In reading and observing all the pomp and planned celebration for Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary one often ponder and struggle to understand exactly why are we celebrating.
Guyana gained independence in 1966 with the PNC at the helm. May 26, 1966 marked a new beginning, positive optimism for many and a long march through a gauntlet of hopelessness, oppression, degradation and exclusion from the national dialogue for many. It marked the beginning of a process of mass migration making Guyana (relatively) one of the most exited countries in modern history. We can reference very few nations with such a record. Yet many nations have gone through major convulsions and are today beacons of hope for their people.
Between 1966 and 1992, Guyana was taken from a stable budding nation with a sound economy and decent social fabric to the brink of abyss. The economy collapsed, the physical infrastructure crumbled, the social structure was decimated.
Strife and mistrust grew, families thrown in disarray as they split up and rushed helter-skelter to other countries seeking refuge.
Many females sought the path of early marriage as a means to exit the nation, forgoing higher education and their dreams. Many men rushed through dangerous back-track means to find a way out of Guyana. Social and moral decay set in.
Between 1992 and 2015 the economy and physical infrastructure was rebuilt. However, continued fear and uncertainty prevailed as politically inspired ethnic violence, strife and mistrust ensured no let-up in migration. The brashness of criminal gangs ensured no one lived without fear.
For a small nation like Guyana, politicians can hardly agree on anything as everything becomes mired in one-up-man-ship. The heroics of our leaders seem to be etched on successfully stymying and thwarting the agendas of each other at the expense of the nation’s interest.
Since May 2015, we see more of the same. The much touted “Change” government ascended to power and immediately embarked on a process of discrimination, ethnic cleansing of the civil service ranks and political gimmicks. They immediately voted themselves massive salary increases drawing a caution from international lenders.
The current government was voted in on a platform of change, transparency and people first. However, instead they immediately embarked on an agenda of “me-first” ensuring the good life for themselves.
The masses, on all sides, watched in dismay united only in their mutual distrust of each other, while their leaders “laugh all the way to the bank”. Furthermore, the much feared and suspect historic alliance between the political and military establishment reared its ugly head again. If there was hope in May 2015, it was shattered this time around in the shortest of orders ever since May 1966.
In 50 years, looking at the rest of the world, many nations went to hell and back while Guyana continues to languish in political purgatory by a government who say what you want to hear but do what they want to do.
Migration remains high, crime is out of control, corruption is rife, Guyana has the “gold medal” in suicides, ethnic divisions and mistrust remains as it was prior to 1966. The economy is again teetering on the brink while politicians go about their business as usual. Looking back over the past 50 years, Guyana seems stuck in quick sands of change with progress stymied by political partisanship. Even the 50th anniversary “stadium” seems a disgrace with the quality and workmanship that could only be described as laughable if it was not for such a waste of precious resources. Is this the best of Guyana after 50 years?
Guyana continues to straddle between measured hope and hopelessness. This is emblematic by the fact that the educated, progressive, and ambitious youths continue to cast their eyes upward but outward.
In looking, one is forced to ask, what are we celebrating, apart from the passage of time? What is needed at 50 is some serious national therapy, political reconciliation and soul searching by the leadership on all sides as to what type of nation they want to build and how to get there. Not a big celebration of show and tell of nothingness and waste of the nation’s resources.
HS Gautam Naraine,