After 55 years of political independence: economic independence now possible – Harmon
See full Independence Day message from Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon below:
On the occasion of Guyana’s 55th Anniversary I extend greetings all Guyanese including those in the diaspora and our indigenous brothers and sisters who first inhabited this land of many waters Guyana.
Political independence from our colonial masters in 1966 introduced some freedoms including important symbols of nationhood such as our national flag, national anthem, motto and other emblems, but what it did not permit was economic independence. Guyana had a high standing in the international community as we chartered a course to pursue our national interest; we were dependable partners in the fight for decolonization. The 55 years that followed independence were marked by significant points – we became a co-operative republic and nationalized the commanding heights of our economy – but as was the case in many post-colonial countries of that era, we struggled across partisan and racially charged political lines to realise true independence.
Today, for the first time in our history, economic independence is a real possibility given our abundant oil and gas resources. This possibility however has come about when the issues of the negative global consequences of fossil fuels are a growing global concern. The issues of climate change and the COVID 19 pandemic could not be more present nationally and beyond. Guyana therefore has a sharpened responsibility to ensure that we mitigate the proven downside of oil by the responsible management of its extraction and the monies garnered from it.
Guyana’s population is less than a million. In light of decades of outward migration, it is incumbent therefore, on the government in particular, to offer security and a sustainable future to those Guyanese who have remained. This security cannot be only about elections as important as that is but rather about wellness and wellbeing as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many fault lines in our health systems and our access to information. Our death rate is too high, our infection rate is too alarming and our vaccine roll out is too slow. We of the APNU+AFC Coalition are redoubling our efforts and encouraging others to join our national push for increased vaccinations as we cannot afford to lose another citizen. I take this opportunity to single out the efforts of the doctors, nurses and other health workers who have been at the forefront of our fight against this virus. Today, they should be recognized as national heroes. They go well beyond the call of duty to save lives and ensure essential services. I also take this opportunity to highlight the efforts of members of the Disaster Management Teams, Disciplined Service personnel, sanitation workers, delivery staff, transportation, and aviation personnel, providers of various services, government employees, social service organisations, NGOs and generous citizens who have demonstrated solidarity and care for their fellow citizens.
Regrettably, the 2020 General and Regional Elections have scarred the nation and once more opened the floodgates of vitriol, distrust and unproductive racial stereotyping.
As disturbing as it was to witness the regrettable outpouring of hatred and intransigence, it has afforded us the opportunity to bring intolerance out of the shadows and deal with it decisively without blaming and shaming. Let us not sweep it back under the carpet, but rather commit at every level—personal, institutional, political, governmental, social—to consciously, resolutely, and patriotically rid our society of this divisive affliction. I cannot think of any Guyanese who does not recognize that ethnic insecurity has been the root of our historic barrier to nation building. This old colonial curse has been the mill stone to our joint and just development.
The People’s Progressive Party, in office since August 2020, has engaged in a systematic assault on real and perceived supporters and appointees of the APNU+AFC Coalition’s administration. The list is long and is not limited to the firing of public servants; partisan discrimination in the distribution of COVID-19 relief; the sidelining of several professionals; and the arrest and detention of many professionals. There are rising anxieties about new and old forms of nepotism and corruption. All this pales in the face of the shocking refusal to convene parliament for the past 90 days. The notion of oneness must never mean “we alone”. This is certainly not what our independence heroes, women and men of all races, worked so hard to achieve in their quest for self-determination. The carefully nurtured culture of confrontational politics, fueled further today by social media, is further eroding the possibility and our capacity to build a Nation.
Guyana, with its vulnerable coast on which some 90% of our population lives, is no stranger to the destructive capacity of water. Over the centuries this man-made coast, built by the unrecognized and unvalued work of the enslaved Africans in the first instance, has leveled time and time again the efforts of subsequent generations of Africans and Indians, in the main, to make a living independent of the colonial legacy. The seawall/landwall, the mud dams, the mangroves, and the sluices constitute an integral mix that shores up our ability to live on this coast. The current sacrifice of mangroves, which demonstrates the failure to inform and consult with citizens as articulated in Article 13 of our Constitution, in the interest of a very narrow few, is an abandonment of Government responsibility. May 26th is an auspicious day to remind ourselves of our national motto: One People, One Nation, One Destiny. This demands a commitment of all of us to equal and equitable access to decision making and all resources. As the old saying goes, one hand can’t clap.
Finally, it is the generational duty of all Guyanese to commit to a model of economic development now that we have the financial resources, a model that should not replace the old masters with new masters who are even less concerned about our wellbeing. We must raise our voices, commit to new efforts as we did some 55 years ago when we hoisted the Golden Arrow Head. The APNU+AFC Coalition is committed to this effort to unleash the full human potential of all Guyanese.
We wish everyone a Happy 55th Independence Anniversary