Ex- Guyana National Service members call for memorial, housing solutions and preservation of Kimbia

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The former members of the Guyana National Service (GNS) had their say today before the Veterans Commission of Inquiry (COI).

During the engagement at the GNS Club at Carifesta Avenue, it was Gerald Michael Pereira, a 5th intake pioneer of Papaya and now Executive Member of the ex-GNS Association, who made the call for a monument to be erected on the grounds at Carifesta Avenue in honour of those persons who would have died whilst serving within the GNS.

“It is time and it is very necessary,” Pereira said, noting that similar monuments have been erected to honour other joint services members. “The police have a monument where they love ones can go every year and lay wreaths, we have none,” Pereira noted. He said that the monument will not only honour those who died, like cadets from the Jaguar Centre that lost their lives in the New River Triangle area,  but it will also replace an earlier one that was erected at GNS centre in Papaya in the Barima-Waini, Region 1 to honour the lives lost there.

Ex-GNS members at the Veteran Commission Inquiry at the GNS Club at Carifesta Avenue
Ex-GNS members at the Veteran Commission Inquiry at the GNS Club on Carifesta Avenue

Pereira recalled that on a day of sports at the Region One Centre, a tree fell and one of the branches took the lives of nine. He recalled that a monument was erected thereafter in the form of a tree trunk with the names, of the personnel who lost their lives. Today, that monument is that is “long gone,” Pereira said, “desecrated” because the “area is being mine now,” he said.

It was also Pereira, who made the call on behalf of the ex-GNS Association for housing and/ land for its members noting that government have granted similar concessions to the nurses, the teachers, the police and the soldiers. He observed that whilst there is a joint service housing scheme in Lamaha Spring that has “spots for few National Service members in there, they are still so many members outside of that that do not have a home of their own”.  “I am quite certain that if you make land available in a affordable manner that they would jump at the opportunity to own something of their own,” Pereira told the COI.

Meanwhile on the issue of the preservation of the GNS training centre at Kimbia on the Berbice River, Pereira said that he took 11 people to location in May 2015 and was shocked at what was left of the location. “It was a sad sight to see…there is nothing left of Kimbia, the buildings are going,” Pereira said. He added that, “it is a disgrace to know that we had cotton there we had black eye, all of these products coming out of there and nothing is left.”

An ex-GNS member testifies before the Veteran Commission Inquiry at the GNS Club at Carifesta Avenue
An ex-GNS member testifies before the Veteran Commission Inquiry at the GNS Club on Carifesta Avenue

According to Pereira, the ex-GNS Association was recently informed that the lands at Kimbia were given out to some private company to do soya planting. He suggested that part of the lands now be returned to them, “so we can do something that people can remember”.  Also supported was called for  reintroduction of the GNS, perhaps, excluding the  military aspect of it,  and the use of Kimbia as the space to put a large training centre for all the skills training schools in Guyana.

The ex-GNS members also aired concerns over the use of the GNS Sports Club. They explained that they are not getting to properly use the facility built by them. According to the former ranks, the building was constructing through self-help, with each member donating one month’s salary. Today, they complained that to get to use the building, if they put in a late application of the booking of the building then they do not have a meeting place. Further if they do book the building and get it, they are at the bottom and the top is rent of for other events such as weddings which affects their holding of their meeting.

Launched in 1974, the GNS had its origins in an attempt to solve the problem of youth unemployment in the mid-1960s. Before its controversial dismantling in 2000, over 20,000 youths were trained in various para-military and life skills.

The Veterans Commission of Inquiry was set up by President David Granger and tasked with examining  the conditions and circumstances facing veterans of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana People’s Militia and GNS. The COI which formal commenced interviews on, August 31, is scheduled to conclude in October. (GINA)

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