Enmore Martyrs Monument

Guyana Chronicle
June 22, 2003

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ON APRIL 22, 1948, approximately 1 200 labourers on the East Coast Demerara from the plantations of Enmore, Non Pariel, Lusignan, Mon Repos, La Bonne Intention, Vryheids Lust and Ogle, protested against the social conditions: housing, hours of work, wages and worker representation.

At first, the sugar estates were not troubled by the strike action as there had been other protests before. Scabs were recruited from as far as Rose Hall, Canje, Berbice, and on the Essequibo Coast to perform the duties of the striking cane cutters. Despite their actions, production was erratic. The Sugar Producers’ Association then enforced new measures to force the striking workers back to the field.

Despite these acts, the workers remained defiant of the sugar barons’ attempt to displace their social rights, and on June 5, 1948, they staged a mammoth demonstration in Georgetown. The next ten days were critical as many strikers resorted to several actions to create anxious moments for the management of the estate and the police.

The evening of June 15, 1948, was a beehive of activity as strikers were determined to make the sugar estate barons sit up and take note of their plight. Many assembled at Plantation Enmore determined to prevent all scabs from working in the factories. They marched down the dam linking Non Pariel with Enmore towards the factory that was surrounded by a 15-foot fence, guarded by armed policemen.

As the crowd attempted to gain entry, the police, armed with bayonets, advanced on the striking cane cutters. Three of the workers were killed on the spot and 14 were injured.

The death of the workers at Enmore marked the beginning of an era as the conditions of the sugar workers began slowly to improve. They made the ultimate sacrifice in the quest of working class liberation and, in 1976, they were designated the Enmore Martyrs and a monument, designed by Guyanese Dennis Williams, was constructed in their honour by the Government of Guyana at Plantation Enmore. It was unveiled by Prime Minister Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham on Thursday, June 16, 1977 on the 29th anniversary of the death of the five martyrs.

The monument stands raised on a concrete base six feet high with five repetitive verticals each adorned with brass symbols reminiscent of cutlasses. They are inscribed with the names of the five martyrs. There is also a plaque 30” x 20”, which was designed by the celebrated Guyanese artist, Mr. Stanley Greaves, and cast by the Brass and Aluminium Cast Iron Foundry. This plaque is significant as it was the first time that such a job was done in Guyana.

As the state-owned agency tasked with the preservation of the nation’s patrimony, the National Trust of Guyana invites the members of the community to actively participate in the process of conservation as we strive to ‘Safeguard and Promote Our Heritage’ for the future generations to enjoy.
(Prepared by Lloyd Kandasammy for the National Trust of Guyana)

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