First to arrive were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and his wife Seeta Nagamootoo. Their arrival was followed by that of His Excellency, David Granger and his wife, First Lady, Sandra Granger. Upon his arrival, the Head of State took the Presidential salute, which was followed by a two -minute silence for those who struggled for Guyana’s Independence.
In his address to the nation on the occasion, President of the Republic, His Excellency Brigadier (Rtd) David Granger said the event should be seen as a solemn remembrance of the lives and labour of Guyana’s heroes.
“Today celebrates the Independence gained on the 26th May 1966 after 350 years of Dutch and British colonisation. We are assembled at this national monument in solemn remembrance of the lives and the labours of our heroes.”
The Head of State said that homage must be paid to those who agitated for decades to achieve national Independence. Now being the heirs to what has been accomplished, the President said all Guyanese have a duty to actualise the vision of the nation’s founding fathers who fought to create the new state.
“We had a duty to continue the work they started to transform a united colony to a united nation. Today is a day of thanksgiving to give thanks for the gift of Independence.”
Independence, President Granger said was not the work of one person or one party, but it was the product of a movement of the Caribbean, and the Guyanese people, and a process that took place over a long period of 50 years.
Workers, he said were the true pioneers of Independence as they were the ones who rebelled against British colonialism, first during the distress after the first and second world wars in 1918 and 1945 respectively.
Reflecting on Guyana’s, history, the President made mention of the 29 workers who were killed and 115 who were injured during the labour rebellion of the 1930s. While hailing the efforts of workers in Guyana gaining its Independence, the President said the legislators also played a significant role.
President Granger, reflecting on history added that it was Theophilous Lee, the first President of the British Guiana Trade Union Council, a Chinese Guyanese and a member of the Legislative Council who moved a motion there that led to the establishment of the Waddington Commission. This commission, he said, in turn led to the introduction of Universal Adult franchise, and also this is the same franchise which all Guyanese were allowed to exercise on May 11, in the General and Regional election.
“It is the Waddington Commission also which put us on the path to internal self governance, and finally Independence. Today we pay homage to our legislators for their leadership.” In addition, the President said that the suffrage of the ordinary citizen must not be forgotten as they bore the brunt of the disturbances of 1964 as the government of the day employed every devious device to delay election under the proportional representation system .
Noting that Guyana has indeed come a far way, President Granger said this is the very system that installed his new government recently.
“Today we pay homage to the 176 persons who were killed during that awful years during the struggle for Independence.”
Meanwhile going forward the President called on all citizens not to dwell on the pains of the past, but look with faith to the future. “Let us sacrifice for those who struggled and died, inspired us today, and guide generations to come tomorrow and beyond. Independence meant change, change from colony to nation, change from subject to citizen change from subjugation to liberation change from discrimination to lives of dignity and equality.”
In wishing the Guyanese nation happy Independence the President closed his speech with a quote saying, “Independence is a means to an end, the end must be to the changing of our society and the revolutionising of the economy, change indeed in never ending. Let us resolve therefore to work together to change our society into one of greater equality, let us strive to change our economy into one of greater prosperity, let us change our country to a nation of love, a nation of unity.”