Biden says partnership with Guyana rooted in ‘shared principles’

Antony J. Blinken, of New York, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. Jan. 19, 2021.
Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS, file

The Joe Biden administration on Wednesday congratulated the people of Guyana on their 55th anniversary of independence, saying that the partnership between the US and Guyana is rooted in “our shared principles.”

“We value our continued collaboration to strengthen Guyana’s democratic institutions and processes,” said US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken in a statement. “Guyana’s hosting of the annual Tradewinds joint exercises next month is a testament to our strong security partnership.

“Our joint efforts to combat narcotics and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing will continue to contribute to regional stability and cooperation,” Blinken added. “We value our shared commitment to addressing climate change, and hope that we can work together to increase investments in renewable energy.

“As you celebrate this joyous occasion with family and friends, we join you in recognizing this Independence Day celebration,” he continued.

In his Independence Day address, Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali urged Guyanese to “all recognize the value to our own lives, to the lives of our family and friends, to our livelihoods and to the betterment of our country by vaccinating to defeat the coronavirus, as we have defeated so many others in the past.

“My brothers and sisters, while much of our health resources have been devoted to fighting the harmful effects of COVID-19, I assure you that our intention is to deliver the highest international standard of health care for every citizen of our country,” he said.

Ali said there is already considerable private sector enthusiasm for investing in modern hospitals, fully equipped with the latest technology.

“Your government will partner with these private sector initiatives to give to all Guyanese the high-quality medical care that each of you deserve,” he said.

The president also said that Guyana and Guyanese must be assured of educational facilities that will allow everyone to attain the highest standard of achievement.

Since coming to office nine months ago, he said his administration has commenced a program to award 20,000 scholarships to young men and women to further their education.

“We did not make an empty promise; we kept it,” Ali said “As we intend to keep all our promises to the people of Guyana. “Free University education will be delivered, and schools’ infrastructure will be improved to provide a conducive environment for learning. Guyana must become a knowledge-based society, capable of competing with the best in the world.”

He said the country’s manufacturing, agriculture and other sectors have been affected in the past by the high price of energy, and that private sector partners have “rightly pointed to the adverse effects of this high price to the cost of doing business and to their capacity to market their goods abroad competitively, earning revenues in foreign exchange for the benefit of the country.

“Your government will respond to this situation,” the president said. “We cannot be a nation that produces oil and gas, earning considerable sums from it without passing on the benefits to all sectors of our society. The cost of electricity must be reduced for both business and household consumption.”

Therefore, he said his Government is “carefully considering mechanisms by which the cost of energy can be reduced across our society by utilizing an appropriate percentage of our national earnings from oil and gas to do so.”

Ali said his administration’s objective is to build connectivity to all parts of Guyana, by roads, bridges, telecommunications, air and river transportation.

“Every part of our vast country should be accessible to all Guyanese, so that we can all enjoy the marvels of its attractions in waterfalls, lakes, forests, and its flora and fauna,” he said.

Ali said every person in Guyana now has “real economic opportunities to grow and develop, and to contribute to the enlargement of our national wealth.

“I urge each of you to dream big,” he said. “Your Government will support those dreams and help make them reality.

“We are on the cusp of being an economically strong Guyana, with opportunities for growth and development of all Guyanese,” Ali added.

“On this 55th anniversary of our independence, as economic prosperity surely lies before us, let us ensure that national cohesion strengthens us even more,” Ali continued. “I urge that we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of our collective economic and social development.”

Rickford Burke, chairman of the Guyana Independence Committee New York, lamented that the country’s anniversary could not be celebrated with the traditional spectacular commemorative festivities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he said a virtual commemoration will be held in June.

But Burke, an international law consultant and president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), said he would be remiss if he “failed to be candid about the state of our nation at this juncture.

“There is nothing to celebrate,” he declared. “Guyana today is as divided as it was 55 years ago, when we gained independence.”

He charged that the incumbent administration aims “to relegate African Guyanese to second class citizenship in their own land.”

“This is a time for Guyanese everywhere to be united and record this illustrious moment in harmony as one people,” Burke said. “Now is the time to put Guyana first – not race or ethnicity, but put our country first.

“Now is the time to foster national cohesion, fortify our Guyanese identity and enhance our influence as a people from an oil producing state,” he added. “Now is the time to reflect on our journey as a nation. It will take every Guyanese from all walks of life to embrace a vision for a modern Guyana, and bring it into reality.

“I choose cohesion and harmony over division,” Burke continued. “Guyana cannot be developed without unity of peoples and purpose. I invite all Guyanese to join me on the quest for unity.”

More from Around NYC