guyana chronicle.  august 1, 2017

THE Working People’s Alliance (WPA) in a message to observe Emancipation Day said the occasion should be a reminder to all Guyanese of both the horrors of the system of slavery and the long struggle to overthrow it.

“The memory of slavery should serve to recommit us to a country and a world free of all forms of bondage. Slavery was a political and economic system which had far-reaching consequences for the very notion of who were classified as human beings. Africans were classified as chattel, not fit to be humans. So, Emancipation was the culmination of the struggle to restore the humanity of the enslaved,” the WPA said.

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According to that party, Emancipation also meant the desire for freedom on the part of the formerly enslaved—to be free to live as equal citizens, to have the right to education, to practice their culture in its deepest sense, to build and nurture their communities and above all to enjoy the fruits of their labour. “Since Emancipation in 1838, there has been a constant struggle to attain that freedom. The challenges to the freedom of African Guyanese and other powerless groups in our society have multiplied, causing many African Guyanese to question whether the Emancipation promise has been realised.” “WPA, therefore, urges that our country revisits, as a matter of urgency, that promise of freedom. When one looks at the socio-economic condition of African Guyanese, we cannot, as a country, be proud of our track-record since 1838. The decline of the villages and the village economy have had dire consequences for villagers and African Guyanese in general. The high rate of unemployment particularly among our youth population, the decline in the standard of education and the high rate of migration out of the communities are all consequences of that larger decline of the village economy.”

The WPA said it wishes to use this Emancipation anniversary to raise anew the urgency of the restoration of the right to work and to earn a living wage as fundamental human rights. “We cannot celebrate Emancipation while ignoring the fact that a large chunk of African Guyanese and the wider population cannot find work and many of those who are fortunate to do so cannot live on the wages they earn. While, we recognize that government has to juggle scarce national resources, we urge that the next budget shout treat with the matter of improved public service wages as a matter of high priority. More efficient government services cannot be realized outside of a living wage for government workers. The right of labour to be rewarded as much as capital was one of the pillars of the Emancipation promise and should be a guiding principle today.”