Today, 17 August is the birthday of Marcus Garvey who was born 123 years ago in Jamaica. Garvey was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and orator.
Marcus Garvey was founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL. His ideas of Africans taking control of their own destiny (the first African Renaissance), economic self empowerment, buying from each other and, Africa as the Motherland, still live today and reverberate because of the truth of his message over a century ago.
As David Granger pointed out in a recent article, August is the single most important month on the Guyanese historical calendar. Many critical events happened in this month. First, August 1 is Emancipation Day, an event that made Guyana a “Land of Six Peoples” and guaranteed that no race in Guyana would be slaves as Slavery was abolished. Thus Portuguese, Indians and Chinese immigrants did not come to Guyana as “cattle on two feet” and were allowed to keep their names, food, culture, identity, religion and families intact. There is even a popular commercial that states Indians brought their spices to Guyana since 1838.
Slavery was a nuclear bomb that shattered Africa and its rich civilizations to smithereens.
Slavery was ungodly and religion was used in both the Arab and West Indian slave trade to justify murder, mayhem, extrajudicial killings. Africans lost their families, lives, culture, language, identity, religions, lands, names, foods, their civilizations and their humanity. Africa was depopulated by over 100 million lives: first by the Arab Slave trade which lasted for centuries beginning in the seventh century and then by the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade which was a crime against humanity for 400 years
It was on the 28 August 1833, the House of Commons in England finally approved the Emancipation Bill which was earlier introduced by Thomas Buxton. The final Act, which would come into effect on 1 August 1834.
Emancipation Day should therefore have been celebrated by all Guyanese since it was the beginning of first freedoms in Guyana. Emancipation, therefore, should be important to all Guyanese because it was a hallmark human rights battle which every other race has benefited from.
August 3 is another next important day in August, this “sacred month of freedom”. On this day, Damon rebelled on the false freedom ordained by the Emancipation Act, as freed slaves had to pass through apprenticeship before being fully free. The Essequibo revolt at La Belle Alliance resulted in his death even though not a single planter or his property had been threatened and not a drop of blood had been shed.
They had simply gone on strike for a few days and assembled under their own flag. Ironically, Damon paid the supreme penalty on a scaffold specially erected in front of the recently constructed Public Buildings in Georgetown. Significantly, the very first important public function outside this national edifice was the public execution of a freedom fighter and national hero.
August also holds one of the most gruesome events in Guyanese history. On the night of August 17, 1823, the then British colony of Demerara saw the start of one of the most massive slave rebellions in the history of the western hemisphere in which nearly 12,000 slaves took up arms against their slave masters. It was on the bloody morning of 20th August 1823 that the British Army massacred over 200 persons at Bachelor’s Adventure on the East Coast during the Demerara Revolt. They were decapitated and their heads hung on posts to show other slaves what would happen to them if they also revolted.
August was also the beginning of the Haitian revolution which began August 1791 and ended 13 years later with a freed Haiti. This revolution or rebellion has a significant, historical universal value as it was a fight for human rights. The Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave revolt in history, and resulted in the establishment of Haiti, the first independent black state in the New World.
Guyanese of all races must take note of the lessons of the past. Nothing evil lasts forever. Frederick Douglass also made one of his most famous speeches on August 3, 1857, when he delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, on the twenty-third anniversary of the event. His speech began with the words, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
How true today for Africans who are being told wait until a certain Party wins an election so that they can enjoy basic rights their ancestors died for.
Africans have to take control of their own destiny as described in the African Renaissance in Guyana written in 2006.
Revamp the laws to facilitate mandatory sentences in domestic violence convictions
Domestic violence in Guyana is pervasive and must be condemned. Every day the Guyanese nation is bombarded with reports in the media of heinous acts of domestic violence.
These daily reports of men killing their wives, spousal abuse and other forms of violence against women in Guyana are intolerable, too hard to bear and by inaction, seem to be countenanced by the government and Police Force. Indeed, recently the Guyanese people were treated to the spectacle of a government official abusing his spouse in a very public way. Not to be out done, these press reports were followed by accounts of a senior police official assaulting his wife and allegations of spousal abuse by the former spouse of the President of the Republic. In all of the aforementioned incidents the alleged perpetrators acted with impunity.
This matter has reached crisis proportions and is deeply troubling. As a civilized society in 2010, we must lift our collective voices and exclaim: Enough! The Guyana government’s laissez faire attitude towards domestic violence as well as its apparent inability to combat and eliminate this crime and societal scourge is a national disgrace and warrants strong condemnation.
I am further perturbed that women, women’s organisations and the human rights association in Guyana are silent about the prevalence of domestic violence and the government’s inability or disinterest in addressing this crisis.
These citizens and organisations must come together and demand action. They must demand that the laws be updated as well as the enactment of strong penalties for such crimes, as well as implementation of strong social service and law enforcement measures to bring domestic violence under control
Consequently, I feel constrained to call on the government of Guyana to take urgent steps to address this matter, as the Guyanese society can ill-afford this continuous onslaught of battery and violence against our women. Our laws and penal codes need to be modernized urgently to include orders of protection and harsh penalties for violations of such orders. Domestic violence offences as well as violation of orders of protection in domestic violence cases should be made felonies, and convictions must carry serious jail time. Our laws must also be revamped to facilitate mandatory sentences in domestic violence convictions and permissive and discretionary authority vested in magistrates and judges who preside over domestic violence matters must be repealed so as to create a strong deterrent, and inflict genuinely harsh punitive measures.
The Ministry of Human Services needs to also offer more support services. It should establish more women’s shelters and increase social services to provide assistance and services to battered women and their children; including counseling, medical care and law enforcement liaison.
Additionally, police officers who do not act on domestic violence complaints should be interdicted from duty and disciplined. We can no longer sit back as a nation and allow this to go on. We must all come together as a civilized people and fight this crime and plague that is destroying the Guyanese society.
Engineering & Construction Inc. clears the air
I seek to clarify some inaccuracies in an article published in Kaieteur News, stating “Fip Motilall sought the assistance of Sam Barakat to source 25 MW Wartsila Power plant”. The Following are the facts: Mr. Motilall approached our company to provide Turn Key construction cost for a 25 MW Wartsila power Plant to be installed at Kingstown. This had nothing to do with sourcing the Power Plant from Wartsila. After preliminary discussions, it was noted that Mr. Motilall did not have access to the technical information required. He was then informed that he did not have the capacity to engage us in this job.
We were the Wartsila country agent, and Turn Key contractor for the sale and construction of four power plants (total 50 MW), transmission lines and substations, sold between 1993 and 1998.
Wartsila negotiated directly with the Government of Guyana and Guyana Electricity Corporation. There were no third parties or intermediaries in all the sales. Both the Prime Minister and former chairman of the then Guyana Electricity Corporation can attest to this fact. Last November, our company completed the Turn Key construction of the new 21 MW Wartsila Power Plant at Kingstown. We continue to work with Wartsila as a prequalified and certified contractor for warranty issues. We worked directly with Wartsila, Finland and secured this contract on international tender.
Trust that this will help clear the air on speculations and misinformation on my involvement with Wartsila in the last 17 years.
Sam Barakat, CEO
Engineering & Construction Inc.
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