Guyanese urged to maintain cultural identity
Canadian-based Guyanese impressed with Guyana’s achievements By Pamela Evans in Toronto
Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2004

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MORE than 15,000 people of all ages came out during last weekend to support the Guyana Independence Festival in Toronto, Canada.

President Bharrat Jagdeo joined the crowd at L’Amoureaux Community Centre on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate Guyana’s 38th Independence Anniversary.

There were a number of events including a cultural show, live entertainment, stereos, the trade exhibition and cricket matches during the two days to make Guyanese living in Canada experience a touch of what is being offered in Guyana. A flag raising ceremony was also held on Saturday.

President Jagdeo called on Guyanese to maintain their cultural identity.

“While you are here you should try to retain your cultural identity. You should engage in Guyana and give assistance. I am not speaking about monetary assistance, I am speaking about ideas”, he said.

Asked what Canadian-based Guyanese can look forward to in Guyana over the next 10 years, President Jagdeo said, “Like many small developing countries, we are engaged in some very difficult trade negotiations within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to find a place that is sympathetic for trade from developing countries. It is a massive battle we face but if we (Guyana) manage to get the WTO to fulfill our request then we can have a better future for our exports. If we export more then it will improve the standards of living of our people.”

He explained that the government was opening Guyana to the rest of South America, because the country is the gateway to others in South America, while at the same time trying to deal with domestic political problems.

The Head of State said, “We are trying to deal with the political situation and to evolve our politics from one of confrontation to one where people can have differences, but resolve these in a civilised way. Unfortunately this has not characterised our politics for a very long time.”

He noted that with this in mind there was an aggressive Constitution reform, and Guyana now has one of the most advanced constitutions in the Western hemisphere.

President Jagdeo also called on Canadian-based Guyanese to establish businesses in their home country, noting that they do not necessarily have to live there because they can travel to and from.

Clarifying the perception of what people term ‘trafficking of people’, he said, “It is not trafficking of people because that is defined differently, where people are held against their will. What we have is illegal migration and some of it happens in the country, but we are collaborating with both the Canadian and the United States of America governments to prevent this”.

He explained his concerns about the deportees with criminal backgrounds sent to Guyana from the U.S. and Canada.

“What bothers me most are the hundreds of people who get deported from Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom, who had left the country a very long time ago and are serious criminals because they are adding to our crime situation.”

The Head of Stated added that the issue was raised with the respective governments and the Guyana Government was trying to make sure there will not be a huge influx of criminals to add to the crime problem.

Over the two days President Jagdeo met and greeted people of all ages. He also signed autographs for excited children and adults who tried their best to get a photograph or a hug from him.

He also congratulated the ABC radio station that did a live broadcast of the cricket match between Guyana and Canada on Sunday. Guyanese style foods, drinks and snacks were on sale during the weekend.

Minister of Public Service Management, Ms. Jennifer Westford who accompanied the President on his trip said, “I am proud and happy to see that Guyanese, irrespective of where they are, can come together. They have that power in them to come together as one despite their race, creed and religious background. I really appreciate that.”

Many Canadian-based Guyanese flocked the various booths to purchase anything they can that came fresh from Guyana. Feedback from the crowd showed clearly that Guyanese in Canada were impressed with the trade show and exhibition.

Samantha Ramprashad, who migrated to Canada 11 years ago when she was only 10 years old said, “I am so impressed by what I see. I did not expect so many beautiful things coming out of Guyana. The craft items are pretty and everything gives me a better picture of the changes in Guyana. It makes me really want to go for a visit.”

Carrying a number of shopping bags, Allan said he loved what he saw and experienced during the weekend. He said he was extremely delighted to see the number of items of top quality being produced in Guyana.

Former Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Rampersaud Tiwari said whatever was being done to showcase Guyana’s achievements was commendable. He was satisfied and delighted to see the number of items on display and sale at the trade show.

Barrister and Solicitor, Mr. Dhaman Kissoon of Kissoon and Associates, who left Guyana in 1975 said, “This is an exciting event, getting people together of all ethnic backgrounds and culture. This is wonderful to have them all in the same room because it shows that things can work in Guyana if we all put our head and mind together.”

General Manager, Dr. Jerald La Rose, who migrated to Canada in 1983 said, “Every time I visit Guyana I am very impressed with the changes that I have seen because they are positive changes. I like going back to Guyana because it shows me that some of the things that I see are better than the way it is painted in the main stream media in Canada.

“People should go back to Guyana and find out for themselves what is going on in the country so they can make their own opinion. I am also very impressed by the strides being made by the private sector and it is good to see that they are working together.”

After walking around and greeting everyone at the cricket match on Sunday, President Jagdeo continued with his tightly planned schedule, heading for Kitchener to meet Guyanese living in that area.

He was accompanied by Guyana High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. Rajnarine Singh, Advisors to the President, Mr. Manniram Prashad and Mr. Kellawan Lall and Minister Westford. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY)