Independence Messages!

0

Peoples Progressive Party 

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) extends to all Guyanese, at home and abroad, greetings on Guyana’s 56th independence anniversary.

On June 5, 1958, founder of the PPP and former president, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, posed an important question to the Legislative Council – What do the people of this country want in this phase of our history? Today, 56 years following independence, this question has contemporary applicability, particularly, given the current global challenges that impact on our nation, from the global COVID-19 pandemic to climate change.

The people of the country answered this question at the March 2020 polls by endorsing the PPP/C’s ‘Plan for Prosperity’. Under successive PPP/C administrations, the foundation for transformative change was laid and, in 2020, this agenda was broadened to include more ambitious targets in all sectors, specifically in education, healthcare and agriculture. Our nation is moving forward with an agenda for transformation, bolstered by the success of our burgeoning oil and gas sector, which will benefit all our people by: increasing their ability to create wealth, improving their standard of living and wellbeing, and advancing their ability to pursue self development through education among a plethora of other interventions. From direct support to farmers and school-children, to building the infrastructure for future advances, the PPP/C developmental agenda creates space for all of our people to benefit, participate and lead.

The PPP, uses this occasion, to not only celebrate our gains, but recommit itself to the service of all Guyanese in a transparent and accountable manner.

As we reflect on the struggles of the pre-independence era, Guyanese are encouraged to reflect on the gains we have made, bearing in mind that our collective will and effort is demanded to move our great nation forward and sustain the our progress.

Looking ahead, in light of the prevailing challenges, our immediate task is to ensure that our democracy is bolstered. A democratic nation, where the will of our people can be freely
expressed, is quintessential to ensuring our continued development, peace and progress.

Democracy has been, and remains, a pillar of our development. As our people demonstrated during the March 2020 period, the fight to protect our democratic gains is a perpetual effort. This phase of Guyana’s history promises to be an exciting time for positive change and progress, even as our nation, under the PPP/C administration, reclaims its place as a regional and global leader on issues of food, security, climate change and more.

In 1958 freedom was the answer to the question – What do the people of this country want in this phase of our history? – and this notion remains a poignant reminder of how far we have come and how far we have, yet, to go as a people.

More recently, PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, during country-wide outreaches, reiterated the importance of democracy to our freedoms and development and to the implementation of the PPP/C transformative agenda.

We are also reminded that the freedom that independence brings is not merely parochial; it comes with a responsibility for all patriotic-minded Guyanese to reject ploys that seek to divide our people for selfish gain; it comes with a responsibility for our people to hold all leaders accountable; and it comes with a responsibility for each of us to play our part in the prosperity of Guyana that we share as ‘One People, One Nation, with One Destiny’.

The PPP, again, extends best wishes to all our people on this momentous occasion.

Opposition Leader 

My fellow Guyanese, Happy Independence Day.

On the occasion of this the 56th anniversary of our Independence, I wish, on behalf of the Opposition and on my own behalf, to congratulate the people of Guyana for achieving another milestone.

As we contemplate where we are today as a nation, I find it appropriate to recall one of the solemn pledges we, the Guyanese people, have enshrined in the Preamble of our constitution. We have pledged to:

“forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.”

Unfortunately, all of these elements (from “concerted effort” to “the rule of law”) have come under severe assault in recent times. Our 56th Independence anniversary therefore finds a nation scarred by bad-governance and devoid of national self-confidence and optimism.

Instead of concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making, we find a government increasingly hell-bent on instituting political dominance and autocratic rule.

Instead of a viable economy, we find an economy that privileges the political elite, friends and family, but shortchanges the elderly, single parents, unemployed, the working poor, the young and upcoming, small business owners, small farmers and families with babies and small children.

Instead of a harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law, we find that the lack of good governance in our country has reached crisis proportions.

Our nation has simply not lived up to the aspirations in our constitution. We can and must do better. We owe that much to the generation who fought for our Independence. Even more, we owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to the generations to come.

What do I mean when I say “we can and must do better”? How does our nation get there? First, as a people, we must believe in ourselves. We must believe in our creativity to envision a great nation. We must believe in our abilities to reach those great heights, in our strengths to overcome inevitable obstacles. And we must believe in our resolve and resilience to forge ahead relentlessly.

