Independence Day celebrates the moment in history when, after 350 years of Dutch and British colonisation, our peoples abolished foreign rule.
We established a ‘free state’ with the hope of ensuring equality and eradicating poverty. It was the day on which we adopted our own Constitution and erected institutions to govern ourselves and guarantee our freedom.
Independence Day celebrates, also, the unique combination of the people who came – Africans, Chinese, Indians and Portuguese – and who, with the Amerindians, who lived here from time immemorial, contributed to the creation of a multi-racial and multi-religious state.
The ‘free state’ that we established on 26th May 1966 recognised our commitment to social cohesion through which we learn to accept and respect each other’s values and beliefs and to share the common space we call our homeland.
The ‘free state’ is one that is free from discrimination; it is one that is built on the basis of respect for cultural diversity, political inclusivity and social equality.
The ‘free state’ recognises our common and complex heritage. It reminds us of Chinese Arrival Day, celebrated on 12th January; of Portuguese Arrival Day, celebrated on 3rd May; of Indian Arrival Day, celebrated on 5th May; of African Emancipation Day, celebrated on 1st August and of Indigenous Heritage Month, observed throughout September.
The ‘free state’ re-commits us to dismantling the divisions of geography. Disparities between hinterland and coastland and between rural and urban communities, eventually, must be eliminated so that no group feels excluded.
The ‘cohesive state’ is concerned with constructing a multi-cultural society and with creating the conditions for diverse peoples to coexist. Society needs to be strengthened in each occupational sector, in each geographical region, in each community and in each social stratum.
The ‘cohesive state’ is not a political expedient. It can be realised only by respecting the differences and the diversity of society and by the removal of anger, hatred, ignorance and poverty. It can be created by mutual respect for each other’s cultural and religious differences.
Guyana’s national tapestry is composed of the variegated threads – culture, ethnicity and faith – of our peoples. The national tapestry is stronger because it is weaved from our separate, but sturdy, strands. It is more resilient because it represents and reflects the talents of different groups.
Independence bequeathed to us a state through which we became heirs of a magnificent patrimony. Guyana is a beautiful, blissful and bountiful country that is becoming a ‘green state’.
The ‘green state’ is a natural product of our verdant and luxuriant environment. Our ecosystems – our coastland, hinterland, highlands, islands, wetlands, grasslands, lakes, rivers, rainforests and waterfalls – are our birthright.
Our bio-diversity is the endowment of our ancestors, the patrimony of all Guyanese and the bequest we hold in trust for posterity.
The ‘green state’ can flourish and can furnish a ‘good life’ for generations to come by engendering a spirit of shared social responsibility.
The ‘green state’ must embody a common commitment to the environment that arises from our unique, shared patrimony and that will lead to a prosperous future.
The 51st anniversary of Independence inspires us all to continue to work towards preserving the ‘free state,’ towards establishing a ‘green state’ and towards creating a ‘cohesive state.’
I extend fraternal congratulations to all – at home and in our diaspora – as we celebrate our freedom, our statehood and our precious patrimony.
Happy Independence anniversary!