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Remembering Independence
'We should rekindle the spirit of 30 years ago'
Neville Bissember Snr

Attorney-at-Law Neville Bissember Snr was one of the 21-member Guyanese delegation to the 1962 and 1963 constitutional talks in London. He was also a member of the delegation representing the People's National Congress to the talks, which resumed in November 1965, at which the date for independence was set. In an interview with the Sunday Stabroek, Bissember, who was one of the architects of the Independence Constitution, spoke about the 'Inde-pendence experience'.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

"As a result of Sir Hugh Hallett Boundary Commission which demarcated Guyana's 35 constituencies, elections were held in 1961 for internal self-government. The three main parties, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), the People's National Congress (PNC) and the United Force (UF), contesting the elections all clamoured for political independence. As a result the British Government summoned the Independence Constitutional Conference on October, 1962. We went.

"We, including Sir Lionel Luckhoo and Edward De Freitas of the UF, and Fenton Ramsahoye of the PPP, had drafted the whole Independence Constitu-tion. The meting was held at Lan-caster House in London. Regrettably all the political parties did not agree on the electoral system, which had to be agreed upon by the full plenary session. The PNC and the UF wanted a change in the electoral system but the PPP which was in government at the time wanted the 'first-past-the-post' system instead of proportional representation and the conference broke down and we returned home...

"The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Duncan Sandys then summoned another conference in October 1963. This time the meeting was held at Marlborough House. Sandys, realising that we had failed to agree once again, decided to impose the decision in favour of proportional representation, the system which we still use today.

Among friends: A gathering of mainly PPP members to greet the dawning of independence. From left front row are Ranji Chandisingh, Mr Chitlall (Dr Jagan's driver and bodyguard), and Dr Jagan. In the back row from left are: Rudy Luck, Mrs Luck, Mrs Ramsahoy

"Independence was an exciting period in our history. Everyone thought that independence would be a great thing for Guyana. Regrettably it has not lived up to expectations primarily because there seems to be a failure of the governing party to come to terms with the view of other political parties and arrive at a consensus for national unity.

I am afraid that national unity is far away from the reaches of the Guyanese people and I recommend that we rekindle the spirit of and enthusiasm of 30 years ago for the benefit of the Guyanese nation."

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