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“As I ponder the efforts made then to ensure that our Constitution allows for certain things such as the enhancement of what we understood as democracy, which of course includes free speech, decency, justice, respect for human beings and of course to ensure that the bounty of our God-given natural resources redound to the benefit of the ordinary people as an independent Guyana. Those who came as bondsmen, free men and our Amerindian brothers and sisters are all entitled to share the wealth.”
On this day May 26, 2022 we celebrate or more accurately observe our 56th year of Independence and I wish all Guyanese in particular our few media operatives, young people and true patriots a Happy and Reflective Day.
After years of struggle, the final Constitutional Independence Conference which settled the date for Independence was held early November at Lancaster House, London.
For the records those who represented British Guiana were Sir Richard Luyt, K.C.M.G, D.C.M, Governor, Hon. Shridath (Sony) Ramphal, Q.C., Attorney General, Sir Lionel A. Luckhoo, C.B.E, Q.C, Commissioner for British Guiana in the UK, Hon. David .Gardner .Rose, M.B.E., Defence Adviser, Lt. Col. P.H. Hislop, Mr. A. J. Breeze, Hon. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, Q.C., Premier, Hon. Clifton Mortimer Llewelyn John, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Hon. Deoroop Mahraj, Minister without Portfolio, Mr. Hugh Maybrick E. Cholmondeley, Adviser, Mr. Hamilton Green, General Secretary, PNC., Mr. John Gabriel Joaquin, O.B.E., Hon. Peter Stanilaus. D’Aguiar, Minister of Finance, Hon. Randolph E. Cheeks, Minister, Mr. Stephen Campbell, PS to the Ministry of Home Affairs (later 1st Amerindian to enter Parliament), Mr. J.E. Defreitas, C.B.E., Mr. Marcellus Fielden Singh, and Hon. Mohamed Kassim, Minister of Works and Hydraulics.
From the above list, you’ll note that only two persons are still alive.
On arriving in London, we learnt that for the second time in British history a colony had dared to stick a finger in the Royal eye of the British empire and Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Premier unilaterally declared themselves independent resisting the call for majority rule in a country where black Africans constituted an overwhelming majority.
On being greeted at Lancaster House, Mr. Burnham asked the Colonial Secretary when would they dispatch troops to put down the white-led rebellion in Rhodesia as they did in Guiana in 1953?
The British Official responded ‘Oh Mr. Burnham, you are a naughty chap.’
As I ponder the efforts made then to ensure that our Constitution allows for certain things such as the enhancement of what we understood as democracy, which of course includes free speech, decency, justice, respect for human beings and of course to ensure that the bounty of our God-given natural resources redound to the benefit of the ordinary people as an independent Guyana.
Those who came as bondsmen, free men and our Amerindian brothers and sisters are all entitled to share the wealth.
On this occasion, I mention only four things, initiated by Mr. Burnham, which would have contributed to a genuine oneness in an independent State. These were 1). National Service, 2). the National Insurance Scheme 3). an aggressive FCH ( Feed, Clothe and House) Programme and 4). a highly respected Foreign Service, staffed by Guyanese of competence and integrity. A foreign service respected internationally.
The President has undertaken many International visits and met world leaders from just about everywhere. We have no difficulty with this but unless we can have a foreign service staffed with people of stature and competence, the cost of these visits and time spent would be wasted.
I make apologies to no one but the present crop of Ambassadors, Senior Foreign Service Officers, with very few exceptions lack capacity to translate statements made into cogent policy and performances.
If the post-Independence Opposition had not vigorously opposed these four initiatives, with the bounty from our natural resources, every Guyanese, and I repeat every Guyanese would be happy living in comfort and be proud to be a Guyanese at home and abroad. For some inexplicable reason, we seem unable to learn from the lessons history has to offer.
That is wherever and whenever local leaders lose focus on the vital, social and economic issues, citizens are ill-served and we open the gates for powerful foreign forces and their companies to gobble us up, like the rapacious camoudi snake.
As we observe Independence,it is instructive for us to recall the International environment clouded by that all consuming Cold War.
The US landed fourteen thousand troops in the Dominican Republic after a stubborn leader could not agree on what was best for their country.
In late June, the US Administration authorized US Troops to enter the domestic tussle in Vietnam. This manifested itself in a war the US should have known they could not win but one which caused the lives of fifty eight thousand (58,000) of young American soldiers. So Great America betrayed herself in Vietnam.
Race riots in Watts, the result of racial intolerance.
This was the global environment as we met and settled the modalities for our Independence.
Even as we prepared to celebrate our Independence in 1966, the man we planned to be our special guest, Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a coup on the 24th of February, 1966. Nkrumah was bronze Tito of Yugoslavia, Gama Nassau of Egypt and Pandit Nehru of India and established the Non-Aligned Movement intended to ensure that the human and material resources of the so-called third world were exploited by neither superpowers of east nor west.
