The forty-seventh anniversary of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is a happy occasion to celebrate the uniqueness of our nationhood.
The achievement of Independence on 26th May 1966 gave us the opportunity to remember that the majority of our fore-parents were brought to these shores, either as enslaved workers or indentured labourers, to toil on the plantations.
Independence reminded us, also, that it was their struggles – their resistance, revolts and riots on the plantations – which helped to make their descendants a free people and to make this country a free state.
The establishment of the Cooperative Republic on 23rd February 1970 intensified our efforts to unite our peoples into a plural nation under the inspirational motto – ‘One people, One nation, One destiny’.
We, the Guyanese people – the descendants of the indigenous Amerindians and of those who were brought here from Africa, Asia and Europe – have welded our country, irreversibly, into a plural society.
The Republic guaranteed greater cultural freedom, encouraged diverse beliefs, respected differences of creed, culture, race or religion and entrenched constitutional protection to proscribe discrimination.
The Republic started the task of shaping a society that was culturally plural by promoting the unhindered celebration of the Christian, Islamic and the Hindu festivals. The Republic aspired to ensure that we would live together in harmony free from racial and religious conflict.
This year is a particularly significant celebration for all Guyanese. It is the 100th anniversary of the ‘Abolition’ of Indian indentureship. It is an opportunity for the nation to celebrate the contributions of the Indian community.
Indian indentured immigration was introduced into British Guiana in 1838 and endured for nearly eight decades. Almost 240,000 persons were transported to these shores as immigrants, mainly to work on the sugar plantations, during this period.
Most of the indentured immigrants remained to make our country their home at the end of their contracts of service. They invigorated our cultural life with devotional festivals, colourful dress, tasty foods, vivacious dance, vibrant music, two great world religions – Hinduism and Islam – and other cultural retentions.
Indian indentured immigration reshaped our economic landscape by making an indelible mark on the cattle, coconut, fishing, rice and sugar industries. The Indian impact is visible on every aspect of national life – the arts, business, diplomacy, education, engineering, industry, jewellery, law, media, medicine, politics, the public service and trade unionism.
The Republic is committed to eliminating extreme poverty, eradicating inequalities; expanding the space for cultural diversity and enhancing the sense of national belonging.
The Republic is becoming a more socially cohesive country, one that: “… works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging [and] promotes trust…”
Guyana’s various cultural threads have been interwoven into the tapestry of nationhood. We celebrate, today, our republicanism and our pluralism. We have achieved unity by our diversity.
I greet all Guyanese, at home across our ten regions and in the diaspora on this 47th anniversary of the Republic.
Long live our plural Republic!
Long live the Guyanese people !
I thank you.