– What does that mean to the people?
On Sunday Guyana will commemorate another milestone in its development. On this day, it will be 50 Golden years since Guyana became a Cooperative Republic, wherein it took the bold step to solidify its independence, and pursue a developmental trajectory through the ethos of ‘working together’.
Today, are Guyanese who understand the significance of this guiding philosophy and its importance in nation-building.
“The meaning of the Cooperative Republic means persons are united towards one common goal, that is the basis of (Guyana’s National motto) ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny,” highlighted Councillor of the Georgetown City Council, Denroy Tudor
The vision of the Cooperative Republic was articulated by Former President Linden Forbes Burnham, after Guyana gained its Independence from colonial rule in 1966. According to the Former President, this shift from monarchical rule, to Independence, to becoming a Cooperative Republic was one that must be the bedrock of Guyana’s evolution.
Cognisant of this, Tudor said that by being a Cooperative Republic, Guyana has a foundation on which it has been able to, and must also continue to, build upon.
Illustrating the value that can be garnered from working together, the Councillor reflected upon the villages along the East Coast corridor, which were created through what has been termed the “village movement”. After Emancipation, beginning in the 19th century, the formerly enslaved Africans came together in groups, pooled the money they would have been able to amass, and bought plantations from the European owners.
This movement, according to him, illustrates the very essence of ‘cooperation’. The Africans were able to work together and establish villages and communities, and subsequently worked to make their livelihoods and develop the communities.
Through being a “Republic”, Guyana’s governance system is one which power lies in the hand of the people and their elected representatives, including an Executive President. When you factor in the “Cooperative”, you have a more egalitarian society where both the work necessary and the power held is shared by the people.
Through this system, Commissioner of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) Pandit Deodat Persaud explained that there is a certain degree of autonomy afforded to citizens, to manage the affairs of the country.
The benefits of this, he said too, is that Guyanese have the ability to forge a “stronger identity of self”.
But 50 years later, Persaud affirmed that there are still areas where Guyanese have to continue working to relearn or correct the ideas of culture that may have been mired by colonisation.
“The Cooperative Republic is an ideal philosophy,” Persaud said, positing, “Whether or not we have been able to achieve, it is there and it is a working progress but we must not lose sight of it.”
Furthermore, he stressed that all Guyanese should be very conscious of how significant of an accomplishment being a Cooperative Republic is for Guyana and that they should use this Jubilee commemoration as a springboard for further development.
“This is important especially at a time when we are moving into a different time… the next 50 years are going to be much greater,” Persaud emphasised.
Similarly, local folk musician Gavin Mendonca emphasised that Guyanese, particularly Guyanese youth, must position themselves to work to continue Guyana’s development.
“Right now in our 50th year of the Republic, in this new decade, at the dawn of a new era with oil and everything, it is a critical time to be a young Guyanese to make a difference,” he posited.
And, for General Manager (ag) of the Guyana Chronicle newspapers, Donna Todd, the significance of being a Cooperative Republic is that it advocates for Guyana to be a more self-sufficient society.
“When we became a Republic, [President Burnham] went on his drive to feed, clothe and house the nation,” Todd reflected, “With this drive, he brought into consideration he brought into consideration that every household in Guyana must be planting some crop to assist in feeding the family.”
Now, decades later, she contended that there is much merit in such a system. For her, Guyanese should capitalise on the opportunities available by joining cooperatives, and pooling resources and energies to create a much larger output.
Providing a simple example for this, she explained that citizens are given more land to cultivate on if they have joined a cooperative and are working together, as opposed to then working on an individual basis.
Beyond this thrust for economic development, the General Manager also highlighted that through this system, emphasis is placed on developing a national identity by propagating the local multitude of cultures.
For Todd, however, one major hindrance to the development of the national identity and spirit of cooperation envisaged is that even today, or rather, particularly today when the country is days away from its Regional and General elections, racism still manifests in truly “ugly” ways.
“You have to appreciate who you are, and who people are. And if our motto is One People, One Nation, One Destiny, then the only way we can go forward is as One People,” Todd related.