Roses with thorns from Guyanese for Queen Elizabeth ll
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Located in the National Park in Georgetown, these two trees were planted by HRH Queen Elizabeth ll (the one on the right)and her husband Prince Phillip (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)
Located in the National Park in Georgetown, these two trees were planted by HRH Queen Elizabeth ll (the one on the right)and her husband Prince Phillip (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

By Francis Quamina Farrier
PRESIDENT Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has declared tomorrow, Monday, September 19, 2022 as a “National Day of Mourning” for Queen Elizabeth ll, who died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, on the morning of September 8 at the age of 96. Having been on the British throne for 70 years, Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth ll, is the longest reigning British monarch in history.

There are millions around the world who now deeply mourn and even lament the passing of this British monarch who ruled an empire on which the sun never set. At its height, Britain possessed over 100 colonies and protectorates around the globe. British Guiana was its only possession in South America. The Queen travelled to 177 countries during her lifetime, including 56 Commonwealth states. She visited Guyana in February of 1966, just three months before British Guiana became Independent. While here, she addressed the National Parliament and also visited the Indigenous village of Santa Mission and the nearby tourist Resort, Timberhead, on the Kamuni creek in Region Three. She also took a train ride from Georgetown to Plaisance on the East Coast Demerara. The coach in which she travelled has been converted into a place of worship – the Chapel in the compound of the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Two large portraits of the Queen and her husband, Prince Phillip, which were on display in the National Parliament Chamber for some years, are no longer there.

The British once ruled well over 100 countries around the world and have impacted the lives of tens of millions of people at any given time in modern history. With the recent death of HRH Queen Elizabeth ll, many citizens of former British colonies have been actually celebrating the passing of the 96-year-old monarch. Many unpleasant statements have been made about her. However, many persons around the world would say kinder things about the Queen and her long reign while mourning her passing.

Guyanese of a certain age group are recalling – some happily, others with a measure of anger – the way in which their ancestors were mistreated, even dehumanised, as though they were “children of a lesser god” before independence.

During the early reign of HRH Queen Elizabeth ll, persons of colour had absolutely no chance to be promoted to high positions in the British Guiana Civil (Public) Service, no matter how brilliant or accomplished they were. While British Guiana never had an established apartheid system, that policy subtly, and at times not-so-subtly, played out in many places; even in some Christian churches. There was once a sign posted in the St. Andrews Kirk on Brickdam, Georgetown, stating that negroes and dogs were not allowed in. That history of former British colonies, Guyana included, is the reason why so many people around the world, especially in former British colonies, have expressed unsavoury sentiments about the Queen since her passing.

They refer to the many unfair pain and suffering which the so-called second-class British citizens had to endure for centuries in British colonies. Here in Guyana, there were the public hangings of Africans such as Quamina and Damon who were convicted for their demands for human rights and sentenced to death. Nonetheless, many young men in the British colonies, Guiana included, volunteered and fought in the two World Wars, some paying the ultimate price with their very lives for Britain. Those two World Wars were won for the British and their allies, with dedicated support by young men from the British colonies, including British Guiana.

The National Park in Georgetown was previously known as The Queen Elizabeth Park. So, it is clear that the late Queen Elizabeth ll was well honoured by Guyana in many spheres of society in colonial times. During the colonial era, the image of the beautiful young Queen also adorned the covers of exercise books which were used by students in schools, on postage stamps and also on currency bills and coins.

The Queen was also honoured with school parades as well as by the paramilitary and police on her birthday. Queen Elizabeth ll has now transitioned to the after-life, but lots will be spoken and written about her in years to come. So, too, the tree which she planted in our National Park will be there for many years to come for British and other tourists to see and take photographs and videos.
May her soul Rest in Peace.

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