Still no word on compensation, Camp Groomes survivors say

Survivors of the December 2,000 fatal explosion at Camp Groomes, the ammunition depot of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), say they are disappointed that both the army and the government are continuing to ignore their appeals for compensation.

Four of the survivors had highlighted their struggles during an interview with Stabroek News in June but according to one of them, Winston Wade, no one has since contacted them about the compensation. Wade explained that an officer from the Welfare Department of the GDF contacts them about once a week, but does not give any conclusive information on compensation.

“That’s how it does start and they does eventually forget about we. They call we like twice a week, then it does reach to once and then none at all and they just forget. We want things to push and [Colwyn] Lewis needs urgent treatment with his foot,” Wade said.

From left: Samuel Archer, Justin Ross, Winston Wade and Colwyn Lewis

The other survivors, Lewis, Samuel Archer, and Justin Ross, also shared similar sentiments, while pointing out that they are making a new plea to President David Granger and all the relevant authorities to listen to their cries for help and address the situation.

Stabroek News had made numerous attempts to get a comment from the GDF on the issue to no avail.

On June 14, the four survivors, had told this newspaper that they were still physically and psychologically haunted by the incident, which claimed the lives of three soldiers. While some of them are able to continue their daily lives almost unhindered, it is a struggle for others, especially Lewis.

“It’s not like we were on the streets or anywhere else when this thing happened. We were all on duty and it was not our fault. I joined the army at the age of 18 and all my limbs were intact and a day like today I can’t do anything for myself and we are not getting help from anywhere,” Lewis had said.

Lewis had explained that he along with the other eight survivors were pleading with the government to “properly look into the matter” since all of them have been unable to find a job since the incident. The men had stated that they were deemed “medically unfit” in 2013 by the GDF.

They said they have been only getting pension from the National Insurance Scheme, which they say is not enough for them to survive on. Since they have not been able to find jobs, the men related that they have to live at the mercy of their respective families.

In February, 2014, the GDF has expressed regret for the delay in the payment of benefits to the survivors.

A press release from the army had said that the GDF noted an article in the Kaieteur News, titled, “Camp Groomes survivors still await word on meaningful compensation,” and wished “to assure the claimants that their benefits are forthcoming.”

It was stated then that a proposal for the injured soldiers to be paid benefits as if they had already retired was approved by the Defence Board, however, a re-computation resulting in improved benefits for them was being verified to ensure payment. “The further amendments, which were necessary to give them more money, resulted in the delay. Their benefits when paid will be effective from 2014-01-01,” the release had stated.

However, since then, the men said there has been no progress in getting either compensation for either them or the families of the soldiers who died.

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