– message from the Coalition Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2016
On August 1, 1838, following two hundred years of abhorrent enslavement, the freedom of Africans was restored. Captured, brought to the Caribbean and the Americas and forced to work on European owned plantations, the restoration of their freedom represents the original independence in our nation’s history.
The emancipation of African slaves predates the abolition of indentureship, the struggle for universal adult suffrage and labour rights, independence from colonial rule and the attainment of republican status.
On this occasion, 178 years later, we reflect on the struggles of the indomitable, original freedom fighters – Cuffy, Quamina and Damon and their comrades with whom they organized and mobilized to effect redress to the darkest of horrors of Caribbean history.
On August 1st each year, we celebrate freedom, liberation and emancipation from an inhumane and repugnant system of human enslavement even as we reflect on the pre-1838 conditions and tribulations of the foreparents of so many of our countrymen and women. While physical enslavement is a distant memory, as a nation, we must resolve to continue to emancipate ourselves from whatever vestiges of psychological bondage that may persist.
Boldly, is it declared in the preamble to our constitution that “[w]e, the Guyanese people, proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forebears, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation, proclaim this Constitution in order to: safeguard and build on the rich heritage, won through tireless struggle, bequeathed us by our forebears; affirm our sovereignty, our independence and our indissolubility.”
We must continue to organize, mobilize and collectively lift our nation to higher heights socially, economically and culturally. We must elevate our mindset, eschew mediocrity and believe in a culture of excellence. This year, 2016, the year of our Golden Jubilee is an ideal opportunity for us to renew our commitment to these noble ideals.
There are, as well, powerful lessons following the abolition of slavery from which we must draw equal inspiration. The movement by the freed slaves to purchase land and establish independent coastal villages against challenging odds, remain one of the potent lessons of social upliftment in our history. These villages endure to this day and were the precursors to the modern layout of our coastal plain where the vast majority of our population resides.
This initiative and the struggles and efforts of our African ancestors redound to the benefit of all Guyanese. As a diverse nation of six peoples we must collectively build on these triumphs, persevere and resolutely aspire to greater heights and a deepening of the spirit of social cohesion.
His Excellency, President Brig. David Granger, First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger, Prime Minister and First Vice President The Honourable Moses Nagamootoo, Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo and the Coalition Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wish a happy, peaceful and safe celebration of this most significant occasion in our nation’s history and implore all Guyanese to inculcate in their own lives the lessons of perseverance, intolerance for unacceptable conditions and the struggle for a good life for all.