Emancipation Day Messages
Political parties along with the major workers’ unions today joined in extending Emancipation Day greetings.
Message from the Coalition Govt. on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2016
On August 1, 1838, following two hundred years of abhorrent enslavement, the freedom of Africans was restored. Captured, brought to the Caribbean and the Americas and forced to work on European-owned plantations, the restoration of their freedom represents the original independence in our nation’s history.
The emancipation of African slaves predates the abolition of indentureship, the struggle for universal adult suffrage and labour rights, independence from colonial rule and the attainment of Republican status.
On this occasion, 178 years later, we reflect on the struggles of the indomitable, original freedom fighters – Cuffy, Quamina and Damon and their comrades with whom they organized and mobilized to effect redress to the darkest of horrors of Caribbean history.
On August 1st each year, we celebrate freedom, liberation and emancipation from an inhumane and repugnant system of human enslavement even as we reflect on the pre-1838 conditions and tribulations of the foreparents of so many of our countrymen and women. While physical enslavement is a distant memory, as a nation, we must resolve to continue to emancipate ourselves from whatever vestiges of psychological bondage that may persist.
Boldly, is it declared in the preamble to our constitution that “[we], the Guyanese people, proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forebears, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation, proclaim this Constitution in order to: safeguard and build on the rich heritage, won through tireless struggle, bequeathed us by our forebears; affirm our sovereignty, our independence and our indissolubility.”
We must continue to organise, mobilise and collectively lift our nation to higher heights socially, economically and culturally. We must elevate our mindset, eschew mediocrity and believe in a culture of excellence.This year, 2016, the year of our Golden Jubilee is an ideal opportunity for us to renew our commitment to these noble ideals.
There are, as well, powerful lessons following the abolition of slavery from which we must draw equal inspiration. The movement by the freed slaves to purchase land and establish independent coastal villages against challenging odds, remain one of the potent lessons of social upliftment in our history.These villages endure to this day and were the precursors to the modern layout of our coastal plain where the vast majority of our population resides.
This initiative and the struggles and efforts of our African ancestors redound to the benefit of all Guyanese. As a diverse nation of six peoples we must collectively build on these triumphs, persevere and resolutely aspire to greater heights and a deepening of the spirit of social cohesion.
His Excellency, President Brig. David Granger, First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger, Prime Minister and First Vice President The Honourable Moses Nagamootoo, Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo and the Coalition Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wish a happy, peaceful and safe celebration of this most significant occasion in our nation’s history and implore all Guyanese to inculcate in their own lives the lessons of perseverance, intolerance for unacceptable conditions and the struggle for a good life for all.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) salutes our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters on the occasion of Emancipation Day. This is indeed a fitting moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our African ancestors who were brought to the shores of Guyana in chains in order to provide free labour to the sugar planters.
To say that our African ancestors suffered at the hands of the sugar planters would be an understatement. Indeed, they were stripped of their humanity and dignity and made to toil long hours to keep the wheels of the sugar mills turning and in the process churning out profits for the expatriate sugar barons. Many were tortured and brutally killed for standing up for their rights but the spirit of resistance finally won the day and freedom was eventually won in August 1838. Several epic battles and rebellion took place during the long march to freedom, the most notable of which was the Berbice Slave rebellion led by Cuffy.
Despite the hardships and cruelty of plantation life, the freed slaves were successful in forging a society after emancipation and by dint of hard work and thrift purchased a number of villages where they eked out an independent existence despite attempts by the sugar planters to sabotage their newly won independence. There can be no doubt that the foundations of a modern society and economy were firmly laid by our African ancestors who peacefully co-existed with the indentured labourers after slavery was abolished and in several instances lent mutual support to each other when their interests and livelihood came under threat by the planter class.
The strong bonds of solidarity between Africans and indentured labourers, the vast majority of whom came from India is testimony to the fact that race was never a barrier when it comes to the defense and protection of fundamental human rights including the right to work and to live in an environment of peace, prosperity and respect.
The PPP from its very inception as a political party has consistently embraced the principle of racial equality and a governance mechanism where each and every Guyanese regardless of race, colour or creed be given an equal opportunity to contribute to the good of society. The PPP wishes to reiterate this commitment to free, democratic and cohesive society, one in which their is no privileged race but where all races work and live in unison to build a strong and prosperous Guyana.
The PPP is proud of the fact that it remains the largest multi-ethnic political party and will continue to welcome all Guyanese into its ranks from all races and ethnicities who, like our foreparents share the vision of a society where the good life is enjoyed not by a privileged few but by the society as a whole.
The PPP is aware of attempts by the current Granger administration to sow the seeds of discord among the Guyanese people by re-invoking the bogey of race but like all previous attempts it will fail to sully the image of the PPP as the only genuine and true multi-racial party in Guyana.
Once again, Happy Emancipation greetings to all Guyanese, in particular our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters.
The Working People’s Alliance
The Working People’s Alliance hails the African Guyanese community as it observes another emancipation anniversary. African Guyanese, despite various challenges, have continued to inspire our country through their creativity and labour. In that regard they have kept alive the emancipation spirt of independence and nationhood.
Having said that, WPA wishes to remind African Guyanese and the wider Guyanese society that although 178 years have passed since August 1, 1838, there is still work to be done to make the promise of emancipation a reality. This year’s emancipation anniversary comes as we observe and celebrate 50 years of freedom from colonial rule. Because the WPA views our independence as an extension of emancipation, it strongly feels that confronting the institutional challenges arising out of slavery and colonialism should be very high on our national agenda.
