Guyana’s 56th independence was observed with a cultural variety show, speeches, and a hot meal in Richmond Hill on Saturday late afternoon by the Guyanese diaspora. The observance took place at the Tulsi Mandir on 111 Street at the corner of Liberty Avenue in Little Guyana. The mandir is under the spiritual leadership of Pandit Lakeram Maharaj.
Although a long holiday weekend with the observance of Memorial Day on Monday, and the official start of the summer holidays, Guyanese still found time to grace the event that was co-sponsored by several groups including the NY Guyana democracy project. Dr. Tara Singh played the lead role in organizing the event and was ably assisted by this writer and a few other individuals. Dr. Singh recognized and thanked them all for making the event a success.
The official guests of the event were the Ambassador (Sam Hinds) and Deputy Ambassador (Zulfikar Ally) of Guyana to the USA. Also gracing the ceremony was the official (Acting) Consular General of Guyana to New York Aneesa Alli and Fazal (Joe) Yussuf of the Consulate, Dr. Satish Prakash, Pandit Rooplall Phagu and several other pandits. Dr. Tara Singh, President of NY GDP, gave a warm welcome to the attendees, artists and official guests. He introduced the emcee for the proceedings Shameeza Ally, a popular radio and TV personality.
The program began with an invocation of prayers by Dr Satish Prakash. There was a beautiful Bharrat Natyam dance rendered by Jaya of the Shri Sundar Gopal Mandir Dance class. Then there was the Dance Choreographer, founder of the Sarswattie Dance Academy, Sursatie, who led her troupe with a scintillating dance which drew the undivided attention of everyone. Dr Satish Prakash asked the audience “to give them another round of applause for a magnificent performance.” We thank Pt Rooplall Phagu for organizing the dances.
Former President and Prime Minister of Guyana, Sam Hinds, now Ambassador of Guyana to Washington DC, delivered the keynote address. In discussing the journey to independence, Mr. Hinds slammed critics of the PPPC government for fabricating news and providing false narratives about issues and development in Guyana. “The evidence of remarkable progress is there for all to see and yet this continual engagement in distortion and falsehood”, he stated. He insisted that the PPPC government will continue to govern for the benefit of all six races and is passionately committed to the idea of “One Guyana”.
The diplomat said: “I have worked over 30 years within the party and they always put the country first. The current leadership of the President Dr Irfaan Ali, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, and Prime Minister Mark Phillips follow in the path of Dr Jagan but they are more vibrant.”
Mr Hinds spoke on the “so-called experts” on the oil industry and warn his audience to beware of their false narratives. “Right now Guyana earns 14.5% of oil revenues, and depending on oil prices, the flow of revenue into the Natural Resources Fund could either expand or reduce dramatically.”
The Guyana Ambassador continued, “while we utilize some funds for grants, we don’t believe in handouts.”
Honourable Sam Hinds lashed out at the PNCR, WPA, and other sources who have been advocating vigorously for handouts. He stated: “An important portion oil funds are for budgetary support: in such areas a physical and social infrastructure. But handouts do not build countries and empower people; jobs, education, housing, etc. empower people.”
Mr Zukfikar Ally, his deputy, made a plea for Guyanese to return home with their children to witness the phenomenal changes taking place there “because, in 10 years’ time, they might not able to recognize the country which would have gone through a dramatic transformation.” He also indicated the need for a good education.
Joe Yussuf, the Diaspora and Investment Officer at the NY Consulate stated that the Consulate is there to serve every Guyanese and they will organize interactive sessions with Guyanese frequently to address their needs.
Mr Albert Baldeo, a community activist and politician praised the leadership of Dr Cheddi Jagan and said that one of his legacies is working for and with all Guyanese, irrespective of race, religion, gender or physically or mentally challenged. He says that he has full confidence that the PPPC leadership team will make a significant transformation in the country in a very short time. He wished all Guyanese a happy 56th independence anniversary. Also in attendance was a Representative of NYS Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar.
Ms Shameeza Ally did a wonderful job emceeing the proceedings. The organizers expressed gratitude and appreciation to Pt R Phagu of Gopal Sundar Mandir, Sydney of Hibiscus Restaurant, Srad Kublall, Dave Narine of Dave West Indian Imports, and host, Pt Lakeram Maharaj who provided the hall gratis for the event.
By Vishnu Bisram