President David Granger: Thank you, please be seated. I was telling the young ladies I have never been introduced by a duet before but Rose Hall is always different, Rose Hall is always better. Regional Chairman, Mr. David Armogan; His Worship, the Mayor, Mr. Kumar Ramoo, of the town of Rose Hall; Mr. Hilbert Foster, Chief Executive Officer of the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sport Club; I saw Mr. Alex Foster hovering, busy, as usual. I don’t know where he gets the energy; members of the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club; residents of Rose Hall; students; members of the disciplined services; members of the media.
I’m very happy to be here this afternoon and to have seen such a wonderful parade; I would like to congratulate all persons who were on the parade, particularly the school children coming out with their flags and their colours. I would like to congratulate the joint services, I’d like to congratulate the police band, the MS, always giving us good music wherever they play, non-governmental organisations and of course the dynamic Foster brothers and, of course, the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club.
I’m very grateful to have been invited to this ceremony to participate in the handing over of the wheelchairs and of course to formally unveil the scoreboard and the monument at the entrance to this compound. Ladies and gentlemen, these are important symbols of solidarity in Rose Hall. These are the things that make Rose Hall a strong and vibrant town and I would like to congratulate the organisers for maintaining that spirit or recapturing that spirit after a hundred and seventy-five years.
You saw the dance, a symbolic dance celebrating the purchase of the village one hundred and seventy-five years ago, and I am proud that there are enough residents in Rose Hall who are keeping that flame alive, but today our celebration is not about the past, it is about our potential- it is about the project we have to make Rose Hall an even greater town. As one person said, “the smallest town with the biggest heart.”
Rose Hall is about the future; it’s about what Guyana can do; not about what we did a century ago, but what these children will be able to do a decade or two or three decades from now. As you heard, Rose Hall began as a settled community, when it was bought a hundred and seventy-five years ago; before that it was bush and the great village movement that started in 1839, the year after enslavement ended, transformed this country from a string of plantations from Crabwood Creek to Charity in the Pomeroon into human settlements.
That is what the village movement was able to achieve and the fifty-seven freed men in Rose Hall were part of that great movement between 1839 and 1849; over sixty thousand persons left the plantations and that was the start of the Guyanese nation, from plantation to nation; without their bold and courageous action we would have been more backward. We would not have developed to where we are today. What did they do? As the Chairman said, they didn’t carouse, they didn’t drink and gamble and party; they were thrifty people.
First of all they wanted to get off the plantations. They did not live in logies as some people think; they lived in hovels, they go and cut bush wood. If they had livestock; if they had a few fowls, a few chickens, they had to live there with the chicken; they didn’t have fowl coop, so the plantation was no place for the families. During enslavement, families would split up, your wife could be sent to Wakenaam; your child could be sent to Den Amstel. So the first thing they wanted after emancipation was to bring their families together. The first thing they wanted to do is acquire land to build homes; to build homes to bring their families together; that was the vision of your forefathers.
The second thing they wanted to do is build schools and that is why places like along here on the Corentyne, we have Albion Chapel. These congregational churches were some of the first churches to be built. Over at Den Amstel a few weeks ago I celebrated the hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of Freedom Congregational Church and just look at the age of those churches and you will see when they were built. So that was the second thing your forefathers wanted to do – to worship God and they build their own churches; just as they built their own schools.
And the third thing or the fourth thing that they wanted of course was to feed themselves. Those days they didn’t have any supermarkets, you ate what you grew and you had to grow what you wanted to eat; that was the way it was. The founders of these villages didn’t run away from work, from the plantations to have a good time; they built their own farms and history will tell you when Black Bush Polder was being opened, they went to Leeds and they went to Union and they went to Fyrish to get planting material because those villages were founded on agriculture- they feed themselves. So when we celebrate a hundred and seventy-five years of Rose Hall we’re celebrating the vision of people who never went to school; never went to university; couldn’t read and write but they established these villages like houses built on four pillars:
· The pillar of the home;
· The pillar of the school;
· The pillar of the church;
· And the pillar of the farm
And I tell you this my brothers and sisters, if you want your village to collapse; if you want your town to collapse- knock down one of those pillars. Knock down the churches and the mandirs and the masjids and see what happens in your community; you have lawlessness. Knock down the schools, you have ignorance. Knock down the farm, you have unemployment and laziness. Knock down the homes and they have a lot of street children; you have a lot of motherless families and fatherless families.
So our fore parents were wise enough to build these villages on those four pillars and we can do no better than them to ensure that those pillars remain secure: the home, the school, the church and the farm. And it was on this basis that they were able to transform bush into village, village into town and that is why we are here today. So it is good that we should celebrate because we have come a far way and we have been able to build on the legacy of our fore parents.
Rose Hall now is becoming a significant education centre; look around you, you see the JC Chandidsingh, you see the amount of secondary school and primary school children, nursery school children who came out here because we all recognise that economic progress is based on education. So I am proud of what is being achieved in Rose Hall and I ask you as residents to protect and preserve the educational legacy of Rose Hall; look after your school; look after your school children.
