Reception to mark the 51st anniversary of Guyana's independence, United Nations, New York, 26 May 2017
Remarks at the reception to mark the 51st anniversary of Guyana’s independence, United Nations, New York,
26 May 2017
Excellencies, friends of Guyana, my fellow Guyanese, a warm welcome to you all.
I'd like to thank the Honourable Consul-General of Guyana to New York, Ms. Barbara Atherly, for presiding over the proceedings this evening and for her kind introduction.
Thank you all for joining us in celebrating the 51stanniversary of the independence of our dear country, Guyana. I can think of no more fitting place to celebrate this event than here in this gleaming and iconic building on the banks of the East River, in a city, New York, that many regard as the capital of the world. But this iconic building, I will remind you, stands on grounds that for one hundred and seventy years after this great nation won its independence, that these grounds were the site of the largest slaughterhouse in the United States, until 1946, when the site was bought by the Rockefeller family and donated to the newly created United Nations.
Today, Guyana celebrates its 51st year of independence, but I have no doubt that it will take us far less than 170 years to have our own iconic buildings gleaming on the banks of the Demerara River. And not only the Demerara River, where our capital Georgetown sits, but also on the banks of the mighty Essequibo River and the Berbice River, on the Mazaruni and Potaro Rivers, to name just a few of the countless rivers and creeks that traverse our beautiful land of many waters.
But there’s also another reason why it is fitting for us to celebrate the anniversary of our independence here at the United Nations. For small States like Guyana, the United Nations is the indispensable Organization. It is here that the architecture that governs relations between Member States is designed based on the rule of law. It is here that men and women representing countries in every far-flung corner of the planet gather to maintain international peace and security, to promote respect for human dignity, and to work together for the development of our countries.
Guyana is fully committed to the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations. We believe in a rules-based system of international relations; respect for human dignity is at the core of the good life which we seek to bring about for the people of Guyana; and we are committed to the preservation of our natural environment and to sustainable forms of development that are aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that would lift up people everywhere out of poverty and ignorance, leaving no one behind.
Today Guyana celebrates its 51st year of independence. But it is not 51 years old. Ten thousand years before Columbus, the indigenous peoples of Guyana, our first people, who now constitute the fastest growing population group in Guyana, migrated southward into what is known today as the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. We know because we have dated the rock paintings that they created, including the famous Timehri rock paintings.
And to their heritage were added the heritage and the struggles of successive waves of peoples who washed up, willingly or unwillingly ,on the shores of British Guiana. Slaves from West Africa, indentured laborers from the Indian sub-continent and from the eastern seaboard of China, including my own great-grandfather, John Ho Ten-Pow. Portuguese laborers were brought from the island of Madeira. Together with the Dutch, British, Irish and Scottish planters and their offspring who ended up making Guyana their home, all of these peoples inter-married and intermingled to make Guyana what it is today – a rich racial and cultural tapestry of unity in diversity, woven into one people, one nation with one destiny to mould.
But, to my fellow Guyanese I must say that along with the rights, privileges, freedoms and opportunities that come with being independent, we also have responsibilities. We must use the tools and opportunities available to us to build on the foundation left us by the first two generations of independent Guyanese. I am reminded of the words of our national poet Martin Carter: “I do not sleep to dream, but dream to change the world”. Development begins in our dreams, in our imagination, and so this generation must dream to change Guyana in our time and to leave it a better place for our children and grandchildren to inherit.
I'd like to conclude these brief remarks with a call to my fellow Guyanese on this anniversary of our independence. Let us recommit ourselves to the development of Guyana, to become better citizens in every sense of the word. Let us strive together in unity to realize the dream of the good life for all. And to the many friends of Guyana here this evening, including distinguished Ambassadors and representatives of Member States of the United Nations, I invite you to join us, work with us, share with us the knowledge and expertise that come with experience, those of you who have been masters of your own destinies for far longer than 51 years.
Excellencies, friends of Guyana, my fellow Guyanese, may I invite you now to raise your glasses in a toast to His Excellency the President of Guyana, to the Government of Guyana, and to all the wonderful people of Guyana on this 51st anniversary of our independence.
I thank you.
Ambassador Michael Ten-Pow delivering independence anniversary message
Consul-General Barbara Atherly delivering welcome remarks
Ambassador and Consul-General with New York State Senator, Guyanese-born Ms. Roxanne Persaud
A section of the audience
Section of the audience (at right, Neil Pierre, Divisional Director, United Nations and Ambassador Troy Torrington).
Ambassador Michael Ten-Pow with some of the Ambassadors who attended on the visitors outdoor plaza prior to the start of the reception. Among them are the Ambassadors of Denmark, Finland, Kenya, Mauritius, Georgia, Singapore and Cape Verde. Also in the picture are Mr. Kenroy Roach of the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau of UNDP and the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands along with a number of other unidentified Ambassadors.