Submitted by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC)
The GTUC shares with the world and more so Guyanese the celebration of 1st August which 180th years ago brought an end to chattel slavery in the British Empire. Full emancipation came four years later after the slaves served a four-year period of amelioration (1838). Freedom in its present form is a continuous process of education, putting in place systems, and safeguarding same in order that people and society can be rid of the shackles of that era in whatever form it appears today. One does not have to be physically enchained to be mentally enslaved. The mind is a powerful tool and weapon and when it remains shackled to messages of non-achievements, worthlessness and inferiority, there is no need for physical chains to enslave, oppress and marginalise.
Our African ancestors were brought to the so-called New World against their wishes and through sweat, blood and tears-despite the whips reigning down on their bodies- they contributed significantly in laying the foundation and topography for this land. They built a system of dikes and drainage canals, seawalls and roads network, constructed buildings and factories, laboured in the sugar and cotton estates, planted rice, fruits, ground provisions and other crops with their hands.
Our forebears fought against the oppressive system, with some giving their lives for the cause that led to chattel freedom, indentureship, internal self-government, independence and republican status. It is because of them we have a constitution of our own and laws to protect us from marginalisation and discrimination from any individual, group or system. They have fought the good fight for equality and dignity grounded in the belief that all men and women are capable of acting toward each other in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. This ideal was institutionalised in the 1948 United Nations Human Rights Declaration.