Guyana Resource Center
Set like a gem in the crown of South America, nestled on the North-Eastern shoulder, defying the raging Atlantic Ocean, Guyana's many waterways reflect the source of it's name "The Land of Many Waters"
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Friday, May 26, 2006

From The United Force
Minister Manzoor Nadir

The United Force (TUF) takes this opportunity to wish Guyana a happy fortieth birthday. We the executive and members of TUF are ever so cognizant of the ongoing struggles of our citizens to achieve peace, security and economic prosperity.

Forty years have elapsed since we have unyoked ourselves from colonialism in the hope of creating a just and equitable society. As citizens, we must use this opportunity to reflect on our past and try to identify our shortcomings as individuals and as a nation. We must work to build our national pride and create regional and international respect.

We must also take an introspective view of ourselves and ask whether as citizens, we have done all we can do to make Guyana a better country. For those of us who are of the appropriate age, we must ask ourselves whether our lives are better today than forty years ago. Are our children safer today than forty years ago? Are we safer in our homes or businesses today than we were forty years ago? Is our education system better today than it was forty years ago?

TUF knows what your answer is. Our youths are turning to drugs and prostitution at an alarming rate. The level of substance and other forms of dependencies baffles the mind. Due to the crime rate, we are no longer free to live the life we choose. Instead we must live behind bars in our homes, with armed security patrolling our communities. This is not the independence we expected after forty years.

We must reverse this deterioration of our quality of life and make the citizens truly independent and free in their pursuit of happiness. TUF will never surrender in its struggle to rid our country of the scourge of crime and improve the quality of life of our citizens, so please join us in the struggle. “Happy fortieth birthday Guyana and may your forty-first birthday meet our people enjoying the prosperity, security and happiness they so overwhelmingly deserve”.

Rebuild Guyana
Message from the Alliance For Change

AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman.

Our Independence in 1966 was meant to signify freedom not only from our colonial past but, more importantly, a freedom to dream and enjoy the best quality of life in our God-given land. It was always intended to be a freedom to participate in determining our own destiny. However, over these last forty years we have had to battle the plague of racial and political disunity and the scourge of poverty and underdevelopment, and massive migration of our best and brightest.

But these and lots more must never make us think that we must cease being Guyanese.

Hope and change is on the horizon. We must be at this time, more than ever, optimistic. Many may want to believe that clouds of violence loom large over our immediate future. The AFC is convinced, however, that Guyana has reached the stage where its people now know that violence will be no good for anyone, and that good sense shall prevail. Our desired goal of accomplishing a truly multicultural democracy will ultimately generate decreasing tensions rather than the apparent permanent discord, and create a common tolerant realm.

So as we all celebrate our 40th Independence Anniversary, let us remember that it is with strength, courage and perseverance that success is achieved. From hereon, let us all work together as Guyanese to rebuild this dear land of Guyana.
Happy 40th Independence, Guyana!

354 Cummings Street, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown, GUYANA
Tel: 592-225-0452/0455

From London to Georgetown
17 days of talks

Harold Wilson was British Prime Minister when Guyana became Independent.

During the 1960s a new brand of politics was sweeping through the Caribbean. Colonial territories were demanding self government. It was a period of rebellion and negotiations.

At home the political scene was charged as the two main political parties at the time, and still the main ones now, the Cheddi Jagan led People’s Progressive Party and the Forbes Burnham led People’s National Congress, battled each other for power and heatedly debating whether the electoral system should be first past the post or proportional representation.

Possibly the one issue on which they saw eye-to-eye was the need to ensure Guyana’s freedom from colonial rule.

Though their views differed on the modalities under which such freedom should be granted, it was obvious that they both thought it was time for British rule to end.

Within the Legislature, drafts of a new independent Guyana Constitution were being prepared and negotiations with the British Government were in earnest.

On June 22, 1965 the then 21-member Commonwealth Prime Minister’s conference heard proposals pertaining to the system of proportional representation that is still largely in use today.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood, Britain’s Colonial Secretary for Political and Constitutional Developments in remaining British colonies said at the conference that the election system used by British Guiana should be agreed on by locals rather than by imposition from outside.

