Guyana celebrates 55 years of Independence today, with President Dr Irfaan Ali urging Guyanese to come together and be united as the country faces a myriad of post-independence challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his Independence Day address, President Ali noted that Independence was a celebration of a great victory won by the forefathers who all united to end colonialism and to fashion Guyana’s destiny. He noted the importance of Guyana uniting now.
“Now, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Guyanese of our past. To do so, we must recall the spirit of common purpose that motivated them. And in recalling that spirit, with pride and respect, we must commit to continue the journey they began, realising our hopes and aspirations for the future of our much-loved Guyana,” he said.
According to President Ali, unity is also required if Guyana is to surmount the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world.
“Like every other country in the world, we are fighting an unseen but ever-present enemy in the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 16,000 of our people have been infected with the dreadful coronavirus and, sadly, over 360 of them have died. We mourn those deaths and sympathise with the families who have lost loved ones,” he said.
“I plead with all to help stop these deaths; stop the tears of anguish; stop the grief. Your Government has instituted measures to try to protect every person in Guyana, particularly our elderly and vulnerable. However, the active participation of all is required to deploy the protective measures of masks, physical distancing, hand washing and using sanitisers.”
According to the President, 20 per cent of Guyanese have already been vaccinated… a significant accomplishment in a world where less than one per cent of people in the developing countries have access to vaccines, and where recent World Health Organisation (WHO) studies suggest that more than six million people have died globally.
He also reminded that Guyana has already purchased tens of thousands of vaccines, and the Government is sparing no expense in buying more. According to him, the objective is to inoculate everyone from the COVID virus.
“The length of this battle depends on how soon each of us is fully vaccinated, liberating ourselves to return to a high level of normal life, and protecting others from infection. In the past, we have immunised generations of our people from measles, mumps, typhoid, polio, yellow fever, meningitis, diphtheria, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases, proving that vaccinations save lives.”
“I urge that we all recognise the value to our own lives, to the lives of our family and friends, to our livelihoods and to the betterment of our country by vaccinating to defeat the coronavirus, as we have defeated so many others in the past,” the President said.
According to the President, the Government is hard at work as it is not only combating COVID-19, but also lifting Guyana’s healthcare to international standards. According to him, there is significant Private Sector interest in hospitals. Not only that, but the Government is also focused on other areas of advancement.
This includes free university education, improving educational infrastructure, energy, and infrastructure such as roads and bridges. He noted that Guyana cannot be a nation that produces oil and gas which earns considerable sums of money without passing on the benefits to the people.
“Our financial resources must be utilised to improve the quality of life for all our communities. We fought for Independence to give our people the quality of life of which they had been deprived. If Independence is to have any real meaning, it is to uplift our people from the ravages and limitations of the past, and to give them a better life with better opportunities under better circumstances,” the President said.
“We also need to build new communities further inland from our coastal belt to spread out our population, reduce prices for land and housing, and ease traffic congestion. In other words, we must use the land space with which we have been blessed as Guyanese to create new and improved living conditions. New areas of growth and population centres. That is why, apart from the infrastructure build-out upon which we are embarked, we will also establish a new city.”
According to Ali, the Government will incentivise the Private Sector and persons wishing to own their own homes to choose locations in the new city where the Government will also provide major facilities such as a hospital, schools and other community amenities.
“My fellow Guyanese, I have said it before, and I repeat it now. This is an exciting time, with exciting prospects. Every person in our society now has real economic opportunities to grow and develop, and to contribute to the enlargement of our national wealth.
“We are on the cusp of being an economically-strong Guyana, with opportunities for growth and development of all Guyanese. We want not only an economically-strong Guyana, we also want a powerful Guyanese nation in which there is no distinction of race, no determination by colour, no differentiation by creed.”