May 26 2019
Independence to or for Guyana did not come easy – it was not given to our leaders on a “platter”; Burnham (PNC) and Jagan (PPP) and Peter D’Aguiar (UF) were invited by the then Colonial Secretary, Duncan Sandys, to Lancaster House in England for our independence talks.
Two years before our independence, our country was the home of many British regiments (soldiers). There were the ‘Black Watch’, the ‘Queen’s Fusiliers’ and other regiments.
They were sent to British Guiana “bearing arms” to see that the ‘natives’ behave themselves. Then the Governor, on behalf of his country, instituted a curfew, stating that Guyanese must be in their homes by 6 pm and not come out before 6 am. It was called the dusk to dawn curfew. We defied them.
Here I am speaking of the ‘foot soldiers’ of the three political parties – PPP’s PYO, PNC’s PNCYO, and UF’s GUYS (Guyana United Youth Society). Though we were politically divided, there were instances when those foreign soldiers found themselves in confrontation with us. We would be on the streets way beyond the time when we were supposed to be in our homes. I would not go into details of how we used to defy the ‘Army of our then Colonial Masters’. Yes, Independence did not come easy.
I can remember a night in 1965, we were on Regent Street (remember we should have been in our homes) opposite the Guyoil gas station around 8 pm, defying the ‘Blue Eye Soldiers’, when one of our youths from the UF (GUYS) was shot dead. His name was ‘Hyberkhan’. He was about 17 years of age and lived in Wortmanville (opposite the Constabulary). I was 24 years defiant and revolutionary.
I could remember Harold Snagg, his brother Teff, Coffee Mitchell, the Premdass brothers, and others from the PYO; Peter Stevenson, Sam, Vincent Alcindor, Squeppie Hinds and others from the PNCYO; and from the GUYS, Michael Gonsalves, Boy Persaud, Maurice Hendy, Puni and myself. I have been politically active for 65 years. Yes, we fought physically and emotionally for independence but none of us were given any token of appreciation for our efforts of defiance. We took tear gas in our struggle for what we are about to celebrate, but none of the then or even now political parties showed or bestowed any honour on us.
I feel I am the only one from that era, the only ‘political foot soldier’ still standing at the age of 80. I can go back in history because I was there on the streets with others from all the political parties of that era, fighting for independence for my own country.
How many would know that the British told Cheddi and Janet that they must not leave Georgetown? They (the Jagans) defied them and travelled to Port Mourant. The British went up there, arrested and imprisoned them. Yes, we, like Cheddi and Janet, defied the colonial masters.
I remember the night when the British flag, the Union Jack, was removed from the flag pole and the Golden Arrowhead went up. Burnham and Jagan embraced. There were tears of joy by many of the thousands who were there that night, that midnight. We, who were in the physical struggle for independence for our country, accepted that the end justified the means.
Today I ask, where is the pride? I did not google what I have related here, I was there and I am proud of our participation for independence – it did not come easy.
I am proud to be Guyanese and was there when history was created!
Murtland “Slugger’ Williams