The 53rd Anniversary of the People’s National Congress provides the opportunity for reflection on its illustrious past, assessment of its present and contemplation and planning for its future.

Fifty three years ago today, 5th October 1957; the PPP Burnhamite, which emerged after the split in the original People’s Progressive Party, held a Congress at the Globe Cinema in Georgetown whereat it adopted the name – People’s National Congress. That Congress elected Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham as the Party’s First Leader with Joseph Pariag Latchmansingh as Chairman and Jai Narine Singh as General Secretary.

In an article entitled, “Where do we go from here?”, the Party Leader said the following:
“This Party started as a working class party and will never give up fighting for the workers, we will never and can never forsake them; the moment we do we had better arrange for our Political Funeral. But the fact that ours is a worker–based Party must not prevent us from having the intelligence to learn from the history of other countries and other liberation movements. We must be able and prepared to draw our strength not only from workers but from all sections of Guyanese, workers, farmers, businessmen, intellectuals and civil servants, regardless of race.”

This policy statement, on the national orientation of the PNC, now PNCR, remains as valid today as it was when uttered, by our Founder Leader, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham, on 16th April 1957.

Having assumed the reins of the Government, in December 1964, the PNC Administration, under the leadership of L.F.S. Burnham, moved quickly to bind up the societal wounds, which were created in the body politic during the anti-colonial struggle and to prepare the people for National Independence and eventual Republican Status within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Under the stewardship of successive PNC Administrations, between 1964 and 1992, Guyana experienced not only significant political and constitutional advance but also unprecedented nation building efforts in every aspect of human endeavour.

New institutions for the Nation’s Development and Defence were established: Financial institution such as the Bank of Guyana, the Guyana National Co-operative Bank (GNCB), the Guyana Co-operative Mortgage Finance Bank (GCMFB), the Guyana Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank (GAIDB), the Guyana State Corporation and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Youth Corps, the Guyana National Service, and the Guyana Peoples’ Militia, to guard and defend the new nation’s territorial integrity.

In education and culture, we saw the construction of a new Teachers Training College, the University of Guyana campus at Turkeyen, the new Technical Institutions in Georgetown and New Amsterdam, new Multilateral Schools throughout the coastal belt as well as President’s College, the “School of Excellence”, and the Crtichlow Labour College.

Infrastructural development: in housing; potable water supply; sea and river defences; drainage and irrigation projects, in support of agriculture development at the MMA, Black Bush Polder, Tapakuma, and Boerasiri. There were major road networks development including: the Soesdyke/Linden Highway; the Corentyne Highway; the East Demerara/West Berbice Highway; the West Bank and West Coast Demerara highway; and roads developed on the East Bank Essequibo and Essequibo Coast. There was also the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the Canje Bridge.

In the area of social and cultural development, the policy of free education, from Nursery to University, was adopted. Many new cultural institutions and activities were inaugurated, including: Guyfesta; Carifesta; the National School of Dance; the Burrowes School of Arts; the National Cultural Centre; and the Theatre Guild Playhouse.

National religions holidays were recognised, in 1967, to celebrate our country’s rich religious and cultural diversity. Our indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage was recognized by the establishment of the Amerindian Languages Project at the University of Guyana. The Amerindian Lands Commission was appointed to demarcate the lands to be deeded to the various Amerindian communities throughout Guyana. Land titles were vested in the various Amerindian communities since 1976.

Meanwhile, at the Caribbean regional and wider international levels, Guyana became internationally recognised for its leadership role in every international fora wherein it exercised its membership. At the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement in which it played a seminal role, during the decades of the 1970’s and early1980’s.

In our Caribbean region, Guyana, under the PNC Government, was one of the pioneers for the establishment of Carifta, the fore runner of the present Caribbean Community. Prime Minister Burnham was one of the four Founding Fathers who were the original signatories to the 1973 Treaty of Chaguramas which established the Caribbean Community and Common Market.

Eighteen years after demitting office the PNC, now PNCR, has witnessed the almost reversal of its efforts at nation building by a PPP/C Administration more interested in perpetuating itself in office, through selfish and partisan approaches to governance.

Political and racial discrimination had become the order of the day. There is widespread and entrenched corruption at all levels of the society. Insecurity has become the number one concern of the average citizen, due to widespread violence springing from official collaboration with notorious criminals, linked to drug cartels and gun running outfits. The continuing violation of the human the rights of citizens, including the illegal and unconstitutional use of torture. The increasing violence and widespread abuse of women and children. The seeming inability of the state apparatus to maintain law and order in the society. All of the above developments have contributed, in no small measure, to the unpopularity of the regime.

Meanwhile, it is no secret that the young people of our country are once again looking to the People’s National Congress Reform to restore their faith in the future of Guyana, by the visionary leadership, of the kind experienced by their parents and grandparents, generations ago. Our young people yearn for the day when our nation building approach to governance can be resumed, whereby they would be able to foresee the bright future of a modern developed Guyana in which they and their offspring feel wanted and are able to play a meaningful role.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Monday 5 October 2010

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