President David Granger: Your Excellency, the High Commissioner of the Republic of India; Members of the National Assembly; Mayor of the City of Georgetown and members of the City Council; ladies and gentlemen:
I am honoured this morning to be present at this ceremony. I regret having to leave so soon after my address but as explained by the Chairperson, I have other diplomatic chores to perform.
I feel personally committed to be here because I remember as a youngster only three years old, in the town of Bartica, there was a huge procession of persons of Indian origin in 1948 when I was just three years old. I have a clear memory of that because of the assassination of The Mahatma. Even in Bartica, thousands of miles away from the sub-continent, persons of Indian origin were commemorating the death of this great man.
And much later, 43 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit New Delhi and to go to the Gandhi Bhawan where our Prime Minister at that time, laid the wreath in memory of this great man; it was during the tenure of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. So [on] both occasions in 1948 and 1972, I was able to feel the presence of this great man and today we are meeting here to commemorate not his death but his birth, born on 2nd October 1869.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has come to be known throughout the world as The Mahatma. The great soul, his birthday (Gandhi Jayanti) is a gazetted holiday in the Republic of India. Here in Georgetown it is observed by all Guyanese, especially the descendants of the nearly 240,000 persons of Indian origin, who came to this country from the sub-continent as indentured immigrant labourers. They have never forgotten their roots and they are proud to be associated with this great international icon, The Mahatma.
The Mahatma was a pre-eminent political and spiritual leader in India. He played one of the most important roles in India – in the Indian Independence Movement. The Mahatma developed the technique of non-violent agitation, which he called Satyagraha. He is known for his non-violent civil disobedience in India and also in South Africa. His activities included the initiation of the Non-cooperation Movement in 1922, the Satyagraha or Salt (Dandi) March, which started on 12th March 1930. These are important milestones in the independence of India, one of the pioneers of the post war independence movement of which Guyana itself is a beneficiary.
The Mahatma is remembered globally for his contribution not only towards the Indian freedom struggle but through his efforts, not only did India gain Independence on 15th August, 1947, but it inspired a worldwide anti-colonial movement and as I said, Guyana [became] a beneficiary of that movement when we gained our independence on the 26th May, 1966.
The Mahatma therefore, is rightly revered locally in the struggle against injustice, intolerance and indignity and internationally. The nation mourned Gandhi after his assassination on the 30th January, 1948. As a result of that, as a result of his lifelong struggle The United Nations International Day of Non-Violence is also observed today, the 2nd October, every year to coincide with The Mahatma’s birthday.
Guyanese remember him today for his humanity as a citizen of this world, whose example has inspired generations and nations and will inspire our nation and generations to come.
Your Excellency, I thank you.