President David Granger: Thank you, thank you very much; please be seated. Honourable Joseph Harmon, Minister of State; Honourable Dawn Hastings-Williams, Minister within the Ministry of Communities; Honourable Simona Brooms, Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources; Chairman of the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, Mr. Gordon Bradford; His Worship the Major of the town of Bartica, Reverend Gifford Marshall who led us in prayer; Deputy Mayor of Bartica, Ms. Nageshwari Kamal Persaud; Members of the Planning Committee of the Bartica Regatta; Special Invitees- I see Colonel Larry London and former Naval Officer, Mr. Lloyd Blackman; Ladies and Gentlemen; Invitees; Members of the Media.
As the Chairperson said, “It is always good to come home”. I flew my first kite on the community centre ground behind me and as I like to recall, when I got married I brought my wife here on what is called the Golden Beach to get a gulp of clean water. I’m not sure that I will do that again but in those days the water really was as clean as tea, but it is always good to come here and enjoy clean water and fresh air and as I tell people around me, whenever I feel stressed out I simply think of this lake- lake Bartica; where the waters of the Cuyuni, Mazaruni and Essequibo River come together and that seems to relieve my stress. I think the Regional Chairman has allocated me a little house lot, so when I change my occupation, I will have a house lot right here in Bartica thank you very much, Gordon. [Applause.]
But today, we are here for a very important ritual and I would like to wish everyone present a happy Easter, it is, after all, the celebration of the most sacred festival in Christianity; that is the resurrection of Christ. It is the reason for Christianity; without the resurrection there would be no uniqueness in the Christian religion, but this is the day when we recall that after a long period of suffering called Lent; a period of privation; a period of pain and discomfort, you come to the end of that period of Lent with a joyful celebration of Easter, so in a way this regatta helps persons to remember the joy of Easter.
As the Chairman pointed out, this regatta has a long history from the colonial period when we had a visionary District Commissioner called [Wilton Anderson] Angoy and he is the man who is credited with putting together the regatta in its present form. Later on he became District Commissioner of the Rupununi district and he triggered what is now known as the rodeo and symbolically both the regatta and the rodeo are celebrated at Easter time and we have to thank our colonial District Commissioner Angoy for the popularity of those two festivals. So I would like to congratulate the Bartica Regatta Committee for continuing that tradition and I would like to thank also the sponsors for supporting this activity.
There are other traditions associated with Easter in Guyana and in a little while from now, I will be leaving here to meet the children of Bartica to distribute kites. Over the last fortnight, I have been in Region Two at Anna Regina in the Pomeroon. I have been in Region Three, Leguan Wakenaam. I have been in Region Four, Lusignan and Friendship. I have been in Region Ten at Muritaro giving out hundreds of kites. I have been in Region Three at Parika. So many children have gotten kites.
I think this is an important tradition. You don’t find kite giving or kite flying in Antigua or Belize or even in Georgia where some of my close friends come from, but here in Guyana we celebrate Easter with the flying of kites. Now you know that many people think that flying kites is about resurrection, but actually it’s a tradition that we got from the Chinese.
The Chinese were the people who invented kites because they use to make paper and they had a thin wood from back home and that made kite flying very simple, very easy, but when they came to British Guyana over 150 years ago, the British tried to stop them from flying kites, so the Chinese who were clever people, said they were only flying kites because Christ has risen; so the British gave them permission to go on flying kites. So that is why we only fly kites at Easter time and we don’t fly kites at any other time, so the Barbadians want to know why we fly kites; the Antiguans want to want to know why we fly kites at Easter time. So now you have one of the reasons why we fly kites at Easter time.
So Guyana has precious traditions at Easter time- kite flying, the rodeo and regatta and yesterday I think we missed the time of our lives because I understand the Minister of State actually rode a horse at the rodeo and I think that should have been captured on DVD for future generations to see what goes on at Lethem at Easter time. But Guyana is on the rise; Guyana is enjoying a dividend and particularly Bartica, is enjoying a democratic dividend from being made a town. [Applause.]
I always felt that having spent my early childhood here that Bartica was so well laid out; so peaceful that I couldn’t image that other settlements could become towns before Bartica and I committed myself, I pledged that as soon as I got the opportunity Bartica would become a town – so said, so done and I would like to congratulate Mr. Marshall and Ms. Nageshwari for becoming the first Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the history of this historic town- Bartica. [Applause.]
So today we gather here when there is deepening pride that Bartica is finally coming into its own alongside New Amsterdam, Linden and other towns in Guyana. But the region of Cuyuni-Mazaruni is not a town and Bartica town is not a region. Cuyuni-Mazaruni is bigger than The Netherlands, it stretches all the way to Arau and Kaikan on the Cuyuni River; it stretches westward to the border with Venezuela and I would just like to repeat what I have said over and over again.
That is, this regatta, although it is sponsored by the citizens of Bartica, must also include the people from the Upper Mazaruni and the Cuyuni as well so we can get a wider variety of events and sports. You know people come from neighbouring countries to see this regatta; people come from different regions to see this regatta and every year come August, the people of Upper Mazaruni invite me to one of their communities to what is called the Upper Mazaruni District Games and I like to go there because I learn lessons.
Sometimes young people and not so young people from 10 or 12 villages in the Upper Mazaruni, some of them walk for one or two days to get to the venue and there they can have games lasting over a week [with] the maximum participation of young and old and I would like to plead with the members of the Bartica Regatta Committee to try to attract participants from all over the region not only to see power boat races, but to participate in other activities such as canoeing, sailing, water polo, swimming; so that we can have more sporting activities involving a greater number of people over a longer period of time and I do believe that in doing so the Bartica Regatta can fulfil not only the aspirations of a small group of people but also of the whole nation to make this a truly national event and I would like to commit the Government of Guyana to supporting this event. [Applause.]
I have always insisted that good government is not the job of central government alone, but it must also include the regional administration here in the form of Mr. Gordon Bradford and the municipal administration under the Mayor-ship of Mr. Gifford. So at all three levels of Government: municipal, regional and central, we must come together with the support of the private sector to make this Regatta event a truly national event that will attract international support.
We must ensure that this regatta starts on time; we must ensure that this regatta is administered and conducted in accordance with a programme, which attracts a larger number of participants. We must make sure that the quality is high so that we have participants coming from islands in the Caribbean; Trinidad, Barbados and further field. We know that so far we have gone, we have gotten some participants from the other rivers like the Pomeroon River, but I am confident that once all three levels of government come together: central, regional and municipal and combine our talent and resources with those in the private sector we will see people coming from all around the world to witness this Bartica Regatta.
So my brothers and sisters, fellow Barticians, members of the government, members of the private sector and particularly the beautiful young ladies who seem to have drifted to one side of the hall-I don’t know what is the attraction there. Oh, the trophies! [Laughter.]
I would like to once again thank you for having me here.
I would like to express the gratitude of the rest of Guyana for your ability to keep this important festival going year after year and I would like to wish the contestants and the participants every success in this day’s activities.
Thank you Bartica and may God bless you all.