In February 1966, the 29 year old Queen Elizabeth II of England and her husband Prince Phillip of Edinburgh paid an official two-day visit to British Guiana. This was the first (and very probably the only time) that a reigning monarch was visiting Guyana. It was a holiday in Guyana and the climax of months of preparation.
Georgetown was festive at night with decorative lights and during the day with flags and buntings. People from all walks of life, near and far, thronged the streets of Georgetown in expectation of a glimpse of the Queen, to enjoy the ceremonial pomp and glamor, and to savor a moment of history.
Children from the various schools along the coastal and interior regions were selected to travel to Georgetown to see the Queen. My brother, Chaitram Singh, was one of the lucky students selected to represent Corentyne High School. I remember the day well because he brought back a miniature Union Jack which was my pride and joy for the next couple of days.
Upon disembarking from the Royal Yacht Britannia moored at the Sproston’s wharf, the Queen was greeted by BG’s Governor Sir Richard and Lady Luyt, Prime Minister Mr. Forbes Burnham, and the Chief Justice Sir Joseph Luckhoo.
The Queen then inspected a Guard of Honor commanded by Sandhurst-trained Major Ramon Sattaur. The Royal party then entered a open black Austin Princess and were driven to Parliament Buildings where on the balcony, alluding to our country’s Independence which was just three months away, she said, “Now is time to look forward with hope and resolution that all of this land, of whatever ancestry or creed, shall enjoy a shared prosperity and happiness as citizens of Guyana”.
Later that day the Queen attended a civic ceremony at the Promenade Gardens, attended the races at Durban Park, and a reception that evening at the Prime Minister’s residence.
The next day, Sunday, February 3, 1966, the Queen travelled by train to the village of Plaisance. Plaisance lived up to its friendly reputation. There were thousands of people waiting to see the Queen. But it was going to be a very big day for a little Plaisance girl. Ann Jennifer Mendonca was nine years old at the time and she was selected by the village elders to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen. Dressed in a dainty white frock pretty Ann Mendonca made her way to the Queen, curtsied, and offered the flowers to the smiling Queen. Ann herself was bashful and smiling as she made three steps backward, curtsied again, then turning from the Queen’s presence.
Ann was still living in Plaisance with her son and I was planning on visiting her the next time I go to Guyana. My hopes were dashed this morning when I read in the Kaieteur News that Ms. Ann Jennifer Mendonca was found murdered in her home last night. According to KN, “her hands were bound with duct-tape and a black plastic bag was tied around her head, which was covered by two pillows.”
Where, oh where, is our country heading ?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason.
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