Former military ranks are asking to be better reintegrated into civilian society as the Veterans Commission of Inquiry (COI) wraps up.
Retired Warrant Officer, Lennox Hardy, told the COI that more should be done to prepare soldiers for life outside of the Guyana Defence Force. “Your preparation, in my mind should start two years prior to your retirement and I would challenge the personnel department to play a key role in this venture,” Hardy told the Chairman of the COI, Colonel (Ret’d), Desmond Roberts.
Retired Private Lloyd DeFreitas giving testimony
Over the weekend, the COI met with former military ranks at the Guyana Veterans Legion, Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown. The Commission of Inquiry was tasked by President David Granger to examine the conditions and circumstances facing veterans of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana People’s Militia and the Guyana National Service (GNS).
Ranks believe that the skills of veterans can be effectively utilised in the various sectors of civil society for the development of the country. Former Private, Kelvin McKenzie, believes that veterans can be used to mentor the country’s young people. “We should be part and parcel of the school systems whereby we must have cadet courses and assist in moulding and fashioning our youths (who will eventually) take over our country,” McKenzie said at the hearing.
Veterans also called for the establishment of a health insurance scheme within the military to aid ranks later on in life. Lloyd DeFreitas, a former Private in the GDF, believes that some form of medical aid should be provided to veterans, “We should have a doctor here every week and we should get medication,” he said
A section of the veterans gathered at the COI
The COI visited Regions One, Two, Five and Six and the main military bases; Sewayo, Stephenson and Ayanganna, to interact with and get the views of current officers. The Commission also had interactions with the joint services, the private sector and the private banking institutions.
The aim of the commission is to improve the conditions of retired ranks, most of whom are retired by 40, following their service to the country. Additionally, the Commission examined ways to improve the Veteran’s Home and other issues, including benefits provided to the families of those who are deceased and displaced records of veterans’ contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
The COI was commissioned by President David Granger with the aim of ensuring a comfortable and dignified retirement for serving ranks. The COI will be wrapping its hearings at the end of this month and the findings will be presented to President Granger. “What he (President Granger) is going to put in place will facilitate veterans, will make sure that we are a major part of the development of this country,” the Chairman of the COI said in brief remarks.