Forty-seven years ago, the citizens of Guyana stood on the precipice of something great. Though four years before they had earned their independence, there was still a desire for more and, in less than 24 hours, those desires would manifest: our nation would move from simply “Guyana” to the “Cooperative Republic of Guyana”.

We could only imagine how those Guyanese felt on the eve of Republic Day in 1970. Some, I am sure, felt concerned. After all, this was a new era being embarked upon. Others probably felt excited. However, most – I am certain – felt a sense of national pride.

On this, the eve of the 47th anniversary of Republic Day, we too can share the same emotions that our Guyanese brothers and sisters felt so many decades ago. Speaking for myself, I too am concerned about our nation but hopeful for its future and, above all, proud of what we have accomplished.

Historically, Mashramani has been a key feature of our Republic Day Celebration. This year’s theme for Mashramani celebration is ‘Celebrate with Liberty, Dignity and Greater Unity’.

Republic Day reminds us to appreciate each other culture and differences as we come together as Guyanese to reflect upon our achievements reached through hard work and sacrifices. Republic Day should also remind us that Guyana belongs to all of us and not just a chosen few and that true development can only be realised when everyone participates and contributes doing his/her bit.

The greatest mistake we will ever make is to believe that Guyana was developed by one race. It is impractical in a multi-ethnic society for people to take such a narrow view of our struggles to become a Cooperative Republic. All races in Guyana were instrumental in Guyana’s development.

This year marks a very significant milestone for the East Indians in Guyana. 2017 marks the centenary of the abolition of Indian indentured immigration to British Guiana.Over a period of 90 years from the year 1838, according to His Excellency President Granger, who is a historian, wrote a paper on “The Indian presence in Guyana” which was featured in the Guyana Review on May 28, 2009; 239,909 Indian immigrants came to Guyana as indentured labour until the termination of the system in 1917.

The East Indians made then British Guiana their home and worked hard and fought for the liberation of Guyana from the British.

Last year, His Excellency, President David Arthur Granger, noted that Guyana’s pursuance of Republican status was “an audacious and ambitious political decision” after achieving Independence from the British in 1966. I echo President Granger’s sentiments and declare that the underlying principle of Republic is liberty – the freedom of our people.

While our nation has accomplished much since then, we still have some way to go. We are a free nation but, oftentimes, efforts are made by negative forces to undermine this freedom.

Today, as a Minister of Government, I emphatically say that the endeavors by some to impede Guyanese from achieving greater unity will not be realized because our Government is one of National Unity. Since being voted into Government, we have emphasized the importance of national unity. Why? Well, we are not oblivious to the fact that with unity there is strength and greatness is accomplished when there is togetherness.My fellow Guyanese, we must seize the opportunity of this republic anniversary to work towards greater national unity.

From nursery level, and sometimes even before then, we are taught that Guyana is a nation of six peoples. That is not to say there has been complete harmony; our history is riddled with instances of racial disharmony and even today the mistakes of our pasts sometimes raise their ugly heads.

However, this Government recognizes that this is not a nation for one set of people and this is demonstrated in our national motto, “One People; One Nation; One Destiny”.  We must – and will – continue to realize this motto until national unity is a reality and even beyond that. 

The great news is that we are positioned to achieve even better things for our nation. This is evident in the growth of our industries, particularly our natural resources industry. Guyana is poised to be a next oil and gas producer of the world while other resources, such as gold have shown impressive performance recently. Our nation’s image – the one of corruption held by many so many years ago – has changed and will continue to change on all levels: locally, regionally, and internationally.

Already, we are gaining attention for our potential and the change we’ve witnessed most recently. The New York Times, for example, in its January 13, 2017 edition, noted Guyana’s oil find and said that our “tiny, English-speaking South American country” is “attracting the attention and investment dollars of some of the biggest oil companies in the world.”

Additionally, under new political leadership, our sectors are poised to not only transform Guyana’s growth structure but also guarantee the improvement in the nation’s management capabilities as well as its financial stability.

Focusing specifically on Region 3, significant developments are underway. In the 2017 Budget, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure was allotted a whopping $34.556B and allocations for every region have been increased from last year.  For region 3, almost $200M has been allocated for works on miscellaneous roads. Furthermore, work on the Fourth Road Project, from Vreed-en-Hoop to Parika, is progressing.

Sea defense is another area of importance to Region 3 and Government is expending millions on sea defense to ensure that Guyanese who live on the low coastal plain are safe and comfortable.

Government is also plugging huge sums of monies into the agricultural sector for region 3, with our efforts focused on farming lands.

Agriculture remains a priority area for addressing problems of unemployment, poverty alleviation, and fostering economic development. Region 3, the Government is aware that one of the primary economic activities here is agriculture and the substantial contribution you have been making to this nation by supplying our people with fresh produce while creating employment.

On the whole, Government is focusing primarily on sustainable food security, increasing productivity, and expanding commercial agriculture. We will continue production transformation through agricultural diversification and improvement in drainage and irrigation systems.My Fellow Guyanese, the work has begun; canals are being dug, and corrective measures are being taken for drainage and irrigation.

Meanwhile, the Boerasirie Extension Project converted the Boerasire Conservancy and the Canals Polder Conservancy into a single reservoir, and reclaimed thousands of hectares of land, suitable for farming. The water from the conservancy is used during the dry seasons for irrigation.

More specifically, we are certainly aware that approximately 107,000 persons live in Region 3, many along the coast, and the Government of Guyana is committed to playing its part in boosting the economy of Region 3 and aiding our rice farmers, regardless of the size of your operations. To us, it doesn’t matter if you own hundreds of acres of land or if you just have a small plot of land; we understand the importance of earning an honest day’s wage and providing for your family and your race or class will not affect how we approach our relationship with our citizens.

The parents of Region 3 will also be happy to hear that the region will benefit, along with the rest of the country, from the Education’s national budget of $43.1B. This figure includes $1.9B for school feeding programs and $578M for the purchase of textbooks. Along with the President’s five (5) B’s program, these funds and initiatives are expected to result in improved attendance, attentiveness, and productivity across the region.

Teachers are also expected to benefit from the One Laptop per Teacher initiative, something I am sure the educators within Region 3 will be pleased to hear. Today, the information I have before me is that numerous schoolchildren are already benefiting from the President’s initiative.

Before I take my leave, I must remind you, my Fellow Guyanese, that “Mashramani” – a key feature of our Republic Day festivities – is an Amerindian word meaning “celebration after hard work”. This year, we have much to celebrate, under the theme “Celebrate with Liberty, Dignity and Greater Unity”. I urge you all to keep this theme in mind as our nation forges ahead.

Happy Republic Day and may God richly bless you all.