THE face of colonialism was division – division of the people in countries under the control of colonial masters – according to Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.
And, in addressing the National Assembly, on Tuesday night he stressed that if Guyana is to move forward as a progressive nation, together, the move must be made from the basis of recognizing that Guyana is stronger that the things that divide the Guyanese people.
He said, “We believe that, as Guyanese, we have more in common than those things that divide us – regardless of the robust debates that we have, regardless of the numerous encounters that we have….we are all children of the soil.”
“We all share this history and our history, regardless of our race, did not start when we came to this land – it is the entire history of Guyana….that common history binds us. The pride we share when we travel abroad to talk of our country, regardless of who is in power, is common to all of us. We believe that this blood tie that binds us is stronger that the heated political divisions we have that may find very robust expressions,” Jagdeo added. He expressed confidence in the fact that Guyana “will do better” over the next 50 years.
Independence and the reflection around independence, particularly 50 years, must take account of the struggles of all those who fought for it, the Opposition Leader stressed.
He said, “If we look at struggles for independence across the world, we will find that in every instance, they had to sacrifice to attain independence. It was not handed to them on a platter…colonialism was not a benign thing….independence was only granted because of the struggle of people.
“Here too in Guyana, we must disabuse our minds that somehow the British handed this to us…from the organised trade union movement to the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) in 1946…and the formations of the first political party in Guyana, the People’s Progressive Party….they were all important milestones in our march to freedom.”
According to him, it was the progressive policies that the 1950 group (the PPP and its leaders) started to enact – because they wanted to change the lives of the Guyanese people for the better – that led to external pressure and interference.
“We all have an obligation to look at the source documents, as Members of Parliament and as ordinary Guyanese….to see how the troubles of the 60’s were externally fermented because they did not want freedom to be extended to our people,” he urged.
The Opposition Leader warned that the scars of colonialism are still visible in Guyanese society and doing better over the next 50 years will depend on recognizing that and taking steps to address it.
He said, “Because of the trouble, the race riots, etc., we have had to overcome or to struggle with the suspicion of period and it has harmed us, because it has lived in the minds of that generation….from then to now.…when we talk of social cohesion today, the primary task, I think, is to go back and restore – almost have to remove the suspicions from that period.”
“…our history, good or bad, it is our history and many of the lessons of that history should help us in the future – examination of our economic history, our political history, and our institutional history,” Jagdeo declared.
According to him, Guyana did have local leaders “who might have been used” by external forces, but he stressed that the plots, which ignored the will and interest of the Guyanese, were external. “The plot to divide our people was purely external and we lived with the consequences,” he said.
He added, “…if we are going to make progress in the future, as a cohesive nation, we have to ensure that the policies, which we enact today, are for all Guyanese and that people perceive them to be for our entire country.”
On the note of plans for the future, the Opposition Leader stated that the PPP and its members will always work in the nation’s interest.
“Our patriotism must never be questioned….our members love this country as much as anyone else…we will work as hard as anyone else. We are patriots,” he said.
Jagdeo added, “…I have listened carefully to the two speeches made by the President….and we in the PPP share many of the sentiments of the President. We believe that we have to work together, regardless of our political affiliation, to move our country forward.
“We too share a vision for this country – a vision that is similar, at least in ideals, to those of the President. We would like to see our country prosper. We would like our people to progressively have a better live. We want a green economy….we want out people to live together in harmony and not be divided by history and current circumstances.”
According to him, specific plans to realise these objectives need to be addressed. “I hope that after the independence celebrations are over, the whole year will be spent on talking about how we can achieve the lofty vision (as expressed by President Granger), the objectives of bringing our people together, real policies, and a change in attitudes about who we are as people and as a nation,” he said.
Jagdeo noted that the PPP is looking forward to 50 years in the future “when we can look back at this celebration and say we have moved forward” – a future that is in the best interest of all Guyanese.
“I wish all the best for an independence filled with thoughts and reflections, and pride, about who we are….as we do that, I hope we can use the 50th anniversary to craft new way forward and maybe we will fulfill the true promise of this land,” he said.
The Opposition Leader extended wishes on behalf of all the members of the PPP.
“I would like to wish you a happy 50th Independence anniversary and wish members on the other side (Government MPs) a prosperous year, one filled with productive service and development for Guyana,” Jagdeo said. (Vanessa Narine)