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Jubilee year presents a golden opportunity for change and inclusion

Article - May 23, 2016

This year is one of commemoration and celebration for Guyana as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence from the UK on May 26, 2016, which comes hot on the heels of last year’s historic elections and calls for greater unity and engagement with Guyanese both at home and abroad.


President David Granger’s multicultural APNU-AFC coalition struck a chord with an electorate seeking an end to decades of social and political division, and entered office on May 16, 2015, pledging a new era of governance and unity that will increase political inclusion and economic progress through a more dynamic business environment.

Now, the President is looking to make good on his promise that “the time has come to end winner-take-all politics, corruption, nepotism and the squandering of our resources” and use this jubilee year to not only commemorate Guyana’s independence, but also boost patriotism and celebrate a nationwide momentum pushing for greater social unity and equal opportunities.

“We do have a fresh approach,” says Mr Granger. “We need to pay attention to the level of public services, particularly education, health, and so on. To improve the quality of life and reduce poverty, we need to reduce inequality so that a greater part of our population – particularly young people – are involved in the economy. Apart from that, we have to improve our infrastructure so that we could exploit the resources that are located mainly in the hinterland – gold, diamonds, timber – and also generate cheap energy so that we could become more competitive.”

The government set up the National Commemoration Commission (NCC) to oversee the planning of celebrations punctuating Guyana’s golden jubilee year. Comprising representatives from government agencies, civil society and the diaspora, the NCC is chaired by Education, Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, whose academic, political and cultural background made him a popular choice for the position.

A wide array of jubilee activities are taking place over the course of 2016, which are detailed on its website and include music, folk and culture festivals, parades, sporting events and commemorative stamps, not only in Guyana but also abroad, as the government is particularly keen to engage the diaspora in the celebrations, and re-engage with the homeland. In fact shortly after entering office the President set up the Ministry of Business, among whose initial tasks was to connect with the diaspora, especially in the US and Canada. 

“We are going to reverse the reasons for their migration,” says Mr Granger. “They might have left because there were no opportunities; we assure them that we are making Guyana a safer place, a safe destination for their investment. Many of them have matured while they were away; they have accumulated funds and they would like to come back to invest their funds. Guyana will be a safe place for them to come to.”

At the New York launch of Guyana’s golden jubilee celebrations on January 16, 2016, at the Jamaica Performing Arts Centre in Queens, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary of independence should serve as a moment of reflection on the missed opportunities of the past and as a turning point to re-positioning Guyana toward a prosperous future. He called on Guyanese at both at home and abroad to celebrate as a “proud and free people, a united Guyanese nation”.

He stated that the coalition government was a step in the right direction to laying the groundwork for a free, open and inclusive democracy that private enterprise can believe in, affirming: “We need all hands – all clean hands – on deck! There is room for all, including the Opposition, in our system of governance.”

And Guyana has a large diaspora. “Our population is about three-quarters of a million,” comments the President. “But there are about 250,000 Guyanese in Canada alone, and there are probably about some 150,000 in the United States. The diaspora is larger than the population in Guyana; there are more Guyanese living in North America than Guyanese living in South America. And all of them also welcome this new government.”

By encouraging Guyanese around the world to unite in celebrating their identity, culture and spirit, and make their country’s future one of prosperity, opportunity and growth, Guyana’s next half century looks set to be in stark contrast to its last.