What are the direct benefits of independence for Guyanese? – letter

What are the direct benefits of independence for Guyanese?

Stabroek staff On May 27, 2012  Letters | Comments

Dear Editor,

Given what has played out in local politics after the British politicos left Guyana in May 1966, I can’t really think of anything significant which we can celebrate, thus rendering any thought of a 46th anniversary celebration one more of symbolism than of substance.

It may be a paradox that exists in many other ex-colonies that attained political independence, but it would be interesting to learn what the latest studies are showing the pre and post-independence thoughts of people, as well as comparative analyses of socioeconomic and political conditions before and after independence in ex-colonies, from sub-Saharan Africa to Central Asia to Latin and South America and the Caribbean.

For example, neighbouring Barbados (166 sq miles and 288,000 people), which attained independence on November 30, 1966, from Britain (six months after Guyana), is exemplary when it comes to political stability and social and economic progress. In 2010, it ranked first among 193 countries in political liberties and civil liberties. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2011 ranks Barbados as 2nd in the Americas and 16th among 183 countries.

The Index of Economic Freedom 2011 ranks Barbados as the 4th freest economy in the Americas and the 37th in the world, while the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 says Barbados is the 3rd most stable banking system in the Western Hemisphere. Should I impress you with more astonishing facts about tiny Barbados just to make the point? 

Okay, so let me move on to a stark contrast. Actually, there are so many, it is difficult to pick one to illustrate the point, but between sub-Saharan Africa and Latin and South America, we can find prime examples of what went wrong with these politically independent nations, and the two words that readily jump out at us are ruthless dictatorships and systemic and endemic corruption in government, resulting in dismal economies.

In Guyana, we had the late Cheddi Jagan leading the fight back in the late ’40s to end British colonialism, but it appeared as though he was leading us from colonialism to communism, which was an ideology being promoted universally by the former Soviet Union. When the late Forbes Burnham got help from the West to engineer the ouster of Jagan via a change to a PR voting system, and then a PNC-TUF coalition in 1964, the hope was that Guyana would be spared communism and its dictatorial propensity.

But then Burnham wound up leading Guyana to independence in May 1966, creating a euphoric atmosphere in the country. In February 1970, he made Guyana a Cooperative Republic and later embarked on state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, starting with the nationalization of Demba in July 1971. In December 1974, he embarked on a bloodless socialist revolution, and we can pretty much conclude that it was rapidly downhill from there for Guyana and Guyanese.

When he died in August 1985, his successor, the late Desmond Hoyte, changed the political trajectory of the country, and while there were discernable signs of progress, his efforts were undercut by calls for free and fair elections, which resulted in the Jagan-led PPP taking power in October 1992. After Jagan died in March 1997, his wife captained the ship of state, from December 1997 to August 1999, when Bharrat Jagdeo took over and presided until November 2011.

Throughout the entire foregoing period after independence, Guyana and Guyanese experienced fleeting moments of stable and sound living, despite the socioeconomic constraints associated with a poor country, which was, nevertheless, sitting on untapped natural resources. But the true meaning of political independence never seemed to resonate deeply with Guyanese, in so far as political and civil rights, economic and social justice were concerned.

Burnham became increasingly autocratic. Jagan went from staunch communist to strangely confused. His wife seemed more enamoured of communism and the PPP than Guyana. Jagdeo, a symbol of youth, energy and hope replicated Burnham in many respects, except that whereas Burnham was overcome with political greed, Jagdeo was overcome with personal greed.

So what exactly was the purpose of political independence? Where are the direct benefits of independence for Guyanese? It would seem that political independence benefited politicians and their associates rather than the people of Guyana, but nothing is more disturbing about the seeming failure of political independence than to recognize Guyanese now in countries under governments run by white people whom our political leaders spent decades vilifying. What an indictment against our political leaders!

