Paramilitary Forces and Special Units
In 1973 a paramilitary organization, the Guyana National
Service (GNS), was created. Generally used as a manpower source for
public works and services, it also had a limited military
potential. The government envisioned the GNS as an organization
that would produce "cadres" sufficiently skilled to depart the
populated coast and relocate to the underdeveloped interior.
According to the GNS's enabling document, the Guyana National
Service State Paper, this program would prepare Guyanese to use
their time and energies profitably and productively; equip them
with the knowledge and experience to open up, develop, and live on
the rich lands available in the hinterland. It would mobilize and
motivate support for the Guyanese people's effort to "feed, clothe,
and house" themselves; inculcate the skills and attitudes necessary
for nation-building and national development; and transform
individuals accustomed to depending upon external aid into selfreliant and productive citizens. The GNS was to encourage the
physical and mental discipline necessary for development and to
ensure cohesion and unity among the various ethnic, religious,
social, and economic groups in Guyana.
The 1,500-person GNS was divided into various corps for young
people from ages eight to twenty-five, and was integrated into
public education. Associated with the Afro-Guyanese dominated PNC,
it was almost exclusively composed of young Afro-Guyanese. The
program evolved from an earlier voluntary service group called the
Guyana Youth Corps. This organization, whose mission had been to
populate the hinterland, failed because of a lack of public
The government requirement that University of Guyana students
and government scholarship students perform one year of service
with the GNS in the republic's interior posed problems for young
Indo-Guyanese women. It is customary in Guyana for single women of
all ethnic groups to live at home with their parents. When away
from home, single women live with relatives or board with families.
The Indo-Guyanese were particularly concerned that the GNS program
was a scheme to foster interracial relationships. Many women
refused to enter the GNS and, as a result, did not graduate from
the university. It became common practice among Indo-Guyanese to
attend college overseas to avoid the GNS program.
GNS teaching was highly ideological. Although membership was
optional at the elementary and secondary levels, students who did
not participate were not provided the results of their high school
placement examinations. Elementary school students who did
participate were organized into "Young Brigades" and taught to
march and chant party slogans. Later, as high school juniors,
students were encouraged to join the Guyana National Service Cadet
Corps. The corps was similar to Cuba's Young Pioneers, with the
Guyanese cadets going to field camps for political indoctrination.
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.
In 1980 the government created the National Guard Service (NGS)
to protect government personnel and state property from theft and
subversive activity. The NGS included both security personnel
already employed at government facilities and retired police
officers and others. The NGS maintained a strength of 2,000
The Young Socialist Movement (YSM) was the youth arm of the
PNC, with members throughout Guyana. The YSM maintained a military
component with an estimated strength of 2,000. The GDF, GNS, and
People's Militia provided its training. Members of the military
component usually paraded in military uniforms but without weapons.
Data as of January 1992