At a Republic flag raising ceremony on Sunday that saw the booing of government minister Juan Edghill and a confrontation involving MP Vanessa Kissoon, Region Ten Chairman Sharma Solomon called on all eligible voters in the region to vote at the upcoming May 11 general elections.
“At this 45th anniversary, we are on the verge of an election…. Every single man and woman must vote,” Solomon said during his address at the Mackenzie Sports Club Ground (MSCG), in Linden.
Solomon said the fathers of modern Guyana had struggled for the country to achieve self-determination of the citizenry through the cooperative movement. Such a dream, he said, is more desirable than the perpetuation by people who assume political office in a self-serving way of recrimination, discrimination, belief in the domination of one over others and “whose politics is about divide and rule and not fostering nation building; for persons for whom politics is about self-aggrandisement and imprisonment [rather] than building consensus and respecting the will of the people to have access to fair and unlimited information ….”
“Forty five years hence, what we continue to see is the disrespect for the majority to participate in governance through the nation’s supreme democratic organ, the National Assembly, and this is made worse through the shortening and… bringing our tenth parliament to an abrupt end,” Solomon added, making clear references to the PPP/C government.
As he called for the largest turnout in the history of Region Ten at the upcoming May 11 general elections, Solomon asserted that the outcome of the elections will determine “the quality of life that we live; how we feed our children; clothe ourselves; house ourselves and ensure that we leave them a protection from predators in our midst… because we are serious about protecting the advances gained by our ancestors.
He added, “Comrades, your vote is special. Your vote is like silver and gold. Your vote is your life, don’t sell it. For those who come to buy it, they know the value of it and we must know the value of what we have. Region Ten must exercise our right to vote…. Over 6,500 square miles, Region Ten must and should vote. It is important to exercise this right.”
During his address, Junior Minister of Finance Edghill declared that Guyana’s future is bright but it depends upon the choices the people make now.
“The future lies in the hands of every one of us, who will work for the development of Guyana, who will rise to the occasion and be patriots … and put aside pettiness… division… that which has kept us back and we will march together towards this glorious future,” he declared.
As Edghill walked from the VIP section down the MSCG main pavilion towards the covered stage on the playing field, he was loudly heckled and booed. Nevertheless he waved to the audience and began his address, while stating that he hardly believed that his presence would have had such an electrifying impact. He thanked his audience for the energetic response.
A small group of placard bearing women, hurled abuses and heckled Edghill from the time he was introduced to deliver the feature address. This lasted throughout the minister’s address and intensified when MP Kissoon broke away from her fellow protestors in the main pavilion and attempted to approach the stage on which Edghill was speaking about twenty-five yards away on the ground. Kissoon was physically restrained by uniformed male and female police officers.
After she was returned to the pavilion and the police officers formed a cordon, blocking her path to the stage, the MP continuously banged an empty plastic bottle on the iron handrail at the bottom of the MSC pavilion as she gesticulated and hurled abuse along with her female companions at the minister until he completed his address.
During his address, Edghill said there is a time for everything under the sun and the dignity of the occasion did not permit him to descend into a political diatribe; rather, he said he wanted to speak about the future of the Guyanese people as it relates to celebrating the attainment of “our Republican status.”
“Over the last fifty years, our leaders, our fathers, our political architects of this Guyana would have sought to work to ensure that Guyana is secure,” Edghill said, while noting that they have not always done everything right and that people can find reasons to criticise them. “But one thing we are assured about is that every one of them, whether they were from this government, or from the previous government, wanted prosperity for the country and a Guyana where our future is secure and our children are able to ensure that we have a place for them and that we are able to build a country that would be admired by the rest of the world,” he added.
Stating that he would present an opportunity for his audience to reflect and think about choices for the future, Edghill warned that “if we keep doing the same thing… if we keep making the same mistakes… we are certain the result would be catastrophe. But if we are able to rise to the occasion and intellectually look into the future… and define our task, then we have an opportunity to bequeath to our children and our children’s children, a glorious future.”
While noting that Guyana has traditionally depended on agriculture and mining, Edghill said, “we have seen what happens when countries depend on a small market force so we have sought to expand our economy and that is why we are emphasising the importance of information communications technology and tourism.” He said these sectors will create huge opportunities for young Guyanese and answer questions of joblessness and whether the young people are adequately qualified to properly utilise the opportunities that would be made available to them.
Barely 200 people of the almost 40,000 Region Ten population attended the ceremony, which was held on a bleak night. Except for the Regional Chairman, the Vice Chairman Byron Lewis and APNU Councillor Stanley Collins, who is Chairman of the Region Ten Commemora-tion Committee, members of the 18-member Region Ten Democratic Council were absent from the event. Members of the Linden Interim Manage-ment Committee also boycotted the event.