“To my mind they are just making us big comics. We keep waiting and hoping all the years and the years just going by, and they not keeping no promise to we,” said Samuel Archer, after visiting Camp Ayanganna yesterday.
Archer was among the army ranks who sustained injuries after an explosion at Camp Groomes on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway on Monday, December 18, 2000.
Three ranks were killed as a result of the explosion and nine others, including Archer, suffered injuries that continue to impact their existence. They were discharged from the army as medically unfit because of their injuries, and claimed that up to yesterday, they have not been compensated for the ordeal they endured.
Instead, the former soldiers are convinced that they are merely being treated as “charity cases” and not deserving of being recompensed, despite many promises over the years, the most recent being about three months ago.
Archer, and two others who sustained injuries, Wendell Cort and Curtis Samuels, spoke at length about their plight yesterday. They and the six others who were injured in the line of duty were all invited to Camp Ayanganna yesterday to participate in a ceremonial handing over of Christmas hampers.
The other young men who were injured and received hampers are Colwin Lewis, Wincel Wade, Kerwin Wilson, Delroy Hutson, Joslyn Ross and Cecil Ault.
According to the discharged ranks, since the incident in 2000, this is the second year that the Guyana Defence Force has offered them hampers for the holidays. The previous occasion was in 2015. However, they disclosed that when they got the call a day prior, they were truly expecting a compensation package that was promised to them about three months ago.
According to them, they were invited to a meeting with Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, during which he informed them that President David Granger was making arrangements for each of them to be recipients of a ‘ compensation package’ that would be to their satisfaction. The ranks said too that they were informed that this ‘package’ would be ready for them well before the Christmas holidays and would be separate from the Christmas hamper which is expected to be an annual feature.
Moreover, the young men revealed that when they were invited by an official within the Welfare Department of the Army to make themselves available for the ceremony yesterday, they were optimistic that their compensation packages were ready.
Although the former soldiers have all been trying in their various ways to earn a living, the injuries that they sustained have been limiting their capabilities.
“We have wife, we have children to care for just like the army officers, the President and everybody else…but because of what happened to us, we are not the same, and they don’t seem to understand that,” said Archer, who was the main spokesman for the group.
Archer disclosed that when questions were asked of a Welfare Officer about the ‘package’ yesterday, the response was “‘I don’t know about that; that is all y’all could get…everything remains the same’.”
This, of course, was particularly disturbing to the young men, since, according to them, following the meeting with the Chief of Staff, they were told that efforts would have been made to contact with them within two weeks after the meeting. No calls came two weeks later, or even two months later for that matter.
According to the ranks, when they attempted on a few occasions to follow-up on the promise made by the Chief of Staff, they were given the “royal runaround.”
“When one of them boys call they tell he something, when I call they tell me something totally different,” said Cort. He continued, “Yesterday when we trying to ask questions all they trying to do was get we out of the place.”
“It ain’t nice how they treating we…the way I see it, they just wanted us to come so that we could take photographs so they could look good, as if they doing something, but they really ain’t doing nothing much for we,” added Samuels.
On the night of December 18, 2000, the now medically unfit ranks were among a unit tasked with guarding the ammunition bond at Camp Groomes. The bond, due to reasons which have not been released to the public, exploded. The bond reportedly contained grenades, various rifles, guns, and a suspected chemical weapon which the government had said was destroyed at the time.
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