President David Granger: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Morris and Joycelyn Wilson, Mr Lance Carberry, Chairman of the Guyana Oil Company; Former Prime Minister, Former Mayor, Mr Hamilton Green; former Chief of Staff of the GDF Brigadier Collins… General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union, Mr Lincoln Lewis; my colleague Christopher Jones from the Department of Sport, the Director of Sport; my friend and colleague Mr Deon Abrams, community worker, ladies and gentlemen:
I’m very happy and honoured to be here joining Morris and Joycelyn just in this very proud moment for them and for this community also, a very signal moment in their recent history.
A few weeks ago on the 7th November, I was in Victoria Village where we celebrated the National Day of Villages for the second time, and it is because of my faith and my belief in communities like this that they became a part of our national calendar – and Deon Abrams can tell you the work that he has done, and the work we have done together to raise the consciousness of Guyanese of the importance of villages. And this community also, is extremely important because of the role it has played through the years in promoting village life. Land is life and thousands of acres of land were acquired in the years after 1839 to create villages, and as I’ve said over and over again, these villages were built on four pillars: the pillars of the church, the home, the school and the farm and these villages thrive, these villages nurture modern Guyana.
Land is life and these villages should not become dormitories where people just come to sleep; they should recapture the vitality which made them into the powerhouses of food production in Guyana. If any of you were to read the exports of Guyana a hundred years ago, you would be amazed we exported mules, fish, cocoa, coffee. We were really the food bowl of the Eastern Caribbean. Schooners left here to take thousands of tons of produce to the Caribbean islands and of course, these villages fed the immigrants who came into the country. There were no supermarkets then, even up to the time of the establishment of Black Bush Polder. Planting material was gotten from places like Leeds and Fyrish to make Black Bush Polder a significant food producer today. So when I come to this petrol station here today, it’s a very emotional time for me because I believe it is a form of an economic renaissance even though it is small and there are scores of villages throughout the country with petrol stations.
I believe it is very significant because it occurred here today because those of you who know of the determination of Morris and Joycelyn, and the history of this particular site on which we stand would agree that this is an achievement. A couple of years ago when Morris invited me to declare open a monument opposite Tipperary Hall, I announced then that one day I hope to be able to drive through the streets of Buxton and Friendship and hear the whirring of factories, that there would be buildings like that building at Tipperary Hall where [in the] evenings students would be studying business and commerce.
So as I come here today, it is a journey of hope that this initiative started by the Wilsons will trigger other activities by other members of the diaspora, who want to see the country of their birth prosper. First of all, I love the diaspora; I have great respect for them. Six years ago I launched my campaign that brought me to this podium here today, in the diaspora, and I’m always grateful to them for what they did then and the confidence that they showed in me – and Morris and Joycelyn were my friends from then. The diaspora, as I have always said, possesses capital, they possess tremendous experience and they have grit, determination.
Again Guyana, in my view, is like a country divided in two; half living in North America and half in South America. If we have 750, 000 people here, we have 750,000 people in the diaspora as well so together we might be able to claim a population of a million and a half. I don’t see any distinction.
I feel those persons in the diaspora should continue to see themselves as Guyanese, as Morris and Joycelyn do, and invest, bring their talents, bring their treasure, bring their expertise. We need capital to develop village life in Guyana. We have the land, we have the labour and we ask the members of the diaspora to do more than talk and write but to put their money where their mouth is, like the Wilsons, and come and invest. If you love Guyana come and invest in Guyana.
Coming back to what I told Morris when the monument was launched – we want to see industry and when we speak of industry, we speak of the ability to process raw material, we speak about production and those of you who are my age… would know that 50 years ago if you wanted any fruit, any vegetable, you had to come in the villages, you had to come in the villages and those fruits, those vegetables were produced in great quantities because certain things started happening in villages over 100 years ago.
In these communities people started to hold agricultural fairs bringing their goats, their cattle. Over at Den Amstel you had a visionary called James MacFarlane Corry, who is known as the father of local government; he brought about the Cooperative Credit Banks. In 1916, we had cooperative banks, which farmers could get credit and capital from to sustain the agricultural production. These weren’t just published by any Caribbean Development Bank, these were established from villages by Den Amstel and Victoria and Hopetown.
So I don’t speak of the student of history. I speak of somebody who can look into the future and see that once again, we can use these devices to promote production, and everything you produce; every Buxton Spice Mango, every plantain, every cassava, every sweet potato could be processed. So we could export these commodities to the countries, which cannot grow them in sufficient quantities, or cannot grow them at all, and these villages can produce all the plantain chips, all the cassava chips, all the sweet potato chips we need in our fish and chip shops.
Mind you I have nothing against the enterprise which would be occupying the unpainted section of the building. But Guyana produces fish; Guyana could produce sweet potato chips and I hope that whoever it is, cathedrals, churches, chapels, whoever comes here, will make greater use of local produce, including Pomeroon coconut oil. [Applause.]
So I see Buxton not as a dormitory – and Deon could tell you we had many conversations about this – but I see it as an economic powerhouse. I see the villages as economic powerhouses where production can take place, and this is one of the reasons why I made an announcement some time ago and in a few days’ time you will hear an announcement about the establishment of lands commissions, which would investigate the circumstances under which village lands, both on the coastland and on the hinterland, will be reviewed so that any traces of injustice would be erased.