There is no doubt that as we celebrate emancipation that the African Guyanese community is grappling with a new wave of alienation brought on by rising socio-economic depression. Structural Adjustment and its attendant marketization along with the politics of domination have taken a toll on the self-confidence of African Guyanese, particularly the poor. WPA feels that this situation cannot be left to fester; it has to be confronted head on.
In this regard we feel that the government in collaboration with the African Guyanese elites and the wider community should look towards widening the space for African Guyanese empowerment. This should be done within the context of closing the gap between the rich and powerful and the poor and powerless.
WPA, therefore, urges the African Guyanese community to lift their voices in their own advocacy and for their own empowerment. Self-Emancipation comes primarily from self-activity. We also call on the African Guyanese leadership to be more pro-active in mobilising the community from the bottom and the neglected corners.The aim of emancipation must be social equality and security for all Guyanese regardless of ethnicity and social class.
Guyana Trades Union Congress
The Guyana Trades Union Congress joins with all Guyana in celebrating freedom from the world’s most inhumane system and treatment of man towards man. As Guyanese mark emancipation of Africans from chattel slavery, in a world where injustice to one poses a threat to justice for all, this day is not only a victory and progressive step in relations between the once enslaved and enslaver, but for all.
Freedom from bondage came with it some measures of expected uncertainties, such as what would life be post-slavery and relationship between groups, where there existed a history of domination and subjugation, built on unscientific notion of superiority and inferiority. In that Africans, having given of their labour for centuries, under brutal conditions that deprived them of fundamental rights and decency, were able to move off the plantations and set up progressive life independent of same, is no small feat.
Pooling the pennies acquired during the four years of amelioration (1834-1838) and being able from the get-go to use their meagre earnings to buy up plantations, converting them to villages, and establishing an indigenous system of government and economy are remarkable. These achievements speak of a people possessing of intellect, though ignored as a justification to enslave them, and the spirit of camaraderie and determination to establish a life and succeed independent of a system that would have told them they are incapable of.
Outside of laying the topography of coastland Guyana with their lives, blood, sweat and tears, Africans have laid the foundation of the indigenous system of government, which came to be known as Local Government, that laid the foundation for National and Regional governments, and a village economy built on the cooperative principles, which is a part of the nation’s tri-sector economy.
Africans have contributed to every facet of this nation’s growth and development, giving of the labour and talent in the various sectors, processes and areas of endeavour. These achievements and contributions must not only be recounted but must see redoubling of efforts to preserve and motivations to grow from strength to strength. For emancipation will mean nothing if Africans, who fought for and achieved this landmark moment in the world’s calendar, were to accept or participate in any action that would threaten or repeat the domination, marginalisation and oppression their forebears rightfully fought against.
Onward, upward, we must ever go!
GAWU Emancipation Message 2016
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), yet again joins in the national celebration marking the one hundred and seventy-eight (178th) anniversary of the emancipation of the forefathers of our African Guyanese citizenry. This has become a joyful tradition and one which holds great significance for us. Freedom from physical bondage which brought on unspeakable brutality and exploitation spawned by colonialism/capitalism was undoubtedly a step along the way to our independence, the breaking of the colonial relationships and the forging of a Guyanese nation.
It must be noted that freedom in 1838 was won and attained from the heroic and self-sacrificing struggles of the slaves. Today, we must not only give recognition to those struggles but they should strengthen us as a people to jealously guard our independence and our general sovereignty in times when we are learning that renewed efforts are being made to re-establish colonial relations in the context of today’s conditions.
GAWU recognizes the major contribution of the descendants of those freed African slaves in the continuous development of Guyana and in all areas of our country’s life – sport, culture, politics, security, foreign service. We are encouraged that so many have received deserving acclaim regionally and internationally too.
Not only our Afro-Guyanese citizens but, indeed, our country has come a far way in these past 178 years. We overcame many hurdles, much of which have been rooted in the intrigues of the colonialists and their local collaborators. In our celebration, therefore, we should take pride in the progress made against all odds and let our achievements motivate us all to reach yet greater heights and record other sparkling achievements for our individual lives, our family and in our society as a whole.
Though our times are serious and challenging, we can draw strength and heed the lessons from our forefathers. Our hopes for a better life, society and world are realizable in our unity and principled struggles.
Happy Emancipation Day!
Let us all celebrate this freedom!
Guyana Public Service Union
The Guyana Public Service Union wishes to extend its warmest wishes to Guyanese across our country and wherever else they may reside in the diaspora on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2016.
While, naturally, we set much store by the cultural rituals and ceremonies in which African Guyanese immerse themselves to commemorate Emancipation Day, we must remember, as well, what Emancipation Day means in terms of the contribution that African Guyanese as a free people and as patriots must continue to make in building a cohesive society out of many people, many cultures, many beliefs.
Differences, we must remind ourselves, must not be thought of as being synonymous with separateness.
If physical manifestations mean that we cannot change who we are on the outside, African Guyanese, as much as any other race, must be animated by hearts that are open to the virtue of accommodation.
We must gracefully and gratefully embrace the reality of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural circumstance, as a nation. Simultaneously, we must, of course, celebrate the proud and wondrous heritage of African-ness.
In the process all Guyanese who share the same space must be encouraged to experience the generosity of spirit and the warmth that is second nature to African Guyanese.
We must continue with determination and focus in pursuing the goals of our virtues and values, fearlessly but fairly, we must not permit any form of compromise or disrespect being displayed to our contribution to our national cause nor our work and worth.
On the occasion of Emancipation Day, the Guyana Public Service Union wishes to extend its very best wishes for the creation of a strong and cohesive Guyana.