Every now and then your nursery school children see some bicycles and the Foster brothers have helped me to distribute bicycles and Mr. Lewis has helped to provide buses. Up the Berbice River at Kwakwani and Kalcuni, they have boats, Barakara up the Canje they have boats. Why you think these boats were provided? They were provided to get children to go to school because education is important. We can’t give every school a bus. We can’t give East Bank Berbice as many buses as they need. We can’t give Corentyne as many buses as they need. We can’t give the rivers as many boats as they need but here you have private citizens coming forward because they understand the importance of education and I ask you, the residents of Rose Hall, if there is anybody in your street or your community who can’t go to school because of lack of transport try to help them by providing some vehicle.
Earlier today I was at President’s College; they are celebrating their 32nd anniversary, I was sitting down next to some of the top students having lunch and I asked one girl where she lived; she lives in Helena, Mahaica. I asked her how she got to school – two thousand dollars a week, eight thousand dollars a month and families which cannot afford that eight thousand dollars to move from Mahaica to President’s College at Golden Grove will end up with their children dropping out of school.
So education is important and I want Rose Hall to be an important education centre. Rose Hall is also becoming an important economic centre. You have heard from the Regional Chairman and from other speakers, the number of financial houses being established in Rose Hall. It can become a centre for commerce. It can become a centre for manufacturing, for agro-processing; for micro financing and I ask that you give consideration to making this town an economic hub for the entire region. Over the years I have been coming here; from time to time a young woman or young man would greet me; they might have graduated from the University of Guyana campus here at Tain; they have no work.
Well let me say frankly; it is impossible for every government or any government to provide work for everybody who comes out of school or university, but what we can do is provide opportunities and Rose Hall has those opportunities and I am urging you that now that we have a transformation, a consolidation in the sugar industry, let us look to see ways and means of creating new industries. Black Bush Polder was opened because sugar estates were being closed down and everybody knows – if you read the history of sugar over the last hundred years – the sugar industry has been contracting.
The rice industry has been contracting; seventy years ago you couldn’t count the amount of rice mills but now they are contracting; that is the nature of the industry, but what I am trying to say is just as the seed is destroyed for a plant to grow what you are seeing is the conditions being created for new industries to emerge. Sometimes I have to travel to other countries and when I look at the brown sugar I’m using, I feel like a cross between sadness and joy. Why? Joy, because I see Demerara sugar; finest Demerara sugar. Why sadness? Because I see product of Mauritius, product of India, product of Belize- true, true story. People really brazen eh? Demerara, eye pass; ah know you all Berbicians don’t like Demerara anyways.
We invented Demerara sugar, the brown crystals; so we should be masters at producing Demerara sugar because most people eating healthy want brown sugar, not white sugar and you know brown sugar is blessed. So let us do in the Corentyne what the Belizeans are doing, the Jamaicans are doing, the Mauritians are doing. I have a bag with Demerara sugar made everywhere else in the world except Demerara. I keep putting it on display, I said, look eye pass.
So, believe me, Corentyne, the door is open to micro-financing, to agro-processing and all these boys selling plantain chips and selling all sorts of condiments must learn to package them, label them and export them to the Caribbean. Right now you see the Corentyne is becoming a hub, because neighbouring countries who experience economic problems are rushing into the ‘green state’, rushing into Corentyne. You see them, you know them. I can’t call the name, I’m a Head of State so I can’t call the name but they come here because the living is good. They come here because they can make a profit and make money and if they can make money, Guyanese can make money.
So don’t let us cry, let us see the same opportunities foreigners are seeing. People from Venezuela are coming in here to get food. People from Suriname are coming across that little creek you all have there, the Corentyne Creek. So don’t let us bemoan, instead let us grow our economy and I’ve said over and over again, the Regional Chairman must be fed up hearing me say that, growing up at Whim, the rich rice millers always had light at night. Poor folk were trying with a Hurricane Lamp, a Tilly Lamp, a Coleman Lamp; some of you don’t know what’s Coleman and Tilly but the rice millers had lights, electric light; not like what you’re hearing because next time I come I’m sure the Foster brothers will have solar panels here.
No, they used wind power because the Corentyne is a long coast and day and night the wind is free and the wind turbines were turning and the rice millers had electricity. That’s when I was young and I am 72 years old. So it is possible for us to get off of this addiction to fossil fuels, addiction to dieseline and gasoline. It’s addictive you know. It’s like rum drinking; you feel you can’t do without it when in fact we need to convert to the use of wind power and solar power.
I sit down here this afternoon, I baking. I sure if I had an egg in my hand it would boil. The place hot bad, y’all cool, y’all laughing but this stand in the stage here is hot. I don’t know what the Fosters think they were doing, but this heat mustn’t go to waste. This heat could be converted into energy and we could have electricity for all. My brothers and sisters, this is a happy day.
