Guyana Golden Jubilee Logo 1966-2016
Photo Credit: Guyanese Online Blog
May 26, 2016, marks fifty years since my native land of Guyana gained its independence from Great Britain. I was privileged to have witnessed the birth of our nation and to have shared the euphoria of a battle fought and won. As a teenager at the time, I also cherished the aspirations for our future, as expressed in the chorus of one of our patriotic songs of the sixties: “Guyana the Free” by Valerie Rodway.
All hail to Guyana, our country now free,
One people, one nation, one destiny,
We pledge every effort, we’ll cherish this earth
And make here a paradise – Land of our birth.
Guyana’s birth as a nation was fraught with racial enmity and violence between the two major ethnic groups: descendants of African slaves and East Indian indentured laborers. Members of the minority groups—Chinese, Portuguese, Amerindian, and people of mixed ethnicity (like my family)—were caught in the crossfire. Supporting one side made you an enemy of the other. Over the past fifty years, that racial enmity has continued to retard the realization of our national motto to become one people, one nation, one destiny.
Guyana Coat-of-Arms with National Motto: One People, One Nation, One Destiny
Photo Credit: Guyana National Symbols
Corruption at the top—with the theft of government funds for personal enrichment—has trickled down throughout the ministries and agencies, and has spread like bitumen across the society.
State violence—let loose since the creeping stage of our young nation—has intoxicated the minds of far too many of Guyana’s marginalized youth, left to fend for themselves the best way they could.
Racial enmity, corruption, and violence are powerful ingredients for stifling any kind of progress: political, economic, social, or familial. (Guyana is not unique in this regard. We can observe this growing infestation worldwide among nations, large and small.) During these past fifty years, this corrosive mixture has made Guyana an easy target for foreign apex predators that—with the help of local gatekeepers—raid the herd at will, taking the spoils back to their lairs and leaving behind the carcasses and broken bones.
Guyana has had to navigate across the global, economic badlands of rugged and dangerous terrain, dominated by powerful transnational corporations that write the laws regulating their behavior. No small, developing nation can traverse such treacherous territory alone. All alliances Guyana has made with other nations over the past fifty years must be applauded. Of these alliances, the CARICOM caravan—our closest allies by nature of our common historical and economical development as former British colonies—cannot seem to hold their wagons together as a unified front.
In spite of all its self-inflicted wounds, the relatively young fifty-year-old Guyana jaguar still lives. That alone is just cause to celebrate.
Happy Golden Jubilee to the people of Guyana and to Guyanese in the Diaspora!