"The Party fails to understand, however, the significance of the date, May 26, unless it is the wish of the of the British and British Guiana Governments to make it symbolic of theiri contempt for the Guyanese people and a grim reminder of the unfortunate events of May 25/26, 1964 and their aim to keep the Guyanese people divided."
                      —PPP Press Release, November 19, 1965.
The Fault in May 26: a National Taboo
by Rakesh Rampertab



May 26 is a time for celebration. It also marks a terrible blotch in our history in 1964.

It is true as many would claim that Independence day is the most important one in a nation's history. But, having said this, one wonders how do we celebrate this importance if, on that same day, we also have to mourn our greatest tragedy. How can a man whose wife was raped on May 26, or his business burned down, or his son beaten, or he himself sent chasing into the woods out of fear for his life at Wismar on May 25/26 1964, celebrate independence?

There is a great streak of hypocrisy amongst Guyanese who chap hands and raise flags on May 26, because while they celebrate, they forget to mourn. They forget becasue they were never told of the importance of remembering those who suffered. Perhaps it is because Indians suffered and not the other five races; perhaps it is becasue the history courses never discuss May 26 and Wismar; perhaps it is because Wismar is a hidden, dark nation taboo.

Make no mistake—those who question the nature of May 26, do so out of the need to be just, not because they seek disintegration of the nation. There are much easier ways to disintegrate Guyana, and there are far more qualified people to do this, if one looks at the PPP and PNC politicians. Those who question May 26 do so becasue they understand that unless the fundamentals of a republic are clean, without questions, or any trace of evidence for dispute and disrepute, the republic itself will struggle to stand, both as an ideal and a reality. The evidence is in abundance: Guyana is still experiencing major race problems. To eradicate this, we will have to go back to May 26 and change this date. Unless we are all hypocrites, because just as it is impossible to serve mammon and God simultaneously, so too it is impossible to celebrate and mourn with the same breath. It is this simple.

As we celebrate another independence anniversary, it seems as if we have more work to do now than 35 years ago. As I pondered over the situation, I tried desperately to allow the great moments to surpass those that are like stinger nettles. But, unfortunately, as the PPP government spreads its wings of celebration in Guyana and in North America, the cracks in the wall stare out more and more. The problems then have not gone away, and there are new ones, a weak police force, ethnic insecurity, and criminal disobedience included.

Right now, the future looks bleak if both leading parties do not pick up the slacks where it’s really needed. The PNC must become a formidable opposition, and by this, I don’t mean through extra-parliamentary and stronghold tactics. The PPP must address the security concerns of more than half of the nation, and meet with other leaders in the opposition, and not discredit them, as President Jagdeo did recently, as those “who are weak and succumb to base instincts of race hate, religious intolerance and violence…They must be identified and isolated.”

This is not the time to isolate anyone. It is wrong to accuse any political leader today of being racist. We don’t have racist leaders, but we do have an electorate that voted “race.” We should recognize this difference. It would help as we prepare for another 35 years and more. It would also be necessary for other institutions and organizations to carry out their agendas free from the influence of political parties. Most of all, the people need to find a way to break free from voting by “race.” This means we first must find a way to produce leaders capable of attracting votes from every corner of the country. It seems like a good time to remember Dr. Walter Rodney.

Thirty-five years in the life of a nation is minute. During it, we have endured a whole lot, much more than we would have wanted. Still, we have a very far way to go. The good thing is that there are still people willing to do the job, some of whom do not exist in the government. Let’s hope that their services will no longer be ignored because of mere partisan views. Otherwise, May 26 will not only be a time for celebration, but also a day when we remember dismal moments of our past, such as the Wismar massacre which, whether it is coincidental or nor, occurred on May 25/26 of 1964.


May 24, 2001
© 2001 Guyanaundersiege.com