October 5, 1992 has become one of the most important dates in the history of the Guyanese people. It is a date that stands alongside February 23, 1763, May 5, 1838, August 1, 1838, June16 1948 , April 27, 1953 and May 26, 1966. October 5, 1992 will forever be remembered as the date when independent Guyana elected its first government at free and fair elections. It was really the first democratically elected government.

During the long struggle for democracy and free and fair elections, Dr. Cheddi Jagan often emphasised that economic and social progress would never be sustainable without political democracy. As he used to say that while, democracy was not everything without it we would have nothing.

Our history has proven that over and over again.

Just recall that in December 1964 when the PPP was removed from office by colonial and imperial manipulations coupled with internal strife by undemocratic local forces, our country had the highest standard of living in the whole Caribbean .

Unfortunately, because of the undemocratic practices, particularly the rigging of elections our country declined sharply. By 1991, according to the Mc Intyre report, Guyana had fallen behind the Caribbean and became one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.

It was the lack of democracy that devastated our economy. By 1990 our sugar production had fallen to 129,000 tons, rice was a mere 90,000 tons and the bauxite industry was at an advanced stage of decline.

We can still remember the long lines for basic food items, including things like soap; the banning of flour and other goods.

We can also recall the state of disrepair of our schools, hospitals and the state of our sea and river defences and the deplorable condition of our roads.

Most of all many feared to speak their minds in a group or publicly. The violation of our privacy in the tampering of mails and the tapping of our phones. The main qualification for a job was the membership card of the then ruling Party.

In a word, we were suffering from the lack of material things and stifling from the loss of many fundamental rights.

October 5, 1992 , the date when our people's efforts finally bore fruit, put an end to all these things.

In a short period of one decade, we have tripled our per capita GDPfrom US $201 to US $900. Guyana has ceased to be described as a Heavily Indebted Poor Country and has moved into the category of a middle-income developing country. Our GDP has grown from G $33 billion in 1991 to G $143 billion in 2003.

Any casual glance will see development everywhere. Thousands of people have moved into their own homes. New housing schemes are visible almost in every region. Our road network has improved greatly. Today we have bus service to Lethem in the Rupununi, Madhia in Region 8. most of our regions are connected to each other by roads.

Our children are doing much better at the CXC and Common Entrance examinations, infant and maternal mortality have fallen sharply.

Moreover, great changes have taken place in our public life.

On the 17 th December 1992 , President Cheddi Jagan told Parliament that the PPP/Civic administration wanted to make Parliament a truly deliberative body, with a strong committee system That has started to happen. The Parliament has established four standing committees and our Public Accounts is the most up-to-date in the region thanks to a functioning Auditor General department.

Involvement of people in influencing decisions can be seen in the free press, particularly in the letter columns of the print media. All of these testify to our robust democracy. So strong it is that many are beginning to take this for granted.

I wish to urge all democratic forces not to let their guard fall. We must be ready to defend our gains and expand on them. I say this for there are signs that the same forces that benefited from the undemocratic past are working feverishly to halt our forward movement.

Despite the fact that our 1997 elections were subjected to a forensic audit and the database at the elections commission has been verified correct on several occasions it is once again under attack.

The main idea of the Opposition is to prevent local government elections and to also try to foist themselves on the Guyanese people even though unelected.

The main opposition continuously strives to play on the ethnic differences among our people. They continue in the traditions of the colonialisers of the past, to try to exploit those differences. The daily abuse the free press which tends to distort and even lie to create problems.

They fan the flames of division to advance personal interests and narrow partisan agendas.

We cannot allow them to succeed!

We must continue to work to make our cultural differences a strength and not a weakness.

Let me conclude this view point by recalling what one of the greatest champions of independence and democracy, Dr. Cheddi Jagan had to say on this question: On January 24, 1993 in his address marking the 140 th Anniversary of the Arrival of Chinese Immigrants to Guyana as he concluded his speech he said, let us recognise that the way for Guyana is FORWARD IN UNITY He continued, the pledge of my administration is to give the assurances that we would collectively strive to render harmless the biases and bigotry of the past, to redeem ourselves in the eyes of our children and neighbours and contribute to the world's legacy of multi-cultural and multi-racial society

This is the position that must always guide our thinking and our actions.


October 4, 2004