FREEDOM does not come free and dominion is never holistically free with liberty. Guyana is celebrating her 57th anniversary since becoming an independent country on May 26, 1966.
Dr. Cheddi Jagan, leader of the PPP Party and Mr. Forbes Burnham, leader of the PNC Party brokered the treaty for British Guiana’s independence from England, after a constitutional conference in London.
All clamored for the taste of freedom from the shackles of sovereignty, slavery and indenture-ship, but it did come at a price.
Burnham’s split from the PPP Party to form the PNC Party in 1953 caused a continuity of voting along racial lines. There was even conversation to split Guyana so that the Indians and Afro-Guyanese will live separately.
India gained her independence in 1947 from England but at the cost of the country being separated as India and Pakistan, as the Muslims feared being marginalised by the Hindus, forming two separate nations.
Winston Churchill once declared: “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” The rift between the Hindus and Muslims still persists.
Pakistan evidentially suffered a partition also due to the government indifferences in recognising a mother tongue language acceptance and its biased governance.
East Pakistan gained its independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a bitter battle fought due to economic and political marginalisation. Bangladesh became a nation as a result.
Rwanda gained its independence in 1962 from Belgium with the Hutu’s dominating power. What followed afterwards was one of the bloodiest genocides in which over 600,000 Tutsi’s were massacred by the Hutus and some 400,000 were displaced, fleeing for the safety of their lives. South Africa, a former colony, cut off all ties from Great Britain and became an independent nation in 1961, declaring itself a republic.
The Black majority enjoyed few rights under the white minority and the nation struggled as an apartheid state. Not until Nelson Mandela was released from a maximum security prison after spending 27 years, was a multiracial and multiparty election held. In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as president and only then was true freedom realised.
Haiti gained her independence from France in 1804 after the first slave rebellion took place. The slaves initiated the revolution in 1791 and 100,000 of the 500,000 Africans were killed along with 24,000 of the 40,000 whites.
With the success of freedom, Haiti had to repay reparation to France at a cost of 150 million francs for the loss of her slaves and the slave colony. The island has deteriorated as the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere due to foreign intervention and debt, political instability and natural disasters. In 1974, the spice island, Grenada, gained her independence from the United Kingdom.
The transition was plagued with violence, strikes, controversies and political instability which led to a bloodless coup, to be followed later by a US invasion. The island was also rattled with money laundering and a hurricane which wreaked havoc in the agriculture industry.
Many have paid the price for freedom at an expensive cost. Sacrifice has always been the backbone to build strength and capacity so that the seeds sown by our ancestors will bear fruition for generations to come to enjoy. Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell acknowledged, “Yet still, we push forward, because, like our fore-parents, we understand that no one can speak to our causes, or fight our battles for us, better than we can.”
Although countries in the Caribbean bond under the CARICOM umbrella, there has been a severe struggle to knit as a whole and move forward as an independent body. The politics and economics of culture difference has continued to shackle West Indians and to individualise ethnic disparity with a degree of complexity.
The thought of marginalisation is relished and conceived as real and not as an illusion by some political leaders. This element of propaganda is conveniently misused in order to inflict fear into political contingency in order to retain or maintain control.
Guyana’s independence date has been marred with controversies, contentions and contradictions. It fails to quell the memory of a bitter past and also serves as a reminder of dictatorship. Various factions refuse to participate in any form of celebration because of the aforementioned dilemma. Guyana has struggled with many political leaders bent on being destructive rather than constructive.
Since August 2020, this new PPP/C administration has set a trail blazer path to forge a rapid developmental trajectory for the country, despite insurgents and evil forces attempting to sabotage this ambitious adventure which relishes and spells only success.
Nelson Mandela once declared, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” “Many people in this country have paid the price before me and many will pay the price after me.” “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”
The will to survive is contingent on determination, resilience and application. A new generation is now trending and trading with the reality of practicality, flexibility and rationality.
The young people will not be conned, fooled or be misled by selfish politicians, but rather, be guided with the tools of knowledge, judgement and self-analysis.
Too many have suffered, too much have been destroyed and too much time has been lost. The cost of freedom does not come cheap. It is time to recoup and treasure this independence. Happy independence Guyana.