As we celebrate the 46th anniversary since an Independent Guyana declared itself a Republic, President David Granger is urging Guyanese to seize the opportunity of this anniversary to work for greater national unity.
“We can be one nation only if all sections of our population feel that they are an integral part of and share in our country’s development,” he said in an address to the nation to mark the occasion.
Following is the full text of President Granger’s address to the Guyanese nation:
The independent nation of Guyana declared itself a Republic on this day 46 years ago. It assumed the name ‘The Cooperative Republic of Guyana.’
The establishment of the republic was by no means a perfunctory, post-colonial affirmation of statehood or the adoption of an ornamental title. It marked a transition from Guyana’s status as a ‘monarchy’ to a constitutional ‘democracy’. Our first Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham, advised:
…in the context of Guyana, there is an indescribable incongruity about having the Queen of Great Britain [as] the Queen of Guyana. Moving to the status of a Republic represents, to my mind, a further step in the direction of self-reliance and self-confidence.
The declaration of republican status was an audacious and ambitious political decision. It consummated the covenant of Independence that had been earned four years earlier in 1966. It severed the residual vestiges of Guyana’s dependency on our former colonial rulers.
Guyana joined the majority of states of the world which, today, are also republics. Guyana, by becoming a Republic:
• Effaced the incongruous image of the Queen of Britain being the Head of State of our nation. It allowed us to appoint a Guyanese, of humble origins, the descendant of indentured labourers, as our first President;
• Emancipated our new nation from the ignominy of having our final court of appeal located in the country which, for one hundred and fifty years, had exercised colonial dominion over our citizens; and,
• Elevated the status of our people and enhanced their self-esteem; expedited the ‘Guyanisation’ of society and promoted the mobility of Guyanese in public institutions and international organisations.
Guyanese must seize the opportunity of this anniversary to work for greater national unity. We can be one nation only if all sections of our population feel that they are an integral part of and share in our country’s development.
National Unity must be pursued at all levels. We must, in 2016, narrow the differences and divisions between our political parties through the promotion of dialogue and the intensification of political cooperation and consensus-based decision-making.
Guyanese must, at the national level, eradicate the suspicions that promote tensions and strife. We must dispel prejudice and hatred amongst individuals and groups. We must move forward as a united nation, constantly reaffirming our national motto: one people, one nation, one destiny.
Democracy is about placing power in the hands of the people. The changes wrought by becoming a republic were part of a process of democratic renewal. They were intended to place power into the hands of the people by making “the small man the real man.” They enabled the common folk, through their communities, collectives and cooperatives, to promote their economic self-improvement.
We will fulfill our promise to conduct local government elections in order to empower our citizens in their village communities and municipalities after two nightmarish decades of municipal despotism. Local government elections will empower residents and enrich communities.
Guyanese must use this opportunity of the holding of local government elections on 18th March to continue the process of democratic renewal which has been denied to our people for twenty-two years.
Local government elections will re-emphasise the importance of our communities. Local government elections will empower elected local representatives thereby allowing citizens to administer their own affairs more competently and to contribute more fully to the development of their communities.
We have emphasised the importance of communities by naming the Ministry of Communities; by enhancing the role of Community Policing; by strengthening our Community Development Councils by refurbishing our Community Centres and by revisiting the idea of Community High Schools.
Guyanese must seize the opportunity of this anniversary to improve the communities in which they live in order to avert decline. The social problems – alcoholism and drug abuse; crime; homelessness; interpersonal violence; poverty and suicide – and the threat they present to the common good demand urgent attention and action, especially at the level of the community.
Communities give primacy to the needs of individuals, families and households. They recognise that residents are social beings and they seek, therefore, to harmonise the interests of the individuals with those of society as a whole.
These problems cannot be addressed by any single group – be it government or non-governmental organisations. These problems are national in scale. They require national responses.
Let us cooperate for Guyana! God bless the Cooperative Republic of Guyana!