In early May, Prince Charles and his consort Lady Camilla were crowned King and Queen of the United Kingdom. In Guyana, until the beginning of the 1970’s, such an event would have evoked widespread and sustained coverage in the media and the population would have been moved with a spirit of patriotism while enjoying the unique and magnificent medieval ceremonial of the coronation.
From the beginning of the 1970’s and for a generation thereafter, Guyana was governed by an authoritarian regime which did its utmost to devalue and diminish our strong ties with Britain. Britain, on the other hand, seemed to have been affected with a spirit of isolationism and its cultural and economic ties began to fall into desuetude.
Now that Britain has divorced itself from the European Union, she has again begun to resuscitate her economic ties with her former colonies including Guyana. Within the last two years, it became easier to visit Britain with the easing of visa restrictions; the establishment of a Guyana/ Britain Chamber of Commerce; the visits of several Trade Missions with high level discussions taking place, an example being last November, when the Guyana Foreign Minister Hugh Todd and the British Trade Commissioner for Latin America and the Caribbean Mr. Jonathan Knott signed a partnership agreement and several British companies have began partnering with Guyanese companies.
At the function held by the High Commissioner Jane Miller to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, an occasion was presented to sum up this trend of the developing economic relationships between Britain and Guyana: “The signing of a government to government partnership arrangement”, remarked the High Commissioner, “meant the UK will work alongside the Government of Guyana and the Private Sector to deliver fairer, faster and greener economic growth to the country. . . We continue to advocate and support countries that will bring to Guyana efficiency, transparency, quality and innovation and those that want long term relationships with Guyana’s development.”
Hon. Gail Taixeira, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and representing the Government of Guyana responded: “Guyana considers the UK as a development partner and believe our ties will strengthen as Guyana collaborates with the UK to address some of the more urgent issues such as climate change, investment and trade opportunities, fair trade relations between and among countries, particularly small and developing countries…”
The resuscitation of close economic relations between Britain and Guyana is very welcome but we should not lose sight of the fact that such would operate on a common civilized and cultural substructure. As a member of the Anglo sphere, which would include countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand we share similar values and worldview with Britain itself. To try to describe the characteristics of this cultural substructure could not be done in a short article; we shall therefore remind our readers of a few of them.
First, there is the English Language. English opens up to Guyanese a treasury of ancient and modern learning and knowledge of finance and wealth. It allows for communication with the countries of the world since in all countries educated persons know the language and ease of travel. English is the language of the Sea and of IT.
Then there is the English Common Law which is probably the greatest system of Law with universal applicability ever devised by Man. It is a system which brings fairness, justice, humanity, protection of the poor and powerless and secures Democracy. Guyana and Britain share the Common Law and Guyanese could seek redress and protection from the Law in the Commonwealth countries and the United States.
Since the Industrial Revolution, Britain has always been a great innovator in the Arts and Sciences and this was especially so in the 19th century. Examples are the invention of the railways which has been a main agent in the economic development of United States and Argentina and other countries; the discovery of vaccines which have eliminated the scourge of Smallpox from the world and a number of other vaccines which have continued to save the lives of scores of millions of people from infectious diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. Even in Sport Britain had laid down the rules and structures of several international sporting events, the most known being Football whose name most foreign languages have retained in acknowledgement of its British origin. In all this effulgence, Guyana, being a British country, shared.
In Guyana, British institutions and culture could be found everywhere. There are, for example, Parliament and the system of law, which still operate from British buildings – the Parliament or Public Building and the Victoria Law Courts and the Georgetown Magistrates Court. British names proliferate everywhere in the names of people and places. But most importantly, Guyana and Britain share the same thought process.
Now that relations between Guyana and Britain have awakened from their somnolence, the momentum should be maintained. Economic relations are again on the rails but cultural and civilized relations must be resuscitated to the benefit of both countries. A comprehensive plan of this has to be worked out and the elements of this should include: Support for the University of Guyana by supplying teaching staff for the Oil and Gas Department, for the English Faculty and the Law School to be established next year; grant of scholarships for Journalism and Diplomacy; and that Guyana be included in the itinerary of British artistes, exhibitions, etc. touring South America.
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