Republic Day Address Hugh Desmond Hoyte, S.C. OR Tuesday 22nd February 2000



On this 30th anniversary of the founding of the Republic, the People's National
Congress and its leadership salute the Guyanese people wherever they might
be and extend heartiest felicitations on this auspicious occasion. We recommit
ourselves to the task of redeeming our country from the abyss of misgovernment
into which it has fallen. We pledge ourselves to restore its pride, dignity and
value systems and create conditions in which all of our people can prosper in
peace, harmony and security in a just, humane and productive society.

Thirty years ago, under the leadership of Forbes Burnham, we had high hopes
and great expectations for the future of our country. His vision was idealistic
and yet eminently pragmatic. He saw the Republic as cutting us loose from a
syndrome of dependency -- political, economic cultural and psychological. His
concern was to bolster our sense of self-worth and foster a nationalistic fervour
that would make us confident in our ability and capacity to work at a level
of sustained excellence, to convert our country into a modern, developed
prosperous State.

He taught us to respect ourselves and one another; to look beyond race and
other artificial barriers to national cohesion and to be unapologetic in our love
for things Guyanese. His grand objective to "FEED, CLOTHE and HOUSE" the
nation is still relevant today,is still a goal to strive after. Nothing was wrong with
this objective; indeed, everything was right about it.

And today, who can fault his burning desire and the strenuous efforts he made
to empower the poor and the powerless in our country – as he was wont to put it,
to "make the small man a real man"?

His achievements in the building of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, sea
defences and other physical infrastructure are there for all to see. And we
still benefit from the institutions and the social infrastructure he put in place.
These cannot be denied. But one of his greatest legacies was to get us to
understand that responsibility for development of Guyana was, in the
last analysis, something for the Guyanese people alone. It could not be
entrusted to outsiders. It was a national obligation and an imperative that
could not be surrendered to others. We must grasp this fact and it must
continue to pervade our thinking and influence our actions.

Today, we face a great danger. In the absence of a comprehensive development
policy, the regime is comfortable with the view that decisions about the destiny
of our country could be safely delegated to international and other external
agencies and persons.

The Burnham vision needs no defence. It remains authentic and unassailable.
Many of his former critics have now come to accept the validity of his ideas
and are echoing them. Like all human beings, of necessity, Burnham had
his short-comings but criticisms of personal frailties, real or imagined, can
in no way impair or diminish the quality of the vision he projected or his
almost superhuman efforts to realize it. That is why,in a poll recently
conducted, he was named by an overwhelming majority of people in
our region, "Caribbean Man of the Century".

As happens so often in a country’s affairs, there has been a change in political
fortunes. Since October 1992 the PNC has been out of office. At that time,
some people said, and maybe honestly believed, that it was time for a change.
Today, they rue that decision; for the change that brought the PPP to power
has had tragic consequences for our people and the country. The PPP has
inflicted on Guyana a culture of misgovernment, corruption, crime, insecurity
and death. The high rate of suicide, even among children, is the surest indicator
of the hopelessness and frustrations which ordinary people feel and their
pervasive unhappiness. There is little doubt that the PPP regime has robbed
our people of the opportunity to be happy.

What are our circumstances today? What passes for governance under the
regime? What "gifts" has it brought us? A steep decline in the economy and in
public morale and morality, and the virtual disappearance of the value system
that underpinned our society--a value system that distinguished between right
conduct and wrongful acts and held persons accountable for wrongful acts. All
of these things have been the sorry "gifts" of the regime.

But what is worse is that we are governed by political philistines who do not
understand the transcendental value and importance of traditions in the
building and consolidating of a nation. Without any explanation to the Guyanese
people, they abolished the Flag Raising Ceremony which had been a proud
Guyanese tradition since 1970. They are so contemptuous of us that they
do not think that they owe us any explanation. They have politicised the
National Awards Ceremony by shifting it to the date of their electoral
victory in 1992. And last year, again without any explanation to citizens,
they made no national awards.

It has been left to the People’s National Congress, as the conscience of this
nation, to ensure the continuity of the Flag Raising tradition, as we are
doing tonight as a patriotic duty. The PNC must continue to be the voice
of the people and the strong defender of their interests.

We must get some things straight.

The government and the PPP which forms it do not own this country nor do they
own the people of this country; yet, they behave as if they do. It is time that
we make them understand the error of their ways.Too many people are today
afraid to speak out when faced with shameful acts of the regime. Too many
people in civil society find it convenient not to concern themselves with the
causes of the deep ills in our society. Too many of them join the conspiracy
of silence and hypocrisy.

But this attitude cannot be allowed to continue; for what is at stake in this country
is our very survival. It is as stark as that. This is a moment of decision when
we can no longer afford to sit on the fence or be ambivalent or to do nothing as
our crisis worsens with every passing day.

When we see mass unemployment all around us;

When we experience, on almost a daily basis, wholesale retrenchment
of workers;

When we observe the mounting surge of crime and the apparent ineffectualness
of those who have a duty to protect society;

When we see the growing number of street children and street families destitute
in our towns and villages;

When we see the lives of so many young men being unlawfully snuffed out
with alarming regularity, by maverick elements in the Police Force;

When we see the corrupt, the incompetent, the feckless, lording it over us
with impunity;

When we see civil society cowed into silence in the face of manifold wrongdoings
by the government When we see all these things we know that the State is in
crisis, the country is on the brink of disaster, and we are all in danger. It is
time for all of us to take matters into our own hands and not only change
this state of affairs, but change it decisively. Not only can we do it; we
must do it.

We the Guyanese people, now have an inescapable duty to redeem and restore
our country. We will have the opportunity at the forthcoming elections. These
elections will be a watershed in our history for they will seal our future for good
or ill. The initial tasks of constitutional and electoral reform are now being
undertaken and the PNC has made a heavy investment in these reforms. In
the teeth of great provocation we have been patient. We are not prepared to give
anybody an excuse for not meeting the deadlines and holding the proper
elections under the reformed Constitution. These elections will have to be
organized and managed honestly, efficiently and transparently in strict
accordance with the law.

The issue is not whether the work can be completed in time; it has to be
completed within the given deadline so that new elections, free from fraud and
various kinds of irregularities and illegalities that tainted the last round of
elections, would not be allowed or facilitated and the results would be
accepted nationwide as being true and credible.

This is the only guarantee for stability in the country and for the emergence
of a political dispensation in which people can feel that they have a stake
in the country, and equal opportunities; that they are living under a system
of government that does not permit or condone oppression, unfairness
and corruption, or smother their human dignity; that they are really free.

It is important at this time that we do not allow ourselves to be lulled into
a false sense of security by seductive, if somewhat absurd, promises or be
distracted from our high priority by public relations gimmicks and propaganda.
These are more and more becoming the PPP’s tools of preference for
administering the State.

For us, there must be only one priority at this moment, that is, ensuring that
the forthcoming elections are held and that they are honestly and efficiently
arranged within the deadline. We must exert every sinew and all of our energies
to ensure this desired outcome.

Why do we place such emphasis on this matter of elections? It is because all
the ills that are afflicting us arise from bad governance.

But this could not be otherwise since the regime is illegitimate and derives
from election results that are demonstrably and manifestly fraudulent.
We can no longer afford to permit or tolerate this culture of irregular elections.
We have to put an end to it once and for all, so that citizens will not only
believe that there is justice, fairness and opportunities in the land, but will
experience it in a very personal way.

At this time of Mashramani, we reflect on the state of the Republic and resolve
to play whatever part we can in strengthening and advancing the best interests
of our country. But Mashramani is also a time of national enjoyment. It is a
festival of the people.

Unfortunately, the PPP would like to control it the same way as they want
to control all aspects of our lives. We must not allow that, we all have the
right to celebrate in whatever way we wish.

We of the People's National Congress have saved Mashramani from being
destroyed by the PPP government and we will not allow them to influence
the scope or nature of our celebrations.

We hope that citizens will in future rescue this festival from the heavy hand
of the government bureaucracy and make all future Mashramani celebrations
a real people’s festival in which all of us will find joy, happiness and togetherness
in marking the anniversary of the republic.

May Mashramani go from strength to strength.

Long Live the Cooperative Republic of Guyana!