Sunday, October 02, 2005

13 Years of democratic rule - Robert Persaud

Here's the column by Robert Persaud from today's Kaieteur News. Look for my response soon.
October 5 marks 13 years since the return of democracy to Guyana . This is a landmark date in the national calendar and an equally important fact of our history.

As we reflect on this occasion, we all need to recall the struggles of our ancestors and celebrated freedom fighters. The struggle for a return to democracy, after the blatant rigging of elections and the institution of a repressive dictatorship by the PNC regime, was inspired by earlier epochs of struggles.

Our ancestors' fight to end slavery and indentureship and more recently, to achieve Independence , steeled our people for the freedom battles which took place during the 1964-1992 period.

There are the apologists who harp that we must not recall the infamous dictatorship period. I caution them that a nation unaware of its past cannot move forward firmly. On Emancipation, Indian Indentureship, Independence and Republic Anniversaries, the entire nation engages in an exercise of recognition and deep reflection of past struggles and tribulations.

We would annually recall the contributions of our ancestors and fore-parents and their impact on current development and progress. Those who urge that we must forget the past are very selective; they only want us to erase the PNC's 28 years of dictatorship from our national reflections. Our history cannot be selective or rewritten. What has happened cannot be erased from our national consciousness, especially as new generations emerge.

These apologists want us to forget the ballot box martyrs who were gunned down at No. 63 Village, Corentyne while objecting to the removal of the ballot boxes in 1973. They want us to forget the cold-blooded slaughter of Fr. Bernard Darke, Dr. Walter Rodney and others and the tens of thousands who were forced to flee this land.

They want us to forget the hundreds who were tortured and abused for speaking out against the dictatorship. They want us to forget the suffocation of the private sector and destruction of the national economy. They want us to forget the squander-mania and rampant corruption. They want us to forget the ethnic and political discrimination practised in that by-gone era.

I have always advocated the view that our people's full appreciation of our newly- found democracy is impaired by the fact that we did not convene a Truth Commission following the return of democracy. Notwithstanding, our past should not be a burden on the future.

Many would urge that this past should not be a millstone as the nation moves forward. The misdeeds of the main opposition party do not mean that its political influence or its potential to contribute to our society's advancement should be ignored. Our celebration of democracy involves the painful exercise as we must always reflect on the journey covered.

This soul-searching has reinforced our people's commitment to build and strengthen our democracy.

Look at how far Guyana has come since 1992. All freedoms are growing. Our Constitution is the most inclusive in this Hemisphere. Our economic and financial framework is one of the most open in this part of the world. Our people today are free to criticize, object and even protest against their government. Our people's freedom is now safeguarded by our Constitution and a raft of international conventions. Our human rights record is world-rated.

Guyana as an emerging democracy is a shining example for countries which shared that similar destructive past. We are constantly reminded of the mantra – development requires democracy.

The month of October provides for activities to reflect and celebrate our freedom. This month must strengthen our resolve to defend our democracy, and prevent the enemies of freedom from retaking our society.

The significance of October 5 cannot be underestimated. We build on our national democratic state, which the late President Cheddi Jagan articulated, will grow in the coming years.

With every October 5, 1992, we must heighten our defence of the democracy.
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