We need an Indigenous Peoples' Day

Stabroek News
July 16, 2001

Dear Editor,

The failure of government to declare a designated date every year as a public holiday in honour of Guyana's first peoples - the Amerindians - sometimes bothers me, and for sure, many other Amerindians too.

While some may argue against this based on the fact that the whole month of September is already devoted to celebrating the heritage of Amerindians, it must be borne in mind that the September Amerindian heritage month celebrations still do not bring respectability and recognition to this section of the Guyanese society that comprises more than six per cent of Guyana's total population.

Having a public holiday in tribute to the Amerindians of Guyana where all Guyanese stay at home and do not go to their work places where they earn a livelihood, will create in the non-Amerindian mind the understanding that the Amerindian population is a vital part of our multi?racial society to be respected and recognised.

Some will also argue that Guyana does not need another public holiday because we already have so many to contend with and it therefore would be counter-productive. According to my knowledge - and I am subject to correction - Guyana has a total of twelve public holidays, while sister Caricom states such as Belize, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia have more than twelve public holidays. Why then can another holiday not be added to our list of public holidays to make it thirteen?

It is definitely not right to have Amerindian heritage month celebrations merely included in the diary of events of the Ministry of Culture while other ethnicities are given their celebrations, such as Emancipation Day, and the various religious holidays of Phagwah, Eid-ul-Azha and Youman Nabi.

I am definitely not a believer in racism since God created all of us equal and according to his likeness. In this regard every ethnic group wherever located in this world should be treated equally and with respect by their respective states.

However, I am optimistic that our government under the dynamic leadership of President Bharrat Jagdeo will give effect to an `Indigenous Peoples' Day' as a public holiday in Guyana. I am certain that all Amerindians will be happy and will definitely rejoice over this declaration.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Persaud
President, TAAMOG