Second, we must build an unshakeable and shared understanding that Guyana and its riches belong to all Guyanese. No ethnicity, no group, no class, no citizen is superior to any other. All must be treated equally and respected. And all must share fairly and equitably in the national patrimony.

Third, we must not allow the current mal-governance to be normalized. We must strive for good governance as our fundamental human right. Accountability to the people is achievable and a must. Inclusivity in national decision-making is achievable and a must. Transparency is not a government bonus but a necessity and the people’s right.  So is the rule of law. So too is the effective management of the nation’s resources.

Fourth, to do better, the social and economic rights enshrined in our constitution and in the international conventions to which Guyana is a signatory must be seen not as merely aspirational, but as rights to be actually fulfilled and enjoyed by citizens. Our constitutional rights, for example, to be free from want, hunger, and ignorance; and our right to work, to leisure, to good health, and to a safe environment must no longer exist only in words. They must be actually guaranteed fully—and urgently.

Fifth, we must move beyond lip service and give substance to building racial harmony in Guyana. We can and must take tangible steps to eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee equality of opportunity for all, and to establish healthy inter-ethnic understandings and interactions.

Sixth, we can and must do better as a people to entrench our shared values, strengthen our sense of “One Destiny”, and rejuvenate our national pride. We need to end the existence of Two Guyanas.

My fellow Guyanese, despite the decades of challenges, the fact that we, as a nation, have travelled this far together is an achievement in itself. Fifty-six years is not a short journey. Our survival speaks not only to our strong spirit and will power, it also speaks to our capacity to keep travelling forward. But we have arrived at a critical crossroad in our history where we are required not only to travel forward but also to travel upward.

Upward towards a society and an economy in which we can end poverty, lift and expand the middle class, and ensure all citizens can live decently and comfortably. Upward where being classified as one of the world’s richest countries could translate into a better quality of life for the people of Guyana. Let us together climb to a better Guyana.

These are the thoughts that we need to ponder on this the 56th anniversary of that historic day in May 1966.

Once again, Happy Independence Day!

Ethnic Relations Commission

The Ethnic Relations Commission, (ERC), extends warmest greetings to all Guyanese on Independence Day. Political independence was granted after bitter struggle, but all ethnic groups now share one independent homeland, in freedom for more than half a century.

Cultural and religious freedoms continue to flourish; the ERC congratulates all Guyanese for continuing, in any small way, to cement the ties of diversity that bind everyone together as One People. Independence spurred intensified efforts to promote the growth of tolerance and respect. It blossomed with multi-ethnic national holidays and sharing in each other’s cultural festivities.

The breakaway from the grip of colonial rule, spearheaded by the selfless efforts of heroes of yore, climaxed 56 years ago in May, 1966. The lowering of the Union Jack for the last time and hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead for the first, ushered in the birth of One Nation – represented by diverse peoples including our own indigenous citizens.

The mammoth undertaking of nation-building rests on the shoulders of every citizen, traversing a common path together to attain One Destiny in peace and prosperity. Let’s continue to remember that our ancestors travelled from different lands across the Atlantic and laid the foundations of independence in struggle.

With commitment to country and recognition of our aspirations, the stage is set for adding more building blocks to achieve a more harmonious multi-ethnic society which we all desire. Our National Motto reminds us of that!

Happy Independence to all Guyanese from the Management and Staff of the ERC!

Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union

The attainment of political independence represented the culmination of years of struggles of our people to extract themselves from the yoke of colonialism. Indeed, it was widely felt that the chains of the colonial master served as a major restraint eroding fundamental freedoms and our ability to chart our own destiny. In the fifty-six (56) years of independence we believe we have come a long way and scored several impressive gains. Those years though have not been without challenge. In the period, we faced up and overcame natural disasters, economic turmoil, divisiveness, and undemocratic rule. It is a testimony to our people and nation that we have come so far despite the adversities in our way. It also is a fitting tribute to those who led and participated in the independence struggle that gave way to independent Guyana.

It is against that background that the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) extends to all Guyanese best wishes on the occasion of Independence Day 2022. As we observe yet another anniversary of the milestone achievement, we of the GAWU, as a patriotic organisation, take pride in our successes as we urge that our setbacks serve as abiding lessons in charting the future. As we look towards the horizon on this Independence Day, we recognize that the country, like no other period in its history, is on the cusp of massive advancement. Today, our natural wealth which belongs to us all is yielding significant sums which is being channelled into all-round development which is intended improve the lives of all Guyanese.

