Guyana at 52

first_imgToday thousands of citizens and well-wishers in the region and diaspora will join the country’s leaders to celebrate and mark Guyana’s 52nd Independence Anniversary.The celebrations will no doubt be grand in certain parts of the country, despite the fact that the Government has abandoned the traditional and midnight flag raising ceremony which was the feature event for decades, since it was symbolic with the events which took place back in 1966.Even as Guyanese celebrate, there is need for urgent introspection and reflection on the gains that have made on the country’s long road to independence, and the consistent strides that have been secured in Guyana’s turbulent and dynamic post-Independence history.Recall, that upon attainment of Independence, Guyana became the only English-speaking country on the South American continent and the 24th member of the then British Commonwealth of Nations, despite the struggles faced in the early 1950s and its nationalist movement which birthed the original People’s Progressive Party under the leadership of the Late Presidents Dr Cheddi B. Jagan and Forbes Burnham.At that time, both leaders pursued a menu of noble, democratic and visionary policies aimed at the attainment of national unity and internal self-government. As Dr Tota Mangar wrote in one of his literary pieces, “their resounding victory at the 1953 general elections under adult suffrage astounded many, including local reactionaries, the Colonial Office, and moreso the US State Department”. It was the crowning achievement of how a people could rally against oppression if they were hungry for the right to determine their own destinies.Dr Mangar also notes in his writings that “the mass-based party’s tenure in office was only short-lived, as Great Britain, under considerable American pressure, suspended the Constitution and overthrew the legally elected Government under the guise of preventing the establishment of a communist state in the then British Guiana.An interim Government was imposed, and it comprised of many individuals, who themselves suffered humiliating defeat at the hands of the toppled nationalist candidates. As if that setback was not enough, the nationalist movement itself became severely fractured in 1955 into Jaganite and Burnhamite factions of the PPP and the eventual emergence of the People’s National Congress two years later. This development paved the way for the subsequent intense political rivalry between our two foremost leaders – Dr Jagan and Mr Burnham.It was no doubt at this point that Guyana’s history became even more interesting and intriguing in the lead up to Independence, because the split between the two leaders led to many of the problems which characterized Independent Guyana in her post-Independence years, which were also considered as the “dark years”.As history would have it, Burnham would lead the first coalition Government in 1964 with the United Force, while Dr Jagan continued his activism and work in Opposition, notwithstanding the fact that he led the first national Government.The ultimate movement of triumph of patriotism, unity and togetherness came when, in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Kent; Sir Richard Luyt, the first Governor-General of Guyana; former Conservative Colonial Secretary Duncan Sandys, and Colonial Secretary Anthony Greenwood, and 62 delegates from 47 countries worldwide, Dr Jagan and Burnham embraced each other in what appeared to be an emotionally charged hug.Fifty-two years after the event, Guyana is still facing some of the same challenges faced then. This country is toying and experimenting with various models of governance that could lead to inclusivity and the achievement of national unity. The country is still racially polarized and divided despite the advancement of legislation and other events that took place, which were aimed at creating national healing, consensus-building, and inclusivity.Leaders are still locked in a heated debate about the kind of Guyana that is needed in order to transform the lives of the ordinary men and their standard of living. The same threats that existed in the pre- and post-colonial days appear to be resurfacing disguised as new wine, but many of those who lived through the fifties recognize the old bottles and know too well the dangers that may lie ahead if a decision is not paid to change course.We must work together to accomplish a lot more by the time the country celebrates its next Independence Anniversary. Citizens must take pride in being Guyanese, and must understand that they are the only ones that could truly redefine this country’s destiny, but they must not barter their rights and freedoms in order to live a good life. They must defend those freedoms zealously, while demanding that those in power who have access to the public purse fulfill their mandate as promised.last_img

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