The month of June brings back memories of an ugly past, both under our erstwhile colonial masters and more latterly, the authoritarian and undemocratic PNC regime. The shooting to death of five sugar workers on June 16, 1948 by colonial police is a stark reminder of the repressive nature of the colonial administration. The death of these sugar workers- Pooran,Surujballi,Harry,Lallabagie and Kisson- now immortalized as the “Enmore Martyrs” and the assassination of world-renowned historian and political leader Walter Rodney in June 13, 1979 during the heydays of PNC repressive rule should serve to remind us that democracy should not be taken for granted.

Little wonder the PPP attaches so much importance and significance to these events which have left a bitter taste in the minds of all Guyanese. Indeed, the deaths of the sugar workers in June 1948 fired the interest and strengthen the resolve of the late Dr. Jagan to launch an assault against the colonial administration for an end to exploitation and oppression at the hands of the planter class. This passion for freedom and social justice eventually led to the formation of the working class People’s Progressive Party in January 1950, and three years later to the first people’s government under the charismatic leadership of the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan.

It is ironic that the democratic gains scored by the PPP in the 1950’s were systematically eroded by the PNC following its installation into political office in 1964 by vested interests. Such was the nature and intensity of the repressive regime that it saw nothing wrong in the murder of such great sons of the soil of the caliber of Walter Rodney whose only sin was to challenge repressive and dictatorial rule of the minority PNC.

Fittingly, the PPP/Civic administration, in recognition of the role played by Dr. Walter Rodney has inaugurated the Walter Rodney Chair at the University of Guyana in honour of his memory and his tremendous intellectual contribution in the field of academia and politics.

The deaths of the Enmore Martyrs and Walter Rodney must serve to strengthen our resolve to defend democracy which was restored to the Guyanese people in October 1992 after nearly three decades of authoritarian rule, thanks to the People’s National Congress. The ruling PPP/Civic administration salutes the memory of these heroic sons and daughters of this country and reaffirms its commitment to consolidate and deepen democracy and human rights for which these martyrs paid the ultimate price.

The PPP is proud of the role it has played in the development of a free and independent society one in which there is complete freedom of speech and expression which is in stark contrast to what obtained to under the colonial administration and the previous PNC regime. It will continue to remain faithful to the ideals of a free and just society, one in which there is equal opportunity for all.