President David Granger: Members of the media. I’m very grateful for the sunshine – this is our monsoon season here in Guyana; the only thing that doesn’t fail is the May-June rains, so I’m very happy that we have a few hours of sunshine.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana welcomes the erection of this commemorative arch here at Cummings Lodge in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of our national independence.
Independence celebrations in 1966 were marked by the construction of arches which became important landmarks in our capital city but also in our town and villages. The most iconic of course, is located on Brickdam- Guyana’s oldest street. That independence arch- our national monument has a unique structure; it represents the integrity of our nation in a single structure. It represents the unanimity of our creed as it rises towards the sky; it represents the diversity of origins of our six peoples; it represents the unity of the three Dutch colonies: Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo which were combined in 1831 to become British Guiana; it represents the richness of our natural resources- the bauxite which went into making the aluminium and the stone from our rivers and waterfalls which were used to build that monument.
All of these are elements combined to symbolise not only our patrimony but also our destiny, and that monument has become a sort of model for other monuments in other parts of the country and I believe that model inspired the designers of this model here today.
The model at Ruimveldt, which unfortunately was dismantled, that inspired the monument at Agricola. If you travel to Rose Hall on the Corentyne you will see a monument still marked 1966. Other monuments were built at Stewartville on West Demerara and at Skeldon. Our love of arches still persists and here we are again today.
Last year May, I commissioned an arch, which was presented to the Republic by the Banks DIH corporation at Agricola, at the southern entrance to our capital. We are happy today- twelve months later, May 2017, twelve days before our Independence Anniversary, to commission another arch; this time donated by the ANSA McAl [Trading Limited] at the eastern entrance to our capital.
The citizens of Georgetown and of the country of Guyana are grateful for today’s generous gift. Its moral value exceeds the monetary cost of construction. This arch defines the boundaries of our capital; it exemplifies Public/Private Partnership; it epitomises the friendship between two Anglophone Caribbean states- Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, and their commitment to cooperation within the Caribbean Community.
This arch also is not an ornament or an object of adoration; it is a shrewd industrial advertisement for ANSA McAl. It sends a message to everyone who would drive beneath it that the Caribbean economy is vibrant. The Caribbean economy like a rising tide, lifts all boats what is good for one country, is good for the entire community; what’s good for ANSA McAl is good for Trinidad, is good for Guyana, is good for CARICOM. This monument, therefore, will stand for decades as a tribute to corporate investment; it is a recognition of Caribbean engineering talent. It is an acknowledgement of the innovativeness of our Caribbean people; it’s an extension of our infrastructural development.
Guyana, as you know, is unique- it is a continental country with Caribbean characteristics; it is the largest CARICOM state; it is the Caribbean gateway to the continent of South America; it is the home of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Georgetown also is unique city; it is bounded on the north by the Atlantic and as you can see we don’t need air-conditioning and on the west by the Demerara River, it evolved for over two centuries bearing the traits of its Dutch, French and British heritage. It is a cosmopolitan city of persons who can trace their ancestry back to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and of course the Americas.
This arch, located at Cummings Lodge defines the city’s eastern boundary, a city of homes built on the dams and besides the kokers and canals of former plantations. It is a city of numerous markets and wooden churches. It can now claim to be a city of arches. People living here expect to enjoy a happy existence, with opportunities for strength and family life, economic development and for protecting the environment. Cummings Lodge was a rustic village fifty years ago but it was transformed by two important developments in 1970, the year it became a republic:
First was the construction of major educational institutions, the Turkeyen campus of the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education; both of which increased the demand for accommodation and for transportation and for recreation. Later came the CARICOM Secretariat and the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.
Second of course was the passage of the Municipal and District Councils Act which came into effect in April 1970 and that Act extended the boundaries of the city to embrace five former sugar plantations, one of which was Cummings Lodge and the others are Liliendaal, Pattensen, Sophia and Turkeyen and together these five former plantations constitute the largest ward in the City of Georgetown today.
It also constitutes an expanding zone; one that is changing rapidly as demands for land- land for air and road transportation, for housing, for industrial and commercial expansion, land is being exhausted at a rapid rate as development pushed outwards, eastwards, the construction of bridges and roads and the extension of social infrastructure- a company establishment and enlargement of our city.
This arch therefore is more than a marker of Georgetown’s eastern frontier. It is also a signpost which identifies the frontier of a fast growing and fast developing administrative, commercial, educational and residential zone. This arch situated a couple of kilometres away from the Eugene Correia International Airport, will be one of the first structures which visitors to our country will see. It is their welcome to Guyana. You can hear it now, that’s our Eugene Correia Airport.
Our citizens’ desire: They desire and they demand a good life. Every community must have access to basic public services- education, electricity, healthcare, safety, sanitation and water. Social development must be fostered through the provision of facilities for play, for religious worship, for recreation and sports.
Guyana is in transition towards becoming a ‘green’ state. Georgetown is becoming a ‘green’ city. This city will soon be making greater use of renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind power and I’ve been told that this monument also will be powered by lights generated by solar power.
This arch, therefore, is reflective of everything that we treasure as a nation. It has an important place in our history and it will play a defining role in our political evolution, our municipal maturity and our environmental protection.
I would therefore like to express the appreciation of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to ANSA McAl Group for the donation of this arch to the Guyanese people. It is an excellent example of corporate social responsibility and Caribbean solidarity.
I join the Minister of Public Infrastructure in applauding the talent of everyone responsible for designing, building and erecting this magnificent monument. It will be a permanent and precious landmark for our national capital and I’m sure other villages and towns will copy this monument as they’ve done with the initial monument in 1966.
I thank you and may God bless all who drive beneath it.