Today, as we celebrate our freedom to chart our course, we cannot ignore lingering concerns. Currently, we recognize challenges to our people’s well-being and welfare remain ever present. Rising living costs remain a foremost concern of our working-people and their families. We recognize the effort of the Government to offer relief. This is laudable and welcomed though concerns are harboured about whether such reliefs are reaching our peoples. The need for sustained direct interventions should be considered and in this vein we reiterate our call for the long-outstanding improvement in the National Minimum Wage.

The occasion of Independence also allows us the opportunity to examine our economic trajectory. Though we have recorded substantial growth in recent times, and this is expected to be sustained in the coming years, we remain concerned about whether these developments are reaching our peoples equally. These issues can well grow sharper in the coming times and there is a need to ensure that proper mechanisms are in place to safeguard against such real concerns. We also should not lose focus on the necessity to maximize our national wealth whether natural or human towards ensuring that our people remain foremost beneficiaries.

Indeed, our independence anniversary affords us the opportunity to reflect on our journey. It gives us the opportunity to chart a future where we seek to obtain our objectives of One Guyana and where we can build a stronger Guyana together. On this Independence Day our desire is to see a future of inclusivity and prosperity for our people. In this regard, as we draw closer to our objectives of building a modern, prosperous country, the GAWU, again, extends best wishes on this 56th anniversary of Independence.

Guyana Public Service Union

Fifty-six years of independence from colonial ruler Britain and Guyana is the subject of discussion in every major country in the hemisphere and the world. This is because of thirty-one discoveries of oil within its economic zone, off the mainland of Guyana. These discoveries are replete with possibilities of catapulting the Guyanese peoples into a world of wealth, if this was to be managed in the best interest of our peoples.

The peoples of Guyana, with the exception of our indigenous brothers and sisters, were either brought to Guyana as slaves or came sometime around May 1838 to seek better lives for themselves, following the abolition of slavery in 1834. Given the background of the two major ethnic groups in Guyana, that is to say, one forcefully removed from their homeland Africa and enslaved for centuries, while the other maltreated and were despised members of India’s lower castes in search of a better life, the greatest seer would have predicted that these groups would have integrated easily, to achieve Guyana’s dream, expressed in its motto “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, so boldly adopted on May 26, 1966, when Guyana was proclaimed an independent nation.

The proclamation of nationhood was meant to bond the diverse peoples of Guyana into a unified nation. However, through the years, selfish politicians have dug deep divides between our peoples, pitting the larger groups against each other. In recent times, political machinations have been bolder with clear economic alienation of a large percentage of the population, not perceived to be their supporters. In fact, our chosen leaders, over the fifty-six years of independence, have squandered every opportunity to unify our peoples, towards the development of the Country, with the result of perpetual migration of skilled workers. This resulted in bold misrepresentations by some politicians that most of the relocations occurred at the time of a thriving dictatorship that reportedly strangulated the people. Nonetheless, changes in leadership from that era to date has done nothing to stem the flow.

As racial polarization intensified between the two largest groups, discrimination (even from the seats of Governments), supplemented and compounded by poor wages and issues surrounding occupational health and safety became identified as the major reasons for the mass exodus, mostly to the developed world, where our peoples tirelessly pursued better lives for themselves and generations to come. Poverty dispelled Peace and tranquility in the new era and heightened crime became the new watchwords, as economic pressures were visited upon the people. There has also been a reduction in job security, because of political intervention into workplaces and an escalation of deprivation and poverty. Contrarily, in 1993 the Guyana Government endorsed the existence of this scourge and committed to address its alleviation. However, to date there has been an abysmal failure to do so, with the result that poverty has become more widespread, being self-evident by the increasingly atrocious number of beggars and homeless persons, countrywide.

Our peoples, who remained at home, have been tirelessly used as political pawns to seat new governments in the name of “democracy.” Successive Governments, after taking the oath of office, have taken unconstitutional paths towards their own selfish desires and in the process have implemented programs and systematically squandered the country’s resources without plans, research or involvement of the people. For example, our politicians now parade as angels bearing gifts, where work or revenue is doled out as though a political favour, apparently in exchange for the sanctity of future votes. Also, they have used political clout to desecrate the proper functioning of independent constitutional offices and manipulate outcomes and processes set to achieve transparency and fairness. Some Constitutional Heads appointed by them lacked moral fiber to uphold truth and justice, while others have had their tenures cut short, because of daring to stand strong to desired values.

