Guyana has come a long way since the attainment of political independence fifty years ago.
Our political and constitutional landscape has undergone fundamental changes from colonialism to internal self-rule and finally to one of republican status.
The main architect of our independence struggle undoubtedly was Dr Cheddi Jagan, who will go down in history as the first colonial leader to be granted a hearing at the United Nations in support of his case for independence of the then colony of British Guiana. The case presented by Dr Jagan as a petitioner at the United Nations was well received by several countries, mainly from the developing world and in particular India and the African countries, many of which at the time were also struggling for independence.
It was the international pressure exerted on Britain that was mainly responsible for the British government agreeing in principle to the convening of an independence conference in the early 1960s and a commitment to grant independence to the colony regardless of the outcome of elections which were due to be held in 1961.
However, under pressure from the USA that commitment was honoured in the breach and independence was delayed until the PPP was manipulated out of office in 1964 under what a former British Prime Minister once described as a “fiddled constitutional arrangement”. A new system of voting based on proportional representation was imposed which resulted in the formation of the PNC-UF coalition government.
Independence was finally granted in May 1966 under the coalition government, despite the fact that Dr Jagan blazed the trail for an independent Guyana.
I thought of highlighting these facts in our political history as we celebrate our 50th year of independence, if only to draw attention to the pivotal role played by the PPP and Dr Jagan in the independence struggle of Guyana. In a real sense, Dr Jagan could be considered as the hero of independent Guyana even though his party was denied the opportunity by Britain to take the country into independence mainly out of Cold War considerations.