As you know last year I created three new towns: one at Mabaruma, one at Bartica and one at Lethem. The Barima-Waini Region is four times the size of Trinidad and Tobago and it had no town- no capital. Bartica was the premier village in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, a region that is bigger than The Netherlands and it had no town. Bartica was not a town. Rupununi bigger than Costa Rica; Rupununi is bigger than the Republic of Costa Rica and Lethem was an NDC. I can’t put up with that and I made those three communities into towns, and since then they’ve been moving ahead very rapidly and I was inspired. Ask Mr. Armogan. When I come to Rose Hall to see what progress Rose Hall has been making, I said we could do this in Lethem, we could do this in Mahdia, we could do this in Bartica, we could do this in Mabaruma. So 2016 was a turning point for local government.
So the work that your fore parents did a hundred and seventy-five years ago is coming to fruition. I wish they could come back and see what you all are doing with their inheritance. Instead of bush now, we have town councils and what is taking place in the town council? Anyhow, we’ll sort out the problems; the town council is good medicine. Sometimes people don’t like medicine but sometimes conflict works wonders. These towns, and particularly Rose Hall Town in the context of the Corentyne, are important; they bring populations together. Apparently when people come to town they make a lot of babies, I don’t know why. But the population tend to grow in these towns. People leave the villages in the rural areas and come into the towns because they expect work and it is good because you have good markets to sell your products. The towns are also centres for the concentration of wealth, people want to come and bank, people want to open big supermarkets, big buildings, entertainment spots.
It’s also a centre for transportation. People come out to Rose Hall in order to go further along the coast or to go to New Amsterdam or to go to Georgetown, and is also a centre for the concentration of occupations. Many people come from the villages feeling they could get work here. It’s a centre for modernisation where people could be exposed to new technologies. Here, as the Chairman said, you are very fortunate in East Berbice- Corentyne that this is the only region in Guyana which has three towns: Rose Hall, Corriverton and New Amsterdam. Some regions have no towns, like the whole Potaro-Siparuni Region but we will fix that; every region must have a capital town. And I look forward to integrating the coastland with the hinterland and I would like you, who live on the coastland, to go deeper and deeper into this great region.
Some of you don’t know how long this region is. This region goes all the way up to Kotari, all you better go there. It’s the longest region in the country. So let us see a greater degree of integration of the rest of the region, the hinterland, the bush with the coastland. What we are seeing here today at Rose Hall is a development which has taken place over the years, not only since 1842; but since the town of Rose Hall was created in 1970, before that this region was run by compounds; I don’t know if you ever live in a compound. I don’t know if you know what a compound is. In a compound you had the district commissioner, public works, police station, magistrate court, all in one compound, like a fortress but those compounds were not integrated with the community. They were isolated from the community; they were segregated from the community.
What we have created now is a regional system, a neighbourhood system, a local government system which is truly integrated with the people and the system of governance operates at three levels. At my level as President, I represent the central government. At the regional level, Mr Armogan represents the regional government and at the local level Mr. Ramoo represents the local government, the municipal government. All three have to work together. Municipal has to work with regional; regional has to work with central. We’re not at war with one another; we cannot develop this country if we are fighting each other. So we have inherited a system that’s based on villages but that system has grown up, it has matured. So what our forefathers founded a hundred and seventy-five years ago has now become the foundation for a three tier system of government; they didn’t have regional administration, they didn’t have central administration but now within East Berbice-Corentyne you have all three levels and they have to work together, like the fingers on one hand.
So my brothers and sisters, it’s a happy day for me to be here with you. Every day I see the development that is taking place at governmental level, the improvement of immigration services, of education and health. I was glad to see mounted police to patrol our back dams, to keep our farmers safe. We all know about the terrible things which happened in some back dams at Black Bush Polder. Now we have mounted police and I congratulate the police force for that and I like them augmented. Don’t worry with gasoline; don’t worry with patrol cars and all of that. Grass, but keep this region safe.
Don’t let bandits run into the back dam thinking they could get away from the long arm of the law. Tourism could be improved up the creeks and rivers. Don’t forget the famous national bird, the Canje Pheasant, came from Canje and long ago even manatees used to come from Canje but too many of you all like manatee souse and manatee…big wildlife people. So my brothers and sisters today is a big celebration. I often refer to Guyana as a ‘green state’. Guyana is the biggest CARICOM State. Guyana is the most beautiful, the most bountiful CARICOM State. We have three islands in the Essequibo: Hog Island, Wakenaam and Leguan which alone are bigger than the British Virgin Islands. We have lakelands in the Essequibo. We have grasslands here in Berbice, the intermediate savannahs and in the Rupununi.
We have the wetlands in Canje. We have the highlands in the Pakaraimas, beautiful highlands. We have the beautiful rivers and waterfalls and these are industries which could be developed, tourism industries. People there get fed up lying down on the beach day after day with nothing to do but when they come to countries like Guyana is sheer excitement, wonder, awesome but these are our protected areas which are part of the green state.
Sometimes I wish that those 57 purchasers could come back to see what you’ve done with their legacy. I think they’ll be proud. I am proud of Rose Hall, I am proud of our potential. I am proud of our past but when I see these children here today I feel more proud knowing that the future is in good hands. Congratulations Rose Hall, and may God bless you all.