My Fellow Guyanese:

Greetings from your brothers and sisters in Guyana. As we celebrate our thirty-third year as a Republic: During this day and the immediate period thereafter families and friends; colleagues and counterparts from all walks-of-life; from the countryside and the towns; and the many of you overseas will creatively mark this historic occasion. We will talk about the political journey commenced in 1966 and consolidated in 1970. The streets of our capital and roads of our villages will pulsate with native rhythms, and the jollification associated with Mashramani will be evident in the steps of our people and visible in their happy faces. Overseas based Guyanese like yourselves will congregate and celebrate likewise within your communities.

In an atmosphere of national exuberance, contrived differences will flee and political preferences will dissolve in the environment of jubilation. Only one thing will matter in this national embrace, that is, the fact that we all belong to this dear land of Guyana.

At the conclusion of these festivities, and when the euphoria subsides and we return to more contemplative moods, we are obliged to ask ourselves what has Guyana achieved over these years. We will inquire how we have fared since joining the fold of independent nations and attaining republican status: Our thoughts must be about how together we will improve the personal security of our citizens and solve economic challenges. Our minds will linger upon the policy measures and outlined strategies for our advancement in this competitive global village:

The answers and explanations to these prudent inquiries are not located exclusively within our national borders.

Fellow Guyanese: We are a part of a global political and economic system that is often, not just indifferent, but plainly hostile towards our interests; and inconsiderate of our peculiarities as a small developing State.

And yes, we have no place to hide from harmful developments in the Middle East that have already cast their dark shadows over the world economy. It is likely that there will be a deepening of the present world economic recession with adverse effects for our national economy. Some of those negative effects are already being experienced.

However, I am optimistic that there is a path to prosperity and with our energies we can carve a bright future in spite of the challenges of our time: I express this conviction not unaware of the difficulties of life in a poor developing country, where, in spite of great efforts and good intentions, we cannot readily address all the pressing unsatisfied needs. I am not unaware of the need for more jobs, better housing and health care and other social services. And I am definitely not unaware of the fear and apprehensions that exist because of crime: But these are solvable problems and each step of progress brings us nearer to the goal.

Fellow Guyanese: In spite of the external and internal challenges my optimism in our future persists: It persists because our internal differences, born out of old circumstances and confrontational politics, may surface occasionally but they soon recede; However, none of the deep permanent divisive feelings that are destroying entire societies in other parts of the world resides here.

I am hopeful because I have seen a recent display of positive gestures from the political opposition, which if sustained can lead to us jointly creating a climate of stability: We have to learn to make political competition the servant of our people and country: I have invited the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform for dialogue on issues of national importance. That invitation has been accepted and arrangements are in progress for the first meeting.

I remain full of optimism because the major political parties in our Republic have again expressed a strong desire for the immediate implementation of the measures we evolved through the constitutional reform process. This desire, once put into operation, has the potential to bring about major changes on the governance landscape. These measures can be the means and the catalyst to solving many of our problems whether they exist in reality or perception.

I have recently outlined an approach for building trust among political parties in our nation. I am sure that others have ideas on this issue. I am convinced that the absence of trust is at the core of many of our difficulties. This must not be allowed to remain a permanent situation. I have urged the political opposition to explore with me ways of developing a programme designed to increasing contact among ourselves and thereby building confidence at various levels.

Fellow Guyanese I could speak of many other significant developments and changes in our Republic, which engender hope and provide us with optimism for the future. On the economic front we have secured in excess of USD 400M for projects in various sectors. The implementation of these projects should spur economic growth, assist in job creation, impact the social and economic problems, and give rise to increased revenue: These are solid reasons for optimism.

Within the last year, and in spite of the unfavourable international situation, we have made progress on many fronts simultaneously: Further, our economic policies have received the endorsement of the international community. This has allowed Guyana to secure foreign financing which will supplement domestic financing to meet many of the needs of our people in the social and economic sectors. We have redoubled our efforts at job creation and given more resources for the fight against crime.

Fellow Guyanese: the future we seek requires our own resolve but in this challenging global economy we must collaborate with others to ensure our success. For us the Caribbean Community provides the first tier of our collaboration. Our own diplomatic efforts are augmented by that of the Regional Negotiating Machinery, as we seek to secure and maintain markets for our exports.

We have signed the treaty for the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice scheduled to be inaugurated later this year. This institution, apart from improving judicial governance in the Region, is a precursor to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. The CSME will be beneficial to our economy in that it will increase the economic space available to our producers and expose our products to a larger market.

Fellow Guyanese: these are all significant developments and we must consider their implications for our future. Entrepreneurs must factor these developments into their future planning; students must consider them in their choice of careers, those of you living overseas must consider the opportunities at home and we all must envision and be ready for life in a changing nation, Region and world. It must not only be a different life but a better life.

Within a few weeks the Budget will be presented to the National Assembly. This Budget will be informed by both domestic imperatives and our obligations to international financial institutions. It will continue to treat the fight against crime, job creation, health, water, housing and education as primary sectors.

Let me recognize the yeoman service provided by the members of the Guyana Police Force. These men and women daily put their lives at risk in the interest of our security: The Guyana Defence Force, in addition to supporting the Police, has maintained our borders so that the work of development could take place within the country:

I wish to salute the many sons and daughters of the Republic whose voluntary work is creating awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and also bringing hope and comfort to sufferers and their families. Our religious leaders; the diligent workers in field and factory; and to those whose silent and often unrecognized efforts help us all to lead meaningful lives – I acknowledge your efforts.

May those of you resident overseas continue to thrive and be successful within your communities not forgetting to contribute your fair share to the community and national development. Your continued support of Guyana and Guyanese is critical. Keep up the good work.

To the recipients of awards at your function we are indeed proud of your personal achievements and contribution to nation and region.

Every nation must create its own future. As a Republic we know that life does not offer us guarantees but presents us with opportunities. Let us rise up and transform the opportunities of our times to economic and social progress. I do not doubt our capabilities. I have no reservations about our will and our readiness.

Have a joyous celebration of our Republic Anniversry. Renew acquaintances. Revisit the core values and the common experiences and the hope that binds us together as Guyanese.

Long live the people of Guyana:
Long live the Republic of Guyana:

February 23, 2003
(Embargoed until 00:00hrs Saturday, February 23, 2003)