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Remembering Independence
'The organised working class needs credit for Independence' - Eusi Kwayana
Eusi Kwayana

"At the time of independence I was neither a member of the PPP nor the PNC. I was supporting the PNC, however. How did I feel about independence? It was no surprise to me. We had expected it. But it was a good feeling.

"I was not involved in the celebrations in Georgetown. I went to the National Park briefly to escort a Mexican delegate (that was my duty because I spoke Spanish), I introduce him and left.

"I was organising preparations for the celebrations in Buxton. We had a public rally there at which I spoke, and I think George Young. There were gatherings in most communities. I remember there were fetes and tramps the next day.

"What I was interested in was a Westminster type of constitution which detailed how the government should be treated. But, no one showed an interest, neither the government nor opposition; everyone was more concerned about winning the elections.

"They got proportional representation (PR) but that was not the solution. It solved the problem of representation, since the PPP was over-represented in Parliament, which was more evident in '61 when the people really voted.

"It did not solve the problem of racism and the racial choice of politicians and the structure of power which still exist today, and which everybody, in their sober moments, does have to admit. As a country we have to face it sometime or the other and not run away.

"The government which was in power was important to the British government because of the Cold War which was on at the time. I don't think the British were as concerned with our independence as they were about keeping a Communist out of office. They knew from '61 that if the PN and UF joined forces they would have been able to win and that it would have been less risky to grant independence at that stage.

"I don't think that in all this the organised working class was given enough credit for the achievement of Independence. The efforts by Jagan and Burnham were without doubt great. Burnham for popularising the idea among the people and Jagan in a more absolute way.

"It was the organised working class who shook up the British Administration - with the 1947 bauxite strike, the 1948 Colonel Teare strike (Colonel Teare was brought here to run the Transport and Harbours Department and he did it like a tyrant) and the 1948 sugar strike. These shook up the British investors and North American capital [and they realise] that they were not here forever

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