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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

National Day of Villages

Hits: 2079 | Published Date: 07 Nov, 2013
| Speech delivered at: 63rd Sitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Basil Williams, MP

NATIONAL DAY OF VILLAGES
Mr. B. Williams: It is un-contradicted and an incontrovertible fact that this is a timely motion. I know the other speakers apparently spoke from a position of being villagers. I think now we will have a perspective from a Member who never experienced village life. I must say though that I have always been intrigued by the villages. I think Brigadier (Ret’d) Mr. Granger, himself, recognised that. When we go into villages I am always impressed by the quality - the singing. Every other person seems to know how to sing well. The camaraderie, they know everyone. When they are in town one can always say that he or she is from this village and him or her knows that person and this person. I have never had that. I always wondered how I  would have operated as a village lad because after a while this city  had seemed to be so small to me when I was growing up and I always wondered how I would have been growing up in a village. I admire what has come out of the villages.
The third WHEREAS clause of this motion speaks to the emancipated Africans purchasing Plantation Northbrook on the 7th November, 1839, a free community which was named Victoria Village, and that name was changed from Northbrook, and it was a catalyst for the purchases of other plantations to establish communities which came to be known as the village movement.
I have listened to the previous presenters and, to a large extent, I agree with a lot of the sentiments that were expressed. I see a parallel with those villagers who pioneered village movement, and in particular Victoria Village. They had to set about establishing a community that they could sustain, a community in which they had to create rules, laws. What is different from the tablets that Moses had to deliver after the enslaved children of Israel came out of the bond of Pharaoh? What is the difference? I see a clear parallel in that and so in my readings I came across what is called the covenant. I am not plagiarising; I will attribute shortly, but it is interesting. I think the covenant is akin to those tablets that Moses gave to his people. I think the covenant is so impressive. Let me share this with this honourable House.
Seven years after emerging from enslavement, the worst form of domination and degradation in human history, villagers promulgated a remarkable prototype for local government on the 2nd May 1845. Their covenant was entitled:
“Agreement entered into by the following persons in the name and on behalf of themselves and other proprietors of Victoria Village for the good regulation and general benefit of the said estate.”
It is like the founding fathers in America when they did their Constitution. These villagers, who would have been, hitherto, uneducated, without being able to practise their own religion, separated from family, purchased, somehow, this plantation and set about establishing themselves as a community. This is remarkable. When the Hon. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport was wondering why it is Victoria Village, I see a lot of reasons why it is Victoria. As the Hon. Member Nagamootoo said, “It is not exhaustive or preeminent but it is a starting point for honouring villages and the village movement in Guyana.”
Look at those people at that time. The twentieth article read in part:
“Calling to mind our happy condition and comparing it with our past state of degradation, we have determined, in gratitude, to our Almighty Father to erect two buildings which shall be used and devoted to the purposes of religion as a school house and a church where our children may be taught to read their Bibles and learn their several duties and where we may, from time to time, assemble and meet together and there offer up to Almighty God our humble prayers and thanks for  the mercies we have received.”
Those pioneers could have only prospered; they were thinking in the right way and that was so remarkable. The covenant prescribed 20 detailed regulations for the management of the village by its proprietors. Those included elections of office bearers.  I do not know who informed those early pioneers, where they got that sense of law, which is really a rule of law or a charter. They were putting laws to guide themselves, hold them together, election of office bearers, taxes and the prohibition of drunkenness. Could there have been a previous plantation owner who probably turned around and became an adviser? How could all of this have happened?
“...the prohibition of drunkenness, cursing, swearing, gambling, trespassing, observing the Sabbath, sale of property and the use of firearms among others. As a result of this advance thinking, Victoria’s founders had a head start on other villages and gradually by the late nineteenth century the village came to enjoy a relatively high cultured standard influenced by the large number of churches and schools inspired by a growing group of educated people, among whom were pastors and teachers.
This is what we had and this, I am saying, was the kernel of what became the Guyanese society - this spirit of enterprise by the people of Victoria Village.
The whole question about purchasing, a business act...  It tends to be stereotyped in these modern times to say, “these  people do not have any head for business” and all of those negative things, but we see those things in the early stages, in the formative years, and those provided the seeds which germinated and, of course, spread throughout the length and breadth of what is now Guyana. I really would like to pay homage to those early pioneers. I am really humbled by the pattern of nation-building. That is what it was. They went about nation-building.
As we come to the present they must be turning in their graves at this time to see the manner in which the villages have been ravished by lack of want, by ignoring the very rules that they have established to make the villages viable. It is easy to say $50 million cannot do anything but it should be given. It   should be handed over to the villages because those villages do not have any proper roads; they do not have proper drainage; the people are suffering in the villages and perhaps this should serve as a reminder to all of us and to those who could make a difference, such as the Government, that we should do something for the villages of this country.
I now will attribute where I am getting my readings from. It is from an article, The rise of Victoria, Mother of all Villages, by the author David. A. Granger also known as Brigadier David Granger. I am telling Members that   I found this part... I mean, it is exhaustive, but the question about putting in a rule of law, a system of laws and rules to guide them as they went about building the village and building the country is remarkable.
I  have no hesitation in supporting the call in this resolve clause:
“That the National Assembly calls on the Government to issue a commemorative stamp and commemorative  coin and to issue a declaration to designate the 7th November as a ‘National Day of Villages’ in order to honour and respect the pioneering purchasers and to promote national appreciation of the village movement at all levels.”
Some speakers have said that we could do better. I am saying this is a start. I do not think that the presenter of the motion could be in impaled for this. I commend this motion and I give it my full support.
Thank you very much.[Applause]

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