Yesterday was “Enmore Martyrs’ Day”. With all the rains and floods piling on top of the COVID-19 woes – as the number of deaths stubbornly refuses to come down – maybe the powers-that-be can be excused for not making much ado about it this year? Your Eyewitness doesn’t think so. Cause one of the reasons we’re in such deep doo-doo in this country politically is because we don’t resonate to a common narrative about what this country is all about.
And what we’re all about has to do with “labour” …exploited labour. The Indigenous Peoples weren’t “spared”, as some would have it; they defended themselves against exploitation by the Dutch, but still saw their land unilaterally expropriated by superior force. The enslaved Africans had to provide free labour for the plantations, and we have the 1763 Monument to acknowledge and pay tribute to their seminal role in the creation of our country. Even though at that time there were three separate COUNTRIES – Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara.
In like manner, the Enmore Martyrs’ Monument symbolises the role played by the labour of the Indentured Indians, Portuguese and Chinese to continue to make the country, which had been united in 1831, a viable proposition. These Indentured labourers tripled the amount of land cultivated, as well as the volume of sugar produced, to push Guyana to become the largest sugar producer in the British West Indies. Sugar was the raison d’etre of the colonies – and imported labour made it so.
The 5 Enmore Martyrs of 1948 were only the last in a long, brutal campaign to squeeze blood out of the labourers, and in which the “leaden argument” was made with deadly regularity – starting as early as in 1872 at Devonshire Castle.
Those who talk of these indentureds as being “pampered” are committing a standing libel on them. Whatever gains they made were paid for with their blood, and redounded to the benefit of the entire country.
The Enmore killings had been preceded by the Leonora killings of Feb 1939 – just when the Moyne Commission was in Guyana taking evidence on labour discontent throughout the West Indies. The killings brought home to the Commission the need for radical action during the Great Depression, which hit the sugar islands worse than anywhere else.
It was the Moyne Commission which recommended an opening up of the franchise, and it was the Venn Commission which investigated the Enmore killings that recommended the universal franchise. As such, those who forget or downplay Enmore Martyrs’ Day are blinding themselves to the sacrifices of these forbears who bought our freedom with their blood.
It’s truly said that “those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”
During the Cold War between the USSR and the USA, the combatants tried to “win the hearts and minds” of the nations that were emerging from colonial rule. The latter then tried to play them off against each other to get goodies like loans for infrastructure and social needs. But the Cold War ended in 1989, and it wasn’t coincidental that development in poorer countries has lagged since then.
But it looks like happy days might be here again! China is now flexing its muscles after being poised to replace the US as the largest economy in the world. Using the THREE TRILLION DOLLARS it accumulated from being the “factory of the US”, it’s buying friends and influencing them with its massive “Belt and Road Initiative (B&RI) that’s financing and building massive infrastructure worldwide.
Enter the US and G7 last weekend with their version – Build Back Better World (B3W) Initiative. They’re going to focus on infrastructure in climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality.
Competition’s good, no?
For the second time, a plane containing massive amounts of cocaine en route to Suriname crash-landed in Berbice. Imagine how many didn’t!
Whatever happened to the 5 “hi-tech” surveillance drones Ramjattan acquired for $180 million?