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Guyana's tribute to Indian workers

Prez Jagdeo recalled the martyrdom of five workers who sacrificed their life for a better Guyana.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 17:40 IST

Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo has recalled the martyrdom of five Indian origin workers, saying their sacrifice was connected to the development of political forces that led to the Caribbean country's independence.

Reports here quoted Jagdeo as saying at the annual Enmore Martyrs' Day rally at Enmore, East Coast Demerara on Thursday night that the five's martyrdom should serve as the catalyst for the continued struggle to improve the lives and livelihood of the Guyanese people.

On June 16, 1948, colonial police shot at and killed five Indian origin sugar workers - Lallabajee, Pooran, Harry, Surujballi and Rambarran - at the Enmore estate.

They were among a group of workers who were demanding better working conditions from their employers, the sugar barons and colonial masters of that time.

Their protest was part of a mass struggle to end the cut-and-load system of sugarcane, secure better living and working conditions and recognition of the Guyana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU), the forerunner of the current Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

The five dead labourers later came to be known as the Enmore Martyrs.

Their supreme sacrifice is observed every year through a rally and wreath-laying ceremony at the Enmore Martyrs Monument site.

In his speech, Jagdeo traced the history of inhumanity that pervaded colonialism and also spoke of almost similar conditions that people had to endure in the days of indentureship.

"Here at Enmore, those young men at that time were confronted with bullets and they paid the ultimate sacrifice and I want us today to ensure that we never forget what they stood for because if we dare to forget then we will never be able to truly understand how far we have come in this country," a report in the Guyana Chronicle newspaper quoted the president as telling the rally.

As the country celebrates its 40th anniversary of independence, there is the need for all to remember all those who struggled "for our betterment", he added.

"I want us to ensure that we never forget them; never forget what they stood for. If we dare to forget we will never understand how far we have come."

He also said the government would always ensure that, whatever it takes, it would always ensure it never became bipartisan and that Guyana is managed in the interest of all the people.

Indians started arriving in Guyana from 1838 to work as indentured labour in the sugar plantations.

Their descendants, who call themselves Indo-Guyanese, today comprise 50 per cent of the country's population of over 750,000.

Others who were present at Thursday's rally were GAWU president Komal Chand and secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) Kenneth Joseph.