Guyana People's Militia
The People's Militia was created in 1976 during a period of heightened tension along the Guyana-Venezuela border. Proposed by opposition leader Cheddi Jagan, the militia was envisioned as a more ethnically diverse force than the GDF, which it would replace. Jagan saw the militia as a popular organization that would have branches on every city block and in every village. The government agreed to form the People's Militia, but only as a supplemental security force. Militia members were to engage in their normal occupation until war broke out, at which point they would defend their communities and assist the regular forces.
The government intended the militia units to be autonomous and flexible enough to be self-supporting during emergencies. The militia's force level was set at 2,000. The government's stated goal was to make the militia a broad-based volunteer force. It was initially well received, and both Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese volunteered. However, preferential treatment of Afro-Guyanese led to an exodus of Indo-Guyanese volunteers. Heavy recruitment in PNC strongholds and sustained political indoctrination ensured that the People's Militia would be loyal to the PNC.
Training in the People's Militia consisted of foot drills for two hours twice a week, plus two Sundays every month. The militia was organized into nine districts, and training was carried out in each of the districts. Uniforms consisted of tan shirts, brown pants, boots, and berets. Members of the militia wore uniforms only during training or during combat. In times of emergency, the militia would be integrated into the GDF.
Writing in the Guyana Review in November 2008, Retired Brigadier David Granger had said that the Militia during its 20-year existence had proven to be a vital component of the defence system that allowed citizens to contribute to national security on a part-time basis without making a full-time commitment to military service. With the loss of autonomy and the depletion in its strength, however, the esprit de corps that was nourished for two decades dissipated.
He had said that many of the Militia’s inherent advantages were lost. Regions without reservists, for example, could no longer assist the regular force to secure porous borders and coastlines or provide organised labor in the event of natural disasters such as floods and other environmental hazards. Most of all, the social capital amassed by the morale and zeal that once motivated ordinary citizens to serve as soldiers and to sacrifice their leisure time to make their country safer seemed to have been squandered.
In 2015, Commander in Chief (CIC), His Excellency President David Granger announced the re-introduction of the National Cadet Corps which is aimed at enabling the nation’s youths to develop basic leadership skills and affording them the opportunity to learn more about and explore Guyana. He indicated that militarisation was not the focus but rather the provision of an environment for recreation and social growth.
Eighteen years after it was disestablished by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration, the Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) was re-activated and hoped to recruit an additional 1,500 persons as reserves. Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips announced that the GPM has been re-established with effect December 1, 2015 in keeping with the defense policy of the six- month old civilian administration.
“These are not full-time, these are part-time soldiers. The whole concept is to have a small regular army and a larger reserve that could augment the regular army," he said.
Phillips explained the advantage of having the GPM as a separate entity rather than being part of the GDF as the 2nd Infantry Battalion since August, 1997. “They will have a separate budget and a separate organizational structure, greater involvement at the regional and community levels in defence and security activities, not to mention training and employment activities".
The Chief of Staff said several drill halls countrywide would be rehabilitated and Regional Companies would be strengthened through recruitment and the provision of more leadership training for officers and senior non-commissioned officers. “We have not done any major or sustained maintenance of basically all the infrastructures in the different regions and it is our intention to start focusing on that in 2016. We are not going to achieve everything in 2016 but we are going to start in 2016," he said.
The rebirth of the People’s Militia, as an important element to strengthen defense mechanisms was lauded by the Guyanese leader March 3, 2016. “The regular Force and the reserve force together must always be in a state of operational readiness and be capable of being deployed to any part of our country and also to fulfill any commitments we have in the Caribbean. The organizational changes which have been directed will ensure that the Defense Force within its financial limitations can adequately discharge its duties to defend Guyana."
During Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) “Teen Camp 2016, youths gained insights into Conflict Resolution, National Policy which included learned about the Members of Parliament and the various Ministries of the government. They were also taught basic military drills and fieldcraft, the use of silent signals in patrolling, survival techniques, the basics of jungle training including how to build shelters, traps, and various rope knots.
Ages 14 to 16, the participants can be drafted into the National Cadet Corps and as such the camp be seen as the formation of its nucleus.The participants were drawn from the various regions as follows: 30 from Region 4; 19 were from Region 5; 27 from region 6 and 26 from Region 10.
The Guyana People's Militia (GPM) observed Militia Day on 01 December 2016. As part of the activities for the observance, Officers of the GPM appeared on radio and television programmes, where they provided information on the history and development of the Militia, its recent re-establishment, its current programs, and projections for the future. On Saturday, December 3, the Officers and Reservists of the GPM participated in Route Marches in Regions 4, 6, and 10.
GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier George Lewis, took the salute as the Region 4 Parade marched past on Irving Street. He also delivered the feature address to the troops following their assembly on the Sports Ground at Base Camp Ayanganna. In Region 6, the Platoon on parade was commanded by Lieutenant Jermaine Watson. New Amsterdam's Mayor, His Worship Kirt Wynter took the salute at Theatre Alley on Main Street, while the assembled ranks were addressed by Reserve Officer, Major Manesh Seeram.
Meanwhile, Linden's Mayor, His Worship Carwyn Holland, took the salute as the Militia contingent marched past. The troops were later addressed by Reserve Officer, Major Valmiki Singh. This is the first observance of Militia Day since the re-establishment of the Guyana People's Militia on December 1, 2015.