Please publish this letter for me so that those who were not ‘There’ would have an idea of how it was previous to that night on May 26, 1966 – from British Guyana (Colonial Territory) to GUYANA – an independent nation.
I am now sitting on one of the benches at the ‘Square of the Revolution’ penning this letter. I will be right in this vicinity on the night of May 26, 2019, celebrating our 53rd independency anniversary.
Independence to or for Guyana did not come easily– 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. There was the ‘Black Watch’ and other regiments. If my memory serves me right, I think the Black Watch were Scottish Soldiers who wore kilts and blew bagpipes.
They were sent to British Guyana “bearing arms” to see that the ‘natives’ behave themselves. Then the Governor, on behalf of his country, installed 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 PYO PNC (PNCYO), AND UF (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 can remember a night in 1965, we were in Regent street 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. He was about seventeen years of age and lived in Wortmanville (opposite the Constabulary), I was twenty four 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 and others from the PNCYO and from the GUYS, Michael Gonsalves, ‘Boy’ Persaud, Maurice Hendy, Puni and myself. I have been politically active for sixty five 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 show or bestow 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. The hands of Robert Roberts and 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
Veteran Political Activist
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