No one seems to know the exact numbers, but we are told that over 500,000 Guyanese live abroad. From the much despised Britain, to the disparaged America to the delicately detested Canada, Guyanese can be found living their dreams in another land. And what is worse is that even after the PPP returned to power in 1992, not only did its support base not return home in droves as expected, but the base keeps migrating from a country that is 83,000 square miles in size, with less than 1 million in population and untapped economic potential.

But even if we were to agree in unison that political independence has not delivered because our political leaders failed, how can the leaders not get the message from the people on November 28, 2011, that they want the government to change the way it does business? November 28, 2011 could well be as symbolically significant as May 26, 1966, if only the political leaders could, for once, put the people’s interests and concerns first. For once, symbolism can finally become substance!

Will the PPP blow the opportunity November 28, 2011 has presented, the same way the PNC blew the opportunity May 26, 1966 had presented? After all, we should be celebrating November 28, not wondering about its possible consequences!

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

—- Post #1455

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • needybad4u  On May 29, 2012 at 5:43 am

    When the fabric of our people is so thinly woven, our people perish. It is not an abandonment of our country, but an egregious political system.
    ~Leonard Dabydeen

  • William Ramnarace  On May 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Mr Emile Mervin’s article was a pleasure to read….it is balanced and relevant.

    Barbados is regarded as Little England….tourism and wealthy europeans are catered for in a big way…. which is underpinned by a ‘safe’ environment as a priority….with Law and Order professionalised…………comes responsible Government to maintain stability. In Barbados the Politicians have shown maturity….and the people and country responds positively.

    Contrasting Barbados with Guyana…..Guyana has everything in place for prosperity to take off in a big way…..natural resources..massive land mass for agriculture….harnessing energy….location…a willing, skilled and hungry populace…. but….

    Two factors stand in its way……Immature Politicians who wants to score points…..and the use of Racism as their weapon…to achieve their personal objectives…….taking their eyes off their Prime Responsibilities.

    Until our Politicians in Guyana acknowledge that they are there to ‘rescue’ Guyana from it’s sad state……to show responsible leadership…..and emerge from the darkness of the past………..Guyana will continue to show inconsistent progress….depending on which ‘regime’ is in office.

    To digress a little………Guyana needs to firmly establish respect for Law and order…..the Police Force in particluar needs to be Professionalised…The Courts badly needs a massive ‘repair’ job …….the law of ‘incitement’ needs to be enforced to the letter of the law….sparing no one…politicians or otherwise….with imprisonment as the only penalty.

    Only when this foundation is laid….the ‘safety’ factor addressed….will confidence and investments grow…the politicians will drift from their ‘evil’ ways…Guyana is ripe for foreign investments…but uncertainties abound……


  • Cyril Balkaran  On May 29, 2012 at 11:18 am

    The dark history of the immediate pre independent period (1961-1966) and the post independent (1966-1985) created the suffocation and open de-culturalization of a people that turned their backs on the regimes that encouraged outward migration. Independence for most ex-colonial countries meant that “Massa day done” the leaders of Guyana including Peter D’Aguair could have saved the day when Jagan called for united socialism after the 1964 general elections under PR, but the political will to unite 40% (PNC votes )with 48% PPP votes went on deaf ears! November 28th 2011 will also fall on deaf ears,my brother for the politicians the world over are bent on greed and more greed. I have asked the question who will benefit from the vast resources of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles? Why are we still moving in droves and herds to the former motherland and elsewhere as you rightly put it, to those countries our leaders derided for so long. The current records have indicated numerous applications are being screened for Brazilians to obtain permits for the mining of minerals in the hinterland. The Coastal development plans must now shift to the hinterlands and as we bring out these Amerindians to live and experience the Coastal Guyana there must be an inward shifting of the population of Coastal residents and youths under some kind of Voluntary National Program. Freedom and Democracy and lack of these for many years have brought us to this state of affairs. It is said that Politics without morality are dangerous and devastating! These are the recorded history of our people from 1961 to date. Let the debate continue for they offer us opportuinities to remain stable mentally and not to enter into any state of mental depression when we think of the lost opportunities and of the accomplished consequences of the actions of all our leaders past and present.We must applaude each for bringing us to this state as we are only humans.Jagan fought the British and the Americans and promoted socialism/communism. Forbes claimed the gift of Independence for us. Peter D”Aguair disunited the country with his 12% votes under PR in 1964. Desmond Hoyte accepted the call of all to agree with the President Carter’s Foundation of America to sanitise the Electoral list and to bring Political and electoral Freedom to Guyana.Bharat Jagdeo at 34years became our youngest president whose Private life was messed up and an unhappy ruler can only become more unhappy given the Powers he wielded in the Presidency. Let us now see what Ramotar has to offer given the new lease of the November 28th Electoral results! Have a blessed day my friends and keep up the dialogue while our big brother Cyril Byran watches over our comments. Thanks Cyril.