There are the so called “Guardians of Democracy” that cheer on our leaders even when these undermine democratic obligations and/or constitutional requirements. These “Guardians” exists only to give lip service to the existence of democratic norms, but care little about the presence of real democracy. They willingly subscribe and make excuses for lawless and unconstitutional conduct of our leaders, while our peoples struggle.

The people are made to subsist on starvation wages and slave-like conditions, while politicians live like kings and wantonly misrepresent the Country’s situation and inveigle their minions with perks to secure their support. To ensure wider support, some politicians play on ethnic weaknesses, subtly suggesting reasons for political and other differences.

A notable example is the constant denial of improved conditions of service to Public Servants, the Country’s premier workforce, through the rejection of the right to collective bargaining, and the payment of starvation wages and salaries, instead of realistic wages and salaries, commensurate with current economic conditions. Government most recently limited these workers to what amounts to a miniscule handout, while embarking on public funded political campaigns within its constituencies making political commitments to invest billions of dollars in these areas. As if this was not enough, it again approved a fertilizer grant for some 70,000 farmers that is expected to cost one billion dollars and cash grants of twenty-five thousand dollars to persons in riverain and hinterland communities, who had also benefitted during a similar payout in 2020. This disingenuous and divisive methodology of Government is destined to create more disunity, tensions and disgruntlement among the peoples of Guyana, who cherish the Country’s independence, but are made to suffer immensely through the selfish schemes of Government. The systemic partitioning of the nation has had negative effects on the growth of Guyana, which despite its vast national resources, have seen little development over the fifty-six years of independence.

Again, the discovery of oil on our shores, militates against excuses for the failure to eradicate poverty and also works in contradiction of the payment of scanty national minimum wages. Hence, the genuine practice of good governance, by whosoever is afforded the privilege to discharging that mandate, is paramount and persons afforded such privileges must at all times be held accountable to the people and be not above the law.

Cementing of the peoples has always been necessary for the development of robust national bonds as a durable basis for the advancement of the Country, not only economically, but also socially and structurally. In this regard, education of the peoples was seen as key to all forms of development and as such was availed to every Guyanese at no cost, from “Nursery to University.” As the political believers of this theory passed on, education within some levels began to carry price tags, including at the University level. This departure over the years must be revisited to guarantee all our peoples their educational needs.

Satisfying the nation’s educational needs would doubtlessly increase the national response to climate change and inform requirements for disaster preparedness. These are imperatives that would determine the Country’s future, given the facts that the coastland of Guyana is below sea level, in addition to the inherent risks in oil mining. In recent times, our leaders have taken a carefree approach to the imminence of both threats, giving political maneuverings precedence. This sad state of affairs poses dire risks, not only to our peoples, but also to our pristine environment.

While as a people we ponder on issues of governance that are real threats to our very existence, focus should also remain on the ravages of the coronavirus and other imminent biological threats, that also threaten our very existence as a people.  Do everything to be safe and avoid the damning pitfalls outlined by the World Health Organization and Guyana’s Central Board of Health.

Fundamentally, as a people, irrespective of our individual political beliefs and persuasions, our engraved mindsets must be Country oriented, whereby there is strength and independence to stand for what is just and right. Our minds must dispel all things that threaten harmony and/or strive to make the achievement of the virtues of our national motto a myth. As a priority, the citizens of Guyana must strive for real unity, stand in defense of each other, recognizing that power resides in the people. It is only with such unity that we the people can hold our politicians accountable for their acts. The disunity among our people can be easily eradicated if we open our minds and take an enlightened approach to dealing with all matters that are not being done in our best interest. The peoples of this nation must rise from their perpetual slumber and demand that Governments be not laws unto themselves, but be accountable to the people. Citizens must also demand that Governments lead by example, a trait that so far has not been manifested, but is a requirement of good governance.

On behalf of the Executive Council, Members and Staff of the GPSU, myself and my family, I extend to all Guyanese, best wishes for the 56th Independence Anniversary, while we look forward to a bright future, working and living together in love, unity and harmony.