As we observe our 56th year of Independence, it is painful to note just three things, first, how we are willing to compromise our environment at the behest of a big brother with big bucks, so we dismissed Mr. Vincent Adams, as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, so today we have an EPA that is a toothless and clawless tiger, seemingly dancing to the tune of the Government and their darlings..
The Forbes Burnham Foundation sought and obtained permission in writing to mount an Independence Commemorative Exhibition at the Foyer of the National Library intended to educate and inform in particular young Guyanese about the road and challenges that allowed the successful quest for Independence in 1966.
Even before the exhibits were to be mounted, Chairman of the Burnham Foundation, Mr. Vincent Alexander received a telephone call saying that permission was being withdrawn since the Library needed the facility for its own use.
Taken against the severations about One Guyana, this is unbelievable, but in the context of Guyana, it is so.
Overtime faced with the validity of these concepts, certain governments pay lip service, so as we approach this Independence, disregarding the warnings of the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, According to him, renewable energy policies are fundamental to reduce market risk and drive investment into the sector.
Further, he used the opportunities to again reiterate that governments must shift subsidies away from fossil fuels to protect the poor and most vulnerable people and communities.
Every minute of every day, coal, oil and gas receive roughly $11 million dollars in subsidies. Each year, governments around the world pour around half a trillion dollars into artificially lowering the price of fossil fuels — more than triple what renewables receive,” he observed.
Of course the mystery surrounding foreign companies being given permission willingly to exploit our gold is a serious matter. Over time, we have been subordinated and suffocated by the efforts of the descendants of those who first exploited us centuries ago.
Our leaders should not be allowed to disregard our noble ancestors on the pretext we were told once that we don’t have technology and equipment to mine gold these days.
We seem unconcerned at the destruction of our waterways, our flora and fauna. Our early fighters for freedom, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham must be shedding tears that are now perhaps responsible for the incessant rainfall we are now experiencing.
Beyond this I continue to plead with both sides of our political divide that they must sit like sensible men and work out a common strategy that will allow us to speak with one voice, as we deal with the mighty conglomerates.
The giants of industry are delighted when our leaders seem comfortable or satisfied with pennies instead of demanding available pounds.
Is it because the system allows an emerging oligarchy to behave as though they speak for 99.9% of the people.
The technique of divide and rule is a well-known practice of the old imperial masters and their descendants.
Another grievous matter, is that last week we heard the DPP exercising the powers given her under the Constitution, withdrawing the charges made against Attorney-at-Law Nirvan Singh in response to allegations by Special Constable Ms. Shawnette Bollers, that he called her a ‘black monkey.’
Ms. Bollers earlier expressed a willingness to take a lie detector test.
In a polarized society, this is a matter of serious concern to all and sundry. This matter ought not to be swept under the carpet.
The DPP Office in response to concerns expressed said that they will not be intermediated because the DPP acted within the confines of the law. Are we serious?
Here I recall the literature “Oliver Twist,’ written by Charles Dickens, when the character Mr. Bumble said “ The law is an ass.” Guyana seems to be controlled by another ass, arrogance, stupidity and stubbornness.
The tragedy of this is there are many Guyanese of the same ethnicity as Mr. Singh who I consider decent and forthright and would not countenance such behaviour.
When an Official takes the role of Judge and Jury, then we are in deep trouble.
One can ask, do we really desire peace in this country? Or is it that Constable Bollers represents a group that can be ignored and trampled upon with impunity?
These are questions that the President must answer in his Independence Address.
The third worrisome matter, is that we are hearing all sorts of nice things from the President, while all that is necessary to cushion the burden of a daily increase in the cost of living is to double the salaries of all the public sector employees, Policemen, Soldiers, Firemen, Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, the Army, Clerks, etc. This will force their friends in the Private Sector with a few exceptions to give their workers a better deal.
The old folks say ‘Wha Mouth nah load’ meaning not what you say but what you do and deliver that matters.
After 56 years of Independence we still do not have the capacity and good sense to avoid a slow march to neo-colonialism.
After 56 years of Independence there is still ambivalence and in some cases deception about local content and food security. The philosophical underpinnings were articulated and set in motion more than four decades ago.
Today as we expect our leaders to celebrate, certain local companies who deliver goods and services must still act as Sub-Contractors to the big foreign companies.
Finally, as we observe our 56th year of Independence, I ask and I ask all of our leaders, political, religious, judiciary and the executive to go beyond the niceties of the law and petty differences and be directed and behave like true Statesmen should.
In spite of the gloom and hubris above, we must still believe that true patriots will lead us to the glorious and not damned, and that we sing this day lustily and meaningfully, the third stanza of our National Anthem, words by A.L.Luker and lyrics by E.C.G.Potter: “Great Land of Guyana, diverse though our strains, We are born of their sacrifice, heirs of their pains. And ours is the glory their eyes did not see, One land of six peoples, united and free.”
All of our teachings direct us that what is important is that all of us have what I term, a moral sense helping us to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, what is desirable and undesirable. This is the task ahead that will help us to be glorious and not damned and beyond all this I pose this to this generation: are we truly independent in our actions and thinking or is it a phrase of convenience.