National Day of Villages3963 07 Nov, 2013
NATIONAL DAY OF VILLAGES
Mr. Nagamootoo: Mr. Speaker, if Brigadier (Ret’d) David Granger had not brought this motion before this honourable House I doubt if we would have had such an exemplary expatiation of views and reviews of history has we have just heard from the Hon. Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, and from what the mover of the motion had also said. It appears that nothing is beyond rancour, nothing is beyond disputation, nothing could find us recognising who we are, what we are, where we have come from... Everything must be polemical and so tonight is no exception to everything I have heard in the Parliament for a long time.
I believe, Your Honour, that credit must be given to the Leader of the Opposition for conceptualising something that resonates in our soul. The village movement, apart and distinct from the emancipation of slaves, apart and distinct from the ending of indenture-ship represents the first truly emancipator development in Guyana where people who have felt that they had toiled, sweated, gave their blood and their energy and their lives for something that emerged as our native land of Guyana felt a sense of belonging. The village movement gave life to a notion that one day we could become Guyanese; we come become indigenous but we are not saying that this might have been the first village. I do not believe that we could say that there were not villages among the indigenous people, among the Amerindians, but we are saying that from what we have all learned from our history that there was a group of ex-slaves who consciously, with their own money that they must have saved in difficult situations that we could never imagine.
Perhaps it is beyond our imagination if one read “The Black Jacobins” by C. L. R. James of the whiplash and the cries and the suppressed anguish and the kill dreams we could never... I believe Morrison, in her book, tried to capture that we are just a heartbeat away from what went on before if we could only imagine but for me the horrors of slavery is beyond imagination so when descendents of slaves and slaves decided that they were coming together to purchase land and they formed themselves into a village we, a century later or more, should celebrate the fact that there were people who were prepared to take in their hands the destiny that has now become a Guyanese destiny and that is the tribute we must really pay today that this motion is trying to invite us to do.
I am a descendent of villagers. My grandparents were in the first village, Whim of 1899, and I remember when I was writing out of imagination perhaps it might have been impossible to imagine what the descendents of indentured labourers when through – as I said I could not imagine what the descendents of slaves went through much earlier than that. I grew up in a village that they call a bowl; it was always flooded. The estate made it appear that it could not be cultivated but the early people of Whim were not simply farmers, they were fishermen so the flooding was like a blessing in disguise. They turned to the sea but it was part of the matrix of colonialism, of plantocracy, that the village movement shall not thrive and that is what I remember from what I have been told from folklore from the older generation about travelling in this village, not in cars and Prados, in canoes. They navigated the water in canoes. In order to communicate with each other they blew a shell when there was a snake in the water. They died of mosquito infestation but they kept the village alive and I think that I would not have been here in this House if that village movement had not been kept alive so that the village movement represents our origin and our souls and it is that notion that we must recognise.
We could name all the villages my honourable friend named. We could put them in order of priority, in order of those who came before, the order of those who succeeded and in the order of those who laid the basis or helped to lay the basis for the village movement. I am not disputing anything that the Hon. Minister has said, in fact it should all be thrown into the bowl – having used Whim as that proverbial bowl – as a mix to show that there are more than one set of people who came out of the village and, perhaps that may be in our divisive nation and our politics of animosity, hostility and lack of consensus should be the returning that we need to go back to. When people had no time to dispute as much as we do today they had only time to concentrate on the livelihood that was before them; to earn, to work in difficult conditions, to improve the environment in which they live, to improve the conditions of their lives, to be able to carve out the notion that we could build a Guyanese civilization. It came out of the village movement. Victoria in 1839 was, from what I read, the primary blast of the village movement.
It was the focal point from which we could go back to say that Guyanese had a system of organisation that made us proud that we could be different separate from the colonial masters. We all could not have gravitated to the colonial mansions in the plantocracies. People felt that if they moved out of the plantations, moved out of indenture-ship or slavery they could not survive and that is the resilience of our Guyanese people; that those who came from the villages thought us a lesson that we could be independent, that we could be ourselves and I could see in the Alliance For Change supporting this motion not an occasion for an academic debate. I would wish that this were a motion that could go into a Select Committee, perhaps, for the wider concept as to the idea of this ‘National Day of Villages’. By the way the mover of the motion has not said a ‘National Day of the Village’, but a ‘National Day of Villages’ so that we are using 7th November and the focal point of Victoria as a beginning of giving recognition to all villages. We must start somewhere and if our search for this village turns out to be as elusive as our search for cohesion, national unity and cooperation, then we will never have a ‘National Day of Villages’ in Guyana.
The problem in this country lies not in the villages. The solution of this country lies in the villages because that is where we go back to our participatory grassroots kind of livelihood where we could not function without each other. Inter-racial cooperation started in the villages. It was urbanisation that took the best out of the villages into the jungles of the city and when they came to the city they either migrated or they never return to give of their learning, to give of their earning, to give anything back to the villages. Today, I believe, our recognition of this motion and support for it is a support for a wider concept of the importance of our villages in our lives, the importance of our villages for the viability of Guyana, the importance of the village for the lessons of self emancipation that this country can go back to where we have started to build, by small efforts with little means, we could go back there and reinvent ourselves as Guyanese. We support this motion and we support that the commemorative stamp, the coins should be issued on the occasion of the 175th Anniversary of Victoria Village. [Applause]
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