But I remind you young people and old, that without land we are lost. You will be confined forever to wage labour and these villages were founded to escape from the bondage of wage labour – and that’s the third point I want to make – that we need innovation in these communities in order to free ourselves from wage labour. We need the thrust of entrepreneurship to create new industries, new paths away from looking ‘lil wuk’ in the GDF or the Police Force. Too many people become wedded to wage labour and they shun enterprise, they shun taking risks, they shun setting up businesses. Some people seek the comfort of being able to get a small wage at the end of the week or the end of the month.
The trouble is that after 30 years they still getting a small wage at the end of the week, at the end of the month and when they finish, they will end up getting a small pension. But if you want to take advantage of the bounty of this country we have to look at innovative ways, we have to create new businesses and not simply remain wedded to the old jobs.
People have to go into the hinterland, go into the villages, start up major production of the commodities, which are needed to feed our growing population, which are needed in our diaspora; and I can tell you any time you see a community of people from a certain island in the Caribbean, when they go in the supermarket they looking for jerk this and jerk that.
[First Lady] Sandra [Granger] and I were sitting at a table at a recently held independence function and one of the guests at that table before she eat anything, ask for some pepper sauce. I wouldn’t tell you who she was but it means that our Guyanese diaspora, if they turned around and supported our local commodities, would be able to make a meaningful contribution in that niche market in those places where they live. Go into the supermarket and you could feel that you are in Guyana again.
And finally we need to build infrastructure in these communities that will attract investment, attract industry and we need to look at our education infrastructure; our schools, our colleges, our institutes, and one of my great passions, as you know, is ensuring that every child has a place in school and remains in school and that’s why last year 15th July, again as I was celebrating the distance I was putting between my fiftieth birthday and my present age; I launched a scheme. And I’m proud to know that today we’ve probably distributed over 500 bicycles, and there are over a dozen buses and a dozen boats taking thousands of the children to school every day free of charge. And my wife Sandra is one of the major bicycle distributors in the country, but she has been a great support in that programme what is now called the ‘Five Bs’, starting from one B and now we are at Five Bs’ and that idea came out of the villages, came out of friendship in the Pomeroon and came out of Trafalgar village in West Berbice.
I’m sure the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress would know that place very well. It was a little girl who had gotten a scholarship to Berbice High School and I was visiting that community and she told me she was paying $5,000 a week to go to school. I said that couldn’t be right, that couldn’t be fair and it was from interactions with people in the villages like that that I was led to say we must solve this problem of getting children to school. Right now there are 4,000 dropouts of school [children] primary and secondary school in Guyana every year.
So we need to understand that if we are to attract investors, they must look forward to coming into communities like this with a literate population, people who could read, write, count and spell. And in the recent past, I’ve had some very difficult experiences seeing young men with a stud in their ear who can’t spell cat. We have to deal with these problems. Nobody is going to leave Brooklyn or Queens or anywhere else to come back and try to set up an internet cafe or a business and people can’t even read S- T- O – P. D -A -N -G -E -R. You can’t even put them to drive a minibus because they can’t spell bus so we must start to create the infrastructure in these villages.
We must ensure that the villages are covered with electricity. And of course at this point I will ‘break ranks’ as we say in my earlier profession with my brother Lance and my brother Morris because we are promoting green energy. I know there are some greenish parts of the building, the balloons are green but we have to walk on two legs and I expect that gradually we will wean ourselves away from the addiction of fossil fuel and adapt energy generated from renewable sources; solar, wind, water and biomass.
So this is needed for the time being but it is our policy as the years go by and certainly as we move towards 2025 to have more and more green energy – nothing to do with the profit margin Joycelyn. Joycelyn doesn’t ignore that profit margin, if you know Joycelyn very well and we wish her well as this station goes on but one day I am sure we will be supplying ethanol from this station. What you say there Lance? [Applause.]And that is renewable because you can grow ethanol and listening to Mr. Carberry’s definition of a business it is at variance with what is taking place in the sugar industry, and business is supposed to be profitable and the sugar industry is not.
So, ladies and gentlemen, these are my brief remarks. Presidents always make brief remarks, it is part of our political training no matter how long we speak, the chairperson refers to remarks as brief and I don’t like paraphrasing presidential candidates in other countries, but it is time to make Buxton business-like again. It is time for Buxtonians to capture that ‘Buxton people stop train spirit’ and stop the poverty and the illiteracy where it has afflicted and affected some of our communities.
Make sure every child goes to school, encourage the diaspora to invest in their communities. When they want to send a petition next time ask them to petition for a permit to open a factory or a farm, tell them I say so. [Applause.] If they want to petition for something tell them what to petition for. Tell them when they look to their villages whether it is Ann’s Grove or BV, they call themselves the ‘Barownians’, that they must think of putting down industries in these communities when they encourage their children to think of their homeland, let them bring the innovation, the information technology, new industries to revitalise these communities. When they think of infrastructure let them come to these communities and ensure that the houses have renewable electricity, telephones and other forms of infrastructure which would be attractive to people in the diaspora.
So these are my best wishes to you Morris and Joycelyn. As I said it’s an important initiative very encouraging and I don’t see you as members of the diaspora because I meet you more frequently here in Buxton/Friendship more frequently than I meet you in New York, but I think your lives epitomise the type of relationship that we want to see thriving between these two halves of the Guyana community.
A few days ago we distributed toys here to the children of Buxton. Next year Easter I will be back here distributing kites to the children of Buxton/Friendship. I just wish some of the petitioners would emulate your behaviour and establish enterprises that we see like this one here today.
Congratulations, thank you and may God bless you all.

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