Within the actual week of the 50th Independence milestone we are, so like others in my age group are doing, let me paint just a few specific word–pictures of this week exactly half a century ago.
I and others have been telling of the fever-pitch excitement generated by the five new national colours and Golden Arrowhead flag in the weeks and days before May 26, 1966. They are taken for granted now but remember we sixty-plus knew and revered (?) only Britain’s Union Jack’s red, white and blue!
So there were the five colours in every manifestation imaginable.
All voices were attempting the new national anthem, especially we who were teachers. Festooned a bit were some of the new national symbols.
But here are some of the events which caught eye and attention of the hundreds of foreign guests and visitors foremost the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the former representing Queen Elizabeth and who would physically hand over the documents of Independence to Forbes Burnham.
As right this week (2016) every event was dubbed “Independence” this, “Independence” that. (Terry Nelson’s “We Welcome Independence” airwaves hit competed fiercely with “Green Land of Guyana” for weeks!)
There was an “Independence horse race meeting” at some time; a Demerara River Regatta, numerous dinners, balls and cultural presentations from New Amsterdam (especially) to the capital, all topped by the magnificence of the Flag-raising event(s) at the Queen Elizabeth Park with fireworks, gymnastics and music to entertain in excess of 50,000 who would soon become citizens after being subjects.
Hamilton Green is launching his personal memoir, “The rocky but righteous road to independence” today (Monday 23rd). Whatever his politics and whether you “like” him or not, he was there at the last 1965 independence conference in London. He must be forgiven for boasting that of the entire Guyanese delegation only Sir Shridath Ramphal, Lewellyn John and himself have survived 50 years on.
My eternal regret is that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), whose leader Dr Cheddi Jagan was the indomitable pioneer in the struggle for national freedom, chose to boycott that conference. They were annoyed with Duncan Sandys and Britain for changing the electoral system in time for the 1964 election among other deep seated grouses.
(And just like this week, the PPP participated in just a few events in May 1966.)
Since this is the print press here is a list of just a few journalists who covered “Independence Week” for the new nation and the world: Carl Blackman, Monty Smith, Ricky Singh, Henry Josiah, Claudette Earle, Sybil Hart, RH Daly, Joan Cambridge, Donald Periana, Charles Chichester, Jake Croker, Kester Alves et al.
I won’t now pre-empt Hammie’s account of how May 26 was chosen but will wait until Thursday, May 26 to do so.
The answer to my last question regarding who was the president who was a judge in 1969 is Arthur Chung, of course.
Today’s questions: Which top international singer performed here during Independence 1966 then became a close friend of Prime Minister Burnham? Which high personage had to do traffic cop duties on Independence Night 1966?