Guyana Legion is apolitical, not an arm of the coalition

Dear Editor,
My Nana, or maternal grandfather, Cyril Kowlessar, served in the Second World War. A young man from Leonora (WCD), he enlisted with the UK’s Royal Air Force. Shot during action in France, he survived after a bullet was removed from behind his ear, leaving him partially hearing-impaired for the rest of his life. After the war, he returned home. An early photograph of him is being submitted.
I write in his memory and in reply to a provocative letter (see SN 5/30) by Lt. Col. (ret) George Gomes, president of the Guyana (Veteran) Legion (Legion), an offshoot of the British Guiana Legion, originally formed to celebrate World War veterans.
Mr. Gomes’s letter is filled with pro-Coalition bias geared to incite partisan and racial sympathies in the Joint Services. His wrongful accusations of the PPP regarding votes from Joint Services members has been aptly discredited by ANUG Chairman Mr. Timothy Jonas (see SN 5/31) and others (see SN 6/1).
An accomplished soldier, Gomes disingenuously created a smokescreen to hide racial and partisan overtones by offering himself as a “senior veteran” concerned about voting rights of Joint Services members. However, he reminds one of that woman (Amy Cooper) in New York who recently called the police and falsely accused a black man of threatening her, hoping to tap into certain racial stereotypes in “white” America.
His incendiary posture is unbecoming of an officer, as he attempts to arouse certain racial stereotypes about the Joint Services, and wrongfully uses the Veterans’ Legion to do so. There is an assumption as to where voters’ allegiance lies, and arrogance as to a certain section of the people as not having any military heritage.
The Joint Services have their PR departments to speak for them. No help is needed. Further, the Legion deals with “veteran” issues; and, most important, Mr. Gomes must be aware that the Legion’s initial policy is “non-sectarian and non-political.” That is, the Legion is apolitical, not an arm of the Coalition.
But neither the Legion nor its leadership is now pandering to, or carrying, the Coalition’s false narratives in a disturbing example of an independent organ being compromised by racial and party sympathies.
The nonsense should stop, and some respect should be show.
Worse, Mr. Gomes and the Coalition are attempting to ignite — if I may borrow from former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis — a “false conflict between the military and civilian society.” This is what this US General said this week in criticism of President Donald Trump’s use of the military against peaceful civilian protesters.
A false conflict. This is a real threat to our republican status, and to civil and voting rights acquired through incomparable grit and blood of World War veterans such as my grandfather, heralding the demise of the British Empire and our right to self-rule.
As a war veteran, my grandfather held no illusions about what he saw. He knew that the idea of soldiering itself had become contaminated under the PNC. Allegiance to the party was paramount. Indeed, the rights he fought for were being popularly denied at the ballot box. He had no voice.
If Hitler made him partially deaf, Burnham and Hoyte made him partially mute.
Sure, he told war stories that were not really stories: of the Battle of Britain from a first-person perspective; of how the Russians really won the war, led by the famed Marshal Georgy Zhokov, who denied the invading Germans victory at Leningrad.
But when he died in 1989, he had yet to experience a free and fair election in Guyana. How shameful! The native that helped to defeat the dreaded Stormtroopers, the Gestapo, and the feared Luftwaffe had no basic voting rights at home; nor did people who looked like him.
This is not my Nana’s story; rather, it is a Guyanese one. In today’s emerging “corn” vernacular, this means that those who fought or died for civil rights in trenches cannot enjoy those very rights as those who had dug the trenches. We saw this during the 1985 elections, the last of his time. I was a young Queen’s College student, old enough to feel the disrespect. In our Grove (EBD) area, for example, some villagers emerged from the poll station but complained of being sent away on account that they had already voted.
That was a most brutish election, to say the least, with the Opposition Leader being assaulted. What could an old man or school boy say with no voice?
The old man is long gone, but the school boy is grown and has a voice. As a war veteran’s grandchild, I do not have the luxury of staying silent, especially when “forces” are bent on overrunning the democratic ideals veterans fought and died for.
One ideal is a need to have an apolitical military, which is central to a democracy. The public, including present and past members of the Joint Services, has no less of a duty.

Rakesh Rampertab