President David Granger yesterday credited the People’s National Congress (PNC) with leading the development of the country, while saying that its ideological objective has always been to free Guyana both from foreign domination and local dependency.
“The PNC had much to do to deflect catastrophe and develop the country. Guyana’s survival as a unitary state and the wellbeing of the people are tributes to the ideals of our founders and the guidance of our Party,” Granger, the party leader, told the audience yesterday at the packed National Cultural Centre, during the opening ceremony of a Special Dele-gates’ Congress to observe the party’s 60th anniversary.
The anniversary is being celebrated under the theme ‘United and Strong: 60 years on’ and the Congress was one of several activities that have been organised to mark it.
Granger said the founding of the PNC on October 5th, 1957, in the then colony of British Guiana was a transformational event.
“Comrade Forbes Burnham, our founder-leader, together with Comrade Joseph Prayag Lachmansingh, our founder-chairman and Comrade Jane Phillips-Gay, founder of our Women’s Movement, set out on a mission to create a new type of party–one that would change colonial conditions of life in fundamental ways,” he said.
Granger added that the founders created a movement aimed at encouraging and empowering poor and powerless men and women to combine their talent to transform “a backward plantation economy” into an independent nation.
In highlighting the party’s ideological objective to free Guyana from foreign domination and local dependency, he noted that independence brought with it the responsibility to change colonial conditions. “Independence promised expanded opportunities and enhanced security. It engendered hopes of a ‘good life,’” he said. “Our new status imposed an obligation on us to improve our citizens’ access to public services, to be guardians of our territory, custodians of our environment and masters of our destiny,” he added.
Against this background, Granger said that at the social and cultural levels, the party deepened social cohesion and national integration, fostered mutual respect for religions, celebrated the history of its peoples, promoted patriotic pride, and encouraged all citizens to give meaning to their ‘Guyaneseness’ as a “pluri-cultural” country.
He also said that the PNC is proud having erected the University of Guyana campus and the Cyril Potter College of Education on the old sugar plantation at Turkeyen as well as building multilateral schools, technical institutes and expanding access to education, including to children in the hinterland.
He also mentioned the introduction of social protection through national insurance, and expanded public health and extended public services to the people.
Granger added that the PNC is proud at political and strategic levels of having fought for independence and rejected colonial domination, even as other parties in the legislative assembly refused to support the call for independence, and for having brought British Guiana to nationhood.
He also said the party is proud of having fought for fair, proportional representation, which is a system that still exists today and noted that it withstood decades of intimidation and provocation, threats to the country’s territory, and suppressed an insurrection.
He credited the party with having introduced the regional system of administration and having created the first new towns and he noted that the PNC and government today is proud of continuing the process of establishing new towns to enforce local government.
He further said that the PNC is proud of inclusionary ideology and having pioneered a coalition administration with the Alliance For Change, Guyana Action Party, Justice For All Party, National Front Alliance and Working People’s Alliance.
Granger also spoke of the party’s initiatives at the regional and international levels and said it is proud of having initiated an “audacious foreign policy” by playing leading roles in the struggles to support decolonisation and to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa; pioneering the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Area, the Caribbean Community and the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of states; and in its efforts of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations.
He also spoke of the party’s economic achievements, including stimulating economic diversification by augmenting agro-processing and manufacturing through ‘buy-local’ and ‘feed-yourself’ initiatives and the construction of the main highways from Skeldon to Parika and Soesdyke to Linden. “We established a national airline, laid down aerodromes and built bridges over our rivers, improved access to public housing and delivered the masses from insanitary logies, shanties and tenement yards and opened the doors to their own family homes,” he said.
With the party’s achievements, Granger called its members “the proud successors” of its founders. “We are heirs of their legacy of service and, together with our partners, have earned the confidence of the majority of Guyanese to have been elected to be trustees of the administration of this great country,” he added
The audience at the opening of the congress were treated to a colorful fusion of the country’s cultures through dance, drumming and poetry.
Towards the end of the programme, 60 party stalwarts from the ten administrative regions were honoured with medals for their service.