The Guyana Legion on Sunday elected a new executive body in the presence of labour representatives following a walkout by the old body.
After a year of instability, members of the Guyana Legion took it upon themselves at Sunday’s meeting to call for the immediate election of a new executive body. The former body had refused to step down last year and instead its members re-elected themselves to the executive.
With issues concerning membership, property and services provided through the Legion, the members present at the meeting unanimously decided that a list of eligible candidates to form the new executive be reviewed and elections held.
Newly nominated executive committee member Bert Douglas told Stabroek News that representatives from the Labour Ministry were asked to oversee the election process. He said that over the past year many items belonging to the Legion have gone missing. He said the civilian membership at the legion had provided a venue where the former executive conducted business, but alleged that this was done without the best interest of veteran and ex-servicemen in mind.
During the meeting on Sunday, Douglas and other members in the audience requested that the meeting be suspended until a new committee was elected. Prior to the new executive being elected members of the former executive walked out.
Retired Col Josh Gomes was then elected President, Retired Lt Col Frank Bishpan, Arno Solomon and Carol Haynes were elected Vice Presidents; Retired Major Stanislaus Canzius was elected Treasurer while Wilbert Nurse was elected Assis-tant Treasurer; Douglas, Wilfred James, Annette Adonis and James Samuels were elected as committee members.
Gomes stated that the new executive would work to ensure that the Legion returned to its core and within the next three months the financial records are to be reviewed and published for members to peruse. He said the Legion was aiming to be integrated with the various organizations that veterans and ex-servicemen can be associated with.
He told Stabroek News that the goal was to have a name change to include the word veteran to give the legion more prominence. He said that as the times were changing and the world was more technologically savvy the legion had a responsibility to change also. He noted that the Force Welfare Fund (FWF) from the Guyana Defence Force had to be tapped into to ensure that legion members knew they would be given support in times of illness.
He expanded that currently only $45,000 is given by the FWF toward funeral arrangements for members who have passed away. He said this was not enough and since ex-servicemen and veterans would have paid into the FWF it was only right that they be cared for in their time of need utilising the same funds.
He said that he planned to approach the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force to assist with overhauling the Guyana Legion within the next year to make it easier for persons leaving the GDF to transition smoothly as automatic members of the Legion.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Labour Ministry told Stabroek News that they would be checking in with the executive body within the next three months to see the progress being made and to ensure that members were satisfied with the election process.
The Guyana Legion has over 2,000 members. However, only a small fraction of those members are veterans or ex-servicemen; the majority being civilians. The
Legion noted that while it would not be asking civilians to give up their membership, this will be a year of comprehensive integration of veterans.
Current General Secretary of the legion Kingsley Nelson refused to make any comments in relation to the concerns raised by members prior to the new executive being elected. He told Stabroek News that it was the members who ultimately decided how the legion was to be run.
There was some confusion at the start of the meeting when the minutes from the last meeting could not be read. Nelson stated that there was a computer malfunction and as a result the minutes had to be recapped from memory.
The Legion is partially supported by membership fees of $3,600 per member per year, annually as well as through budgetary support.