The Enmore Martyrs: Symbols of courage, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of the Guyanese people

Enmore Martyrs Day is a significant event that marks the anniversary of a tragic incident that occurred on June 16, 1948, when five sugar plantation workers were brutally killed during a peaceful strike in Enmore, a village on the East Coast of Demerara.

This day serves as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for workers’ rights, social justice, and equality in Guyana. The commemoration not only honours the memory of the fallen martyrs but also serves as a rallying point for the continued pursuit of a fair and just society.

The Enmore Martyrs Monument

During the colonial era, the sugar industry played a central role in the economy of British Guiana (now Guyana), and sugar plantation workers faced harsh conditions and low wages. In an effort to address their grievances and demand better treatment, the sugar workers organised a strike.

They demanded an end to the exploitative practices of the sugar plantation owners, who subjected the workers to long hours, low pay, and deplorable living conditions. The strike, which began on June 6, was initially peaceful and non-violent in nature.

However, tensions escalated on June 16 when the colonial police opened fire on a group of workers who were peacefully assembled at the Enmore Sugar Estate. As a result of this tragic incident, five workers—Lallabagee Kissoon, Rambarran, Pooran, Surujbali, and Harry lost their lives, and several others were injured.

The sacrifice of these five martyrs became a turning point in Guyana’s struggle for workers’ rights and independence. Their tragic deaths galvanised the labour movement, fuelling the fight for justice and inspiring generations to come. The Enmore Martyrs have since become symbols of courage, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of the Guyanese people.

Notably, the late former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who played a crucial role in organising the workers and leading the strike, emerged as a prominent figure in the fight for independence from British colonial rule.

The event propelled him to the forefront of Guyanese politics, eventually leading to the formation of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and his tenure as the country’s first Prime Minister.

To commemorate this historic event, a series of activities are organised throughout the day in Enmore and other parts of the country. A solemn ceremony at the Enmore Martyrs Monument, where wreaths are laid in honour of the fallen heroes usually marks the observance. Political leaders, trade union representatives, and members of the public pay their respects and reflect on the significance of the martyrs’ sacrifice.

Ministers of government and other officials will later today attend an event at the Enmore Martyrs Monument to commemorate the event. Earlier in the day a wreath laying ceremony will be hosted at Le Repentir cemetery in honour of the five martyrs.

Enmore Martyrs Day not only honours the past but also serves as a call to action for a better future. It reminds Guyanese of the sacrifices made by those who fought for their rights and encourages them to remain vigilant in safeguarding the gains achieved. It also serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice and equality is an ongoing process that requires collective effort and solidarity.

The legacy of the martyrs remains alive, guiding Guyana on its path towards a more equitable society.

The annual commemoration of Enmore Martyrs Day serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Guyanese people and their unwavering commitment to justice and equality for all.