One of the main concerns was the potential and likelihood of racial conflict splitting the country as the electorate divided along the ethnic lines of the two leaders.

At the Conference, then Prime Minister of neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago Eric Williams spoke of the dangers of racial violence and urged that this issue be handled properly.

It was about this time that the International Commission of Jurists sent a team to Guiana to investigate the question of racial balance in key areas of government, including the security forces civil service and government agencies. The commission also looked at race as it related to land settlement schemes.

The commission member made several recommendations towards improving racial tolerance in much the same way the current Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is doing today.

In November of 1965, a Guianese delegation departed these shores intent on setting the date for Guyana’s independence.

The team headed by Prime Minister at the time L. F. S. Burnham and including party allies C. M Llewlyn John, then Agriculture Minister, Deohoop Maharaj, Minister without Portfolio, Legislator John Joaquin, Hamilton Green, General Secretary of the People’s National Congress (PNC), Mr. H.M.E Cholmondeley and Political Assistant to Prime Minister L.F.S. Burnham, David de Groot, respected poet and writer Martin Carter. The team stopped in Jamaica and the United States before travelling to London for the crucial independence talks.

The PNC team was later joined by a team from The United Force that included the Party’s leader Peter d’Aguiar, J. Edward DeFreitas, Randolph Cheeks and Mohamed Kassim.

In London, Guyanese Lionel Luckoo joined in the independence negotiations.

By late November, the London talks reached agreement and a date was set for Bitish Guiana’s independence. A communiqué from the British Colonial Office said all issues were dealt with.

The talks lasted a full 17 days.
May 31, 1966 was originally slated as the date but was changed after a late-night sitting at the talks at Lancaster House. Burnham met British Prime Minister Harold Wilson where he pleaded for Guiana’s Independence Day to be May, 1 to coincide with Labour Day. That did not materialize. The two sides then agreed on the 26th as the final date.

Prime Minister Burnham signed the independence document, said at the end of the conference that he felt “proud…, happiness in the result”, and “humble at this point in our country’s history.”

The constitution as agreed on at Lancaster House recognized human rights of all Guyanese that was to be written as entrenched clauses in the new constitution.

It provided that a Governor General and a monarchical system would be in place until January 1, 1969 during the life of the current parliament.

It meant Guyana could not become a republic before that date.

Proportional representation would remain the country’s electoral system and key institutions like the judiciary, police and public service would be governed by impartial commissions.

Burnham returned to Guyana on November 27th 1965 aboard a Venezuelan Airways jet.

Over 10,000 overjoyed Guyanese met the Prime Minister at the Atkinson airport running on to the tarmac to greet him. Thousands more lined the road from the airport to the city.

Burnham addressed the happy throngs at the airport saying, “This is the end of one road and the beginning of another. It is the beginning of a road on which we must show utmost dignity, responsibility and a mountain of calm.”

At the Parliament Building, Burnham addressed a huge crowd which had gathered to hear news of the independence talks.

Indicating the path ahead for an independent Guyana, Burnham alluded to the country’s role in the Caribbean Region. “…as we look out northward, we must at the same time recognize that our new nation would have a particular and important role to play in the Caribbean. In many respects, we have given the lead. In many respects, we have flattered to deceive. With the instruments of independence and the release it can bring, we must now take our proper place at the head of the Caribbean nations, a headship not of dictation but a headship among equals.”

Referring to the outcome of the conference, the Prime Minister emphasized that they had striven to draft a constitution “not for one group, not for one section, not for one party but for all Guiana. It is a constitution for which the peaceful and law-abiding will live without fear.”

“I have nothing to promise you after May 26th but hard work.” There is a legacy of backwardness from colonial rule. There is a legacy of neglect from previous administrations. Our people need food, our people need word. If I may borrow a slogan from a political ally, our people need a place in the sun. Many have been our difficulties over the past four years, many have been our setbacks, many have been our disappointments but I see no reason why with independence ahead of us, with self rule within our grasp and under our control, we cannot arrive triumphant and glorious from the ashes of the past as one people, one nation, one destiny.

Guyana Chronicle