangerous situations. Many of us here have lost friends, colleagues and family members in service and it is important that we honour their memories. They have not died in vain,” the High Commissioner said.
Similar remarks were made by High Commissioner of Canada to Guyana, Ms. Lilian Chatterjee, who said that Remembrance Day is special to her as her father fought as a gunner in World War II. “Today, we remember our duty to the cause of liberty, democracy and diversity; and the men and women at the frontiers defending those values so that we may enjoy them. We are gathered here today to say that 100 years may have passed, but the torch is ours to carry on…we will continue to sacrifice for the best possible future for our people. We will continue to stand by our allies; but most of all, we will continue to strive for peace,” she said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge who is performing the functions of Prime Minister, also attended the event.