Address of His Excellency Brigadier David Granger Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform at the 60th Anniversary Special Congress for the Celebration of the Founding of the People’s National Congress
The PNC and the struggle for nationhood
The founding of the People’s National Congress sixty years ago on 5th October 1957 in the colony of British Guiana was a transformational event.
Comrade Forbes Burnham, our founder-leader, together with Comrade Joseph Prayag Lachhmansingh, our founder-chairman and Comrade Jane Phillips-Gay, founder of our Women’s Movement, set out on a mission to create a new type of party – one that would change colonial conditions of life in fundamental ways.
Our founders created a movement aimed at encouraging and empowering poor and powerless, men and women, to combine their talent to transform a backward plantation economy into an independent nation.
The PNC’s ideological objective has always been to free Guyana both from foreign domination and local dependency.
Everyday life in British Guiana sixty years ago was not easy. There was much that imperial subjects resented, rejected and resisted. Social discrimination was rampant on the plantations, in foreign companies and in society; living conditions were depressed; educational services for the masses were meagre and the economy was controlled by foreign multi-national corporations.
Consider that, in the thirteen years preceding Independence in 1966, eighteen regiments of the British Army had to be deployed to keep the peace in British Guiana.
Consider the rocky road to statehood taken in other former British colonies – the bloody partitions of India and Cyprus and the civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, the Sudan and Uganda and the riots, revolts and insurrections elsewhere – since their Independence.
The PNC, through its astute leadership, statesmanship and stewardship, steered the colony away from catastrophe into the safety and security of nationhood.
The Union flag was lowered at midnight on 25th May 1966 and the Golden Arrowhead was hoisted for the first time. The visible events – the pageants, parades, rallies and regattas – were necessary rites of passage of our new nationhood. They were not sufficient to transform a dependent colony into an ‘independent’ new nation. More had to be done.
The new state, at ‘dayclean’ on 26th May 1966, was little different from the ‘old’ state that it had been decades before. The Governor General was a foreigner; the Governor of the Bank of Guyana was a foreigner; the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force was a foreigner; the Commissioner of the Guyana Police Force was a foreigner; the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana was a foreigner; the Bishops of the Anglican and Roman Churches were foreigners and the directors of the bauxite and sugar corporations and of the major banks were all foreigners.
Independence vested in us the responsibility to change colonial conditions. Independence promised expanded opportunities and enhanced security. It engendered hopes of a ‘good life.’
Our new status imposed an obligation on us to improve our citizens’ access to public services, to be guardians of our territory, custodians of our environment and masters of our destiny.
The PNC had much to do to deflect catastrophe and develop the country. Guyana’s survival as a unitary state and the wellbeing of the people are tributes to the ideals of our founders and the guidance of our Party.
The PNC, at the social and cultural levels, is proud of having deepened social cohesion and national integration; fostered respect for each others’ religions; celebrated the history of our peoples; promoted patriotic pride; encouraged all citizens to give meaning to their ‘Guyaneseness’ as a pluri-cultural country; erected the University of Guyana, a College of Education, multilateral schools and technical institutes; expanded access to education for our children throughout the ten administrative regions; introduced social protection through national insurance; expanded public health and extended public services to the people.
The PNC, at the political and strategic levels, is proud of having fought for Independence and rejected colonial domination; fought for fair, proportional representation and brought British Guiana to nationhood; withstood decades of intimidation and threats to our territory; suppressed an insurrection; introduced the regional system of administration and created the first new towns – a process that continues.
The PNC is proud of its inclusionary ideology and of having pioneered a coalition administration with its partners – the Alliance For Change, Guyana Action Party, Justice For All Party, National Front Alliance and Working People’s Alliance.
The PNC, at the regional and international levels, is proud of having initiated an audacious foreign policy playing leading roles in the struggles to support decolonisation and to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa; pioneering the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Area, the Caribbean Community and the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of states; and in the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations that conduced to making the world a freer and safer place.
The PNC, at the economic level, is proud of having initiated major drainage and irrigation and sea defence works in order to augment agricultural production; improved public infrastructure in order to promote more efficient land, riverine and aviation transportation and communications; improved rural electrification, telecommunications and water supply; stimulated economic diversification by augmenting agro-processing and manufacturing through the ‘buy-local’ and ‘feed-yourself’ initiatives; constructed the main highways from Skeldon to Parika and Soesdyke to Linden.
We established a national airline, laid down aerodromes and built bridges over our rivers; improved access to public housing and delivered the masses from insanitary logies, shanties and tenement yards and opened the doors to their own family homes.
We, the members of the People’s National Congress, are successors to our founders who established this principled Party which helped to transform Guyana.
We are heirs of their legacy of service and, together with our partners, have earned the confidence of the majority of Guyanese to have been elected to be trustees of the administration of this great country.
We honour those who, inspired by our founders’ vision, continue to contribute to our country’s development today.
We thank God for sustaining our Party for sixty years. May God bless the People’s National Congress! May God bless Guyana!