  • Sybil  On May 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    We can all agree and disagree when it come to politics in Guyana. However, Mr. Mervin provided some food for thought as this topic. Some of us will debate and disect this monologue and can come away with different viewpoints.

    However, on the topic of Independence, I would have liked Mervin to elaborate alitte more on this subject because this did something to every colonialized Nation around this world. Whether it was Aftica, Asia, South America, Central America or the Caribbean, the world has seen the struggle to overcome the aftermath of imperlism.

    After all, so many years of being exploited, Guyana like so many other colonialized nation still struggle with the power to TRUST. Looking back, Burnham, Jagan and D’Aguair were interns when it came to politics but they captivated an unsuspecting nation looking for something more to life. Burnham, the brilliant lawyer, Jagan the dentist and D’Aguair the established businessman told the nation everything it wanted to hear but never delivered. So, here we are in the 20th century and still feeling our way around in the dark and finding ways to blame one particular person. However, this has been an ongoing talking point for Guyanese and nothing has been done to bring about change because a sector of the population has resorted to Racism and GREED.

    I do not always agree with comments by blogger W. Ramnarace but for once, I can agree with some of the things he addressed concerning Guyana’s political climate. Racism has been the “CORE” of Guyana’s problems. Besides, this is what is feeding into the mistrust that has enveloped the nation. Politicans have used this mistrust to their advantage and helped divide a nation.

    Guyanese should never forget the inhumane system that brought them to the shores of Guyana. They must not allow these bigotted politicans divide the nation and should demand that the history of Slavery be a part of the school’s curriculum. Because a people without a past, do not have a future.

    .Further, they are so many books out there that could enlighten us on this journey. Jamaica Kincaid is one book that can give anyone a sense of the journey from colonialization to finding freedom for oneself.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On May 31, 2012 at 2:43 am

    A great American President once echoed “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” Is this not apt for everyone who is still a claimant of the citizenship of Guyana? It does not matter if one million Guyanese people now reside abroad after 50 years of outward migration. Neither does it matter if Guyana has 751,000 inhabitants. The more we shout down the administrations of government the less the culture of not hearing any pleas will become. This is the nature of politics. The politicians will always feel threatened especially those in the driver’s seats. Power Corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! You and I have not heard these words for the first time so when our resident USA Prof from Buxton calls power sharing, I have to ask the question of which Indian Government he is talking about. Guyana does not have an Indian Government and the Prof must be more civil and dignified in his call for power sharing in Guyana. This is my contribution and answer to the Prof. I want land distribution to each of the 10 regions first. Deliver millions of hectares for internal regional development and put the infrastructure in place for such land development then and only then we can talk with the GUYANESE Government on “POWER SHARING MECHANISMS” I hope the Prof can echo and endorse this contribution to National Development. Another point to note that everyday somebody is sponsoring some member of his or her family to the USA and this will not change. According to International Law and the rules of the USA Immigration only those people with serious criminal records are debarred from entry into the USA. So my friend you like many of us are happy to be where we are so lets not pretend that we are the ones to develop the land. It will be share hypocracy. The opening statement will remain valid for us all till we breathe our last. Thank you and God’s Love to one and all!

  • Cyril Balkaran  On June 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Emile Mervin has hit the nail on the head so to speak when in language form the statement has been made that not only the supporters of the PPP failed to return home in droves as was expected after the Party regained power in 1992, but the outward migration continued unabated as no one is again interested in uprooting oneself from the Metros wherever he or she may be at this time or any other time in the life history of the 21 st Century to go back to Guyana anymore. The Political mules and donkeys are messing up everything in the name of Race politics. We need to do three things now. First we have to say enough is enough and lets form a mass movement to unite all races in Guyana. The ones along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
    Secondly we must resume the marches around the Parliament with everyone from Labour to Church and from Politicians to ordinary citizens must stand up and be counted. This is not happening and so the state machinery is free of real opposition on the streets. lets relive the period of 1961-1964 minus the wars that claimed so many innocent souls whose spirits still haunt the land of Guyana! Finally the National Front Government must be formed to give expression and true meaning to the Nov 28th results of the General ELECTIONS. Also we must encourage our citizens to stop spending monies at the US embassy only to be refused that Visa which they so badly want to see their aunties and uncles in America. They can put that money to good uses as buying vitamins to boost their energy levels and prepare for the good and better times ahead. Stop the migration abroad now. There are so many potential benefits to be reaped in Independent Guyana now that the Freedom and Democracy are both at our doorsteps! Continue the dialogue Mervin and Good Luck for more responses to your well documented and realized facts on Independence!

  • ndtewarie  On June 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm


  • Albert  On June 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    If Emile Mervin could write a book with the same objectivity as he did with this letter it would be a wonderful learning piece for the Guyanese academic community.
    In developed countries there are often established controls and regulatory agencies with authority to prosecute, inflict punishment, and enforce compliance with required national managerial functions. As a young country Guyana does not have the effective mechanisms to ensure elected politicians manage the country without stealing public funds. Lacking such controls, we needed political leaders with some reasonable degree of honesty who put the interest of the country above their own. That is what Barbados had and we did not. This was obvious about Barbados since the 70’s.
    Judging from what is known about people who make money on Wall Street greed can become a kind of sickness and addiction. Corrupt government politicians in Guyana who have relative freedom to siphon off public funds for personal use are not going to stop stealing. That is also why they would never agree to a tough money laundering bill.
    My heart goes out to those brave souls in Guyana who remain hoping for change.

  • Ron. Persaud  On June 7, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Barbados seemed to have an identity, probably initiated by (Sir) Grantley Adams and honed by Mr. Errol Barrow.
    Dr. Eric Williams famous utterance, “We have oil! And oil don’t spoil!”, accounts , in my opinion, for the Trinidadians’ outlook – often mistakenly regarded as arrogance.
    Jamaicans used to brag, “It hits the USA on Monday; it is in Jamaica by Friday!”.
    My point is that these ex-colonies went into independence with some sort of national identity – a springboard for the future.
    Guyana? The photograph of Dr. Jagan and Mr. Burnham hugging, at midnight on the 25th./ 26th. May 1966 was not quite enough to engender some kind of national force that would make this thing work for the country and its people.
    I remember Wilbur Holder presenting a rather lame defensive statement, “British Guiana has a “Continental Destiny!” in answer to the question about the future of B.G.
    To this day, Guyanese have never been united on a path to the future.
    “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. (Lewis Carroll)

  • walter  On June 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Guyana is still a work in progress,beset with problems of growth, following the NA measurement of success, nice cars big houses. I do believe that Guyana has a greater future than any of the Islands of the caribbean. If the rest of the caribbean look to Guyana as their breadbasket, Guyana makes money, they save money.Oil drys up, tourism is the most unstable form of income. There will come a time when people get fed up and start demand change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: