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Guyana’s Failed Independence

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This article was first published on the 4th of April, 2020 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: July 10, 2022 at 1:53 am

It is highly evident that Guyana’s fight for independence from Britain was more racially fueled than policy driven. Subjects of the then Queen of England claimed oppression which led to uprisings. At that time, two learned laymen, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, teamed up to form a new government of Guyana, but they subsequently split and formed their own political parties even before independence was granted – which largely contributed to the bitter 1964 riots and racial conflicts between East Indian and Africans.

The lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Golden Arrow Head in 1966 was only symbolic of a plummeting economy and rising corruption. Except for a handful of politicians and businessmen counterparts, the majority of Guyanese suffered from the ensuing post-independence economic decline. Many Guyanese, post 1966, sought refuge on the shores of the United States, Canada, England – yes – the very land against which they had rebelled. But it didn’t stop there, Guyanese fleeing poverty and starvation even fled to the then booming oil economy, Venezuela. Then there were others who fled to Suriname, Holland, Brazil, and just about anywhere else that they could have run to.

Very few choose to stay – or they stayed because they had no option. The declining economic conditions in Guyana led to the brain drain where intellectuals sought employment in foreign countries which promised a better life. Of all countries, the United States was the most welcoming in terms of offering migration opportunities for Guyanese to work and live a better life. In this context, the United States was viewed as the great and mighty savior – a land of opportunity where the streets were paved with gold – but that too was a bit of an illusion once you landed there.

But back home in Guyana, the leaders of the two main political parties – PPP/C and PNC/R continued to court race-based politics and political ideologies. The leaders of the PNC/R appealed almost entirely to the Afro-Guyanese population while the leaders of the PPP/C appealed almost entirely to the Indo-Guyanese population. The Amerindians, mixed and minority races provided swing votes for these two main political factions.

We’ll talk more about Guyana‘s failing race based politics in another article, but for now, let’s suffice to say that Independence in Guyana has largely been a failed project. Even with the advent of oil and the promise of great wealth, the future for Guyana appears dismal because of bitter ethnic divide, corruption, theft, greed, and the general inability of the laymen to govern.

Now take a look at this video which shows clippings from 1965 – one year before independence. If you walked through Georgetown and various other parts of Guyana in the year 2020, you will see that, 55 years later, after 54 years of Guyanese rule (or mismanagement) not much has changed for the better – things have only gotten worse.

A Confused and Confounded Leader

Take a look at this video showing Dr. Cheddi Jagan, leader of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, wondering why the economy keeps declining backward post-independence. He declares that during British rule, they had so much food and milk that they used to give it away. And he asks why, now, decades later under self-governance, Guyana needed to import milk. The answer is, as they say in colloquial language, “you don’t put donkey to blow mouth organ.” This video was filmed in the 90s or late 80s I think.

Disclaimer: This article contains the opinion of the author at the time of writing. The author’s opinion is subject to change as new facts come to light. Further, the views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the general Guyanese population. The views contained in this article are open to